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    Managing Mobile Computers Within the Enterprise Network

    Bardon Data Systems
    www.bardon.com

    There has recently been a proliferation of Internet-enabled mobile computers (laptops, notebooks, and Tablet PCs) throughout the enterprise. This has created a new category of IT management problems. Typically, mobile workers only occasionally connect to the enterprise network, just to update records, access applications, and check email. Workers can completely bypass even this occasional connection, by remotely using the resources of the Internet and an enterprise portal. What issues are involved in managing independent mobile computers?

    IT managers face a double liability when employees abuse mobile computers. Managers suffer a loss of control over mobile computers when they aren't connected with the enterprise network, and face increased IT vulnerability when they are connected. The loss of control over the mobile devices can have real consequences for IT. Employees may blithely install or remove software, change settings, download inappropriate materials from the Internet, and expose the system to viruses. Worse, even the smallest mobile computers now have enough storage to contain enormous amounts of confidential corporate data that can easily fall into the wrong hands.

    Unfortunately, problems with an individual mobile computer can be compounded when it connects to the enterprise network. Viruses and trojans can spread through the enterprise. Inappropriate Internet materials such as pornography, downloaded from a personal account, now become a corporate liability. Because the IT administrator is completely unaware of the machine's usage while disconnected, accountability is minimal and the administrator will not be alerted to potential problems.

    Mobile Computers are Corporate Property

    Employees often view their company computers as their personal property, and this is particularly true for mobile computers. However, these devices are no different than any other company-supplied property; the company has a right to manage the use of the property. It is much easier to manage these devices if the company has an explicit corporate policy regarding mobile computers, and if employees are clearly informed of this policy..

    A Checklist for Managing Mobile Computers

    The following list contains recommended actions that you can take to secure and manage your mobile computers. While you may not want to incorporate all of these points, the more that you include, the better your standard of IT management and security.

    •  Secure all mobile computers with passwords: Earlier versions of Windows, (95, 98, ME) do not offer secure logon passwords. Either update the operating systems with later versions of Windows, or install software to create secure a logon. Bardon's products WinU, Full Control, and Full Control Internet can secure the logon process for these earlier versions of Windows. They can also be very useful on later versions, such as Windows NT, 2000, or XP, because Bardon's products go several steps beyond Windows security. They offer password protection for any program or resource on the computer, not just at logon. For additional security, administrators can incorporate a biometric device such as an Identix thumbprint sensor into the machine. This may be necessary if the computer stores critical information such as corporate financial records, credit card files, or product development information.

    •  Replace the interface on "task" notebooks: Notebook and tablet computers are often issued to employees to perform a limited range of specific tasks, such as field activities, sales, warehousing, police and government work, and so forth. Though these employees may be skilled in their own areas, they may not be able to efficiently use computers. Or they may be distracted by the pressures of their jobs. To accomodate such situations, Bardon's product WinU can replace the entire Windows interface (taskbar, Start button, desktop icons, etc.) with a simple pushbutton-style interface that anyone can use instantly. Employees that might be confused by the regular Windows interface will find WinU's labeled buttons to be simple, easy, and intuitive.

    •  Stabilize computer configurations: Employees often try to change computers that they take away from the office. This is inevitably bad news for IT administrators, who have seen this lead to software incompatibilities, viruses, deleted critical files, and any number of other problems. You can easily prevent this by stabilizing the computer configuration with Bardon's management products. Once stabilized, the employee can't make unauthorized changes to the computer. Bardon's products give you fine-grained control over which resources you decide to protect: the registry, installed programs, files, icons, Control Panel, etc. The employee won't be able to install and run new unauthorized software. Secured resources will be inaccessible and protected. A stabilized computer is inherently more reliable, and less prone to failure. This becomes a notebook computer that won't show up for repair unless something physically breaks on the machine!

    •  Log all mobile computer usage: If something does go wrong with a mobile computer, you will want to know exactly how the machine was used. What programs were running when the problem occurred? What was the user doing? Bardon's products create an ongoing event log showing all user activities. This log is particularly valuable with mobile computers, when you are unable to oversee the machine on the enterprise network.

    •  Coordinate and update machines when the user logs onto the network: Full Control Internet uniquely gives you the ability to manage mobile computers as users connect with the enterprise network using the Internet. You can change permissions, distribute files, upload event logs, send messages, and perform any number of other administrative activities. This allows you to more effectively manage a fleet of mobile computers that connect with your network on an intermittant basis. The mobile computers will use any new settings you have provided to them until they next log in for new updates.

    Mobile computers present unique challenges to system administrators who must incorporate them into a larger IT infrastructure. Bardon's products WinU, Full Control, and Full Control Internet provide practical tools to ensure that your mobile computers will function as integrated components of the computer network, and of the enterprise.