Return of the Laptops – Preparing Your Business’ Infrastructure and BYOD Policy

The post-Covid IT landscape is going to look very different from the one that we experienced prior to the pandemic. Desktops, once the mainstay of U.K. office space, will be reserved for those who actually need the horsepower or serious GPU functionality. Many employees have found far better solutions to their computing needs, and forcing them to go back to the old ways will just slow them down.

The new face of IT infrastructure is laptops and the Cloud. People have had a year to get used to this reality… and a huge number of employees have embraced the freedom of working from anywhere. They’re also used to taking personal responsibility for their devices, which is always a good thing.

Whether a company is going to go back to a fully office based workforce or embrace the trends of the hybrid workforce, one thing is for certain: Business IT infrastructure will need to prepare for a massive influx of laptops.

Corporate Laptops, or Bring Your Own Device?

That’s a question that has been on the minds of infrastructure planners for weeks now. There are benefits to allowing a user to operate the laptop they’re most familiar with, and attempt to secure it and configure it with more generic networking and security software. But there’s more reliable IT response and better security in being able to dictate the exact brands and models of laptops that users put on the network.

This ends up being a big/small split. Large and medium sized corporations will almost certainly pick three or four different laptop classifications, and create a line of corporate laptops out of those. The smallest and lightest of those will be for people who mainly need to attend remote meetings and access email on the go. Next is a laptop for the most typical user, a balance of weight, speed, and power. Finally there will be big beefy laptops for people who need more processing power or screen size on the road, often the case with programmers and engineers.

Small and medium/small businesses will often establish a BYOD policy rather than insisting on corporate laptops. It’s cheaper, and employee preference (Mac vs PC, model features, etc.) becomes a louder voice in smaller companies. It’s a higher security risk, but they’re used to that. Generic Bring Your Own Device management software, a good software firewall and threat scanner, and a reliable VPN setup are the mainstays of this kind of policy.

Of course there will be exceptions to any rule. Graphics designers often use Macs and Apple software. That’s where their training and expertise is. Asking them to conform to a corporate standard PC is a laughable prospect, if they’re expected to do their jobs. Some C-level users literally only need a thin client and a browser, and toting around anything other than a small Chromebook when they’re on the run all day long is madness. Have a sane exceptions policy in place, particularly in larger companies.

Welcoming Laptops Into the Office

There are certain expectations of laptop users if they’re called into the office. Normally this is for ‘serious work’, and if they’re sitting at a desk all day, things like ergonomics come into play.
They expect a quality mouse and keyboard. They expect a big monitor in addition to their native display, which they can use as a second screen. They expect device charging and the peripherals they need to get the job done, many of which they probably have at home but don’t want to tote around everywhere.

Of course, the problem with either a multi-tier corporate laptop policy or a BYOD policy is one and the same: There’s no single dock that IT can just stick at each workstation alongside all of the right gear and expect it to work for every user. They’ll need to contend with multiple docks, custom docks, complaints of no docks, and the like.

The solution to this issue is fairly new, and should help to streamline the entire docking situation. There are USB-C based monitors with a lot of fidelity and horsepower that also act as laptop docks. Likely the most advanced of these is the Philips USB-C line of docking monitors. They have all of the ports that the typical user needs in the back, and can even provide DC-out. When some users aren’t in the office, they have a daisy-chaining feature that will allow IT to enhance the experience of the users who are present by adding more display space as needed. So their presence remains useful even when the primary user is working from home.

These kinds of devices will allow IT to cater to both corporate laptops and devices brought in under a BYOD policy. Then it’s simply a matter of picking out the best peripherals to adorn their desks with, and dealing with any strange issues that creep up.

In Conclusion

There are a few policy decisions to make sooner rather than later, as the vaccine cycles continue and the pandemic is slowly brought under control. But now is not the time to dawdle… ordering hardware in advance is always cheaper, and there may be availability or shipping issues to contend with. As far as making these kinds of work from home and BYOD policy decisions, now is the time. Particularly when they impact the kind of hardware that businesses will need over the next three to six months.

There’s a more human factor to consider as well: Employee retention. Offering an attractive and easy to use office space is of particular interest to corporations right now, after a year or more of people working from home. Being miserable about office attendance, creating an infrastructure that is difficult to work with, and demanding all sorts of new standards is a sure way to drive employees into the arms of the competition. The companies that offer the best office environments and the best work/life balance considerations are going to win that particular war.

Employees know: A visit to the office needs to be a positive experience, a necessary experience. They’re already doing their job remotely, and in many sectors productivity and employee happiness have both improved. So be ready to offer the most efficient, the most powerful, and the most user-friendly experience available. Otherwise, be prepared for the worst.

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