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Why did they need laptops in the first place?

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
#1
News item today. My question is simply, "Why did VA (or any other organization) need laptops in the first place?" Do all of the laptop holders have to travel? Are they all required to work at home as well as the office? Or was it an "ego thing" to remove the clutter from office and cubicle desks? What determines who gets a company paid laptop in your organization?
VA to Recall All Agency Laptops
By Wayne Rash
June 8, 2006


The Secretary of the Department of Veteran Affairs, R. James Nicholson, will announce a VA-wide recall of all laptop computers June 8 in a 10:00 a.m. hearing at the House of Representatives Government Reform Committee.

According to Rick Weidman, executive director for Policy & Government Affairs, this recall will cover every laptop computer in the agency. Weidman said that in meetings he had with Nicholson Wednesday evening this recall was not mentioned to him or to others in the veterans' community; however, he said that his office was notified this morning. eWEEK will provide updates as they become available.

The news comes days after the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs was sued by veterans groups for "flagrantly [disregarding] the privacy rights of essentially every man or woman to have worn a United States military uniform." The veterans filed a massive class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Larry Dignan claims this case could provide a "eureka moment." Click here (http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,1973427,00.asp) to read why.

The suit asks that the courts prohibit the VA from handling any personal privacy-protected data except under court supervision, and that the court create a set of "consensus minimal security standards" under which the VA can operate. The suit also asks for damages of $1,000 for every person listed in the missing database files.

The VA's woes began on May 22 when the department disclosed the personal information of up to 26.5 million veterans was swiped from an employee's home.

According to the VA, an employee took home electronic data containing the names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth for millions of veterans and some spouses, as well as some disability ratings. The data didn't include any of the VA's electronic health records and financial records. The data was stolen when an employee's home was burglarized.
 
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Jim Wynne

Staff member
Admin
#2
Wes Bucey said:
News item today. My question is simply, "Why did VA (or any other organization) need laptops in the first place?" Do all of the laptop holders have to travel? Are they all required to work at home as well as the office? Or was it an "ego thing" to remove the clutter from office and cubicle desks? What determines who gets a company paid laptop in your organization?
Insofar as data portability is concerned, in this day of multi-gig flash drives, no one needs a laptop in order to take files home. The point being that leashing laptops doesn't stop data from "migrating."
 

Marc

Fully vaccinated are you?
Staff member
Admin
#3
Many companies are giving employees laptops instead of desk tops. They use them at work and many take them home, often because there are programs they need on the machines a typical user doesn't have at home (yes, many people bring work home...). Doesn't surprise me.
 

Crusader

Trusted Information Resource
#4
Wes Bucey said:
My question is simply, What determines who gets a company paid laptop in your organization?
In my organization, not sure what the criteria is and I don't care anymore. I bought my own after my request for a laptop was turned down. I keep all my work on it so that I can work from anywhere at any time. When I have to go to other facilities, it comes in real handy. :) My company has loaded all the software I need - so that part of it was free. I bought a software called "pc-linq" from CompUSA. It connects my desktop and the laptop via a usb cable, which allows me to drag and drop files between the two computers. Bascially, my laptop is a actual backup of everything I work on when I am in the office. :) No worry about files being lost or hacked into since it only uses the internet for updates. I carry it to and from work everyday. I recently upgraded and bought a 17" HP model 8235 from Best Buy. IT IS SWEET. Nice for when I have to work on large photos in Photoshop and for working with multiple programs on the big screen. :agree1: I love it more than my desktop!
 
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ScottK

Not out of the crisis
Staff member
Super Moderator
#5
Marc said:
Many companies are giving employees laptops instead of desk tops. They use them at work and many take them home, often because there are programs they need on the machines a typical user doesn't have at home (yes, many people bring work home...). Doesn't surprise me.
I do that backwards here... I bring my personal laptop in to work when I want to use any programs I own that the company won't spring for. :tg:
 

Tim Folkerts

Super Moderator
#6
Granted itis easy to steal megs or even gigs of data, but I think the point here is the carelessness of the handling of data. This data wasn't stolen but a greedy employee, it was carelessly left lying around. The thieves probably had no idea what they were getting when they stole the computer - there's a good chance they simply sold it at a pawn shop without know the dat awas there.

On the open market, I'm sure the the personal information - especially SSN's - of 26 million people would be worth a considerable amount. At a penny a piece, it would be $260,000! And there is a good chance the employee wasn't actually working on that data - he may well have been catching up on reports or just surfing the net from home.

Can you imagine being that careless with other materials?
  • Hey boss, I'm going to take home a $200,000 prototype to tweek the design.
  • Hey boss, I'm going to take home a $40,000 company car so I can impress some friends.
  • Hey, boss, I haven't finished cataloguing the $100,000 worth of drugs from today's drug bust, so I'm going to take them home tonight to finish up.
People seem to lose sight o the fact that the $1,000 for the computer itself is only a tiny fraction of the total value.
 

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
#7
I think my point was: feature for feature, laptops are about twice as much cost as comparable desk tops. Laptop keyboards are much less efficient than desktop ones. Accidental damage (bump off a desk top?) is more likely with a laptop than with desktop. Repairs are less expensive on desk tops. If they are wired to the network, portability is lost (lots of companies don't like potential security breach of wireless, which also has loss of speed when manipulating large databases or spreadsheets.)

So my question remains:
Why did they need laptops in the first place? Especially if they can now recall them all.
 

ScottK

Not out of the crisis
Staff member
Super Moderator
#8
Wes Bucey said:
I think my point was: feature for feature, laptops are about twice as much cost as comparable desk tops. Laptop keyboards are much less efficient than desktop ones. Accidental damage (bump off a desk top?) is more likely with a laptop than with desktop. Repairs are less expensive on desk tops. If they are wired to the network, portability is lost (lots of companies don't like potential security breach of wireless, which also has loss of speed when manipulating large databases or spreadsheets.)

So my question remains:
Why did they need laptops in the first place? Especially if they can now recall them all.
I would say most likely not. But I would like to see the logic behind purchasing them in the first place? Probably got a deal from IBM before Lenovo started making their notebooks.
 
T

tomvehoski

#9
I have a company issued laptop and do travel, but even when I am in my home location I could not live with a desktop. I go to all meetings with my laptop. Most of my meetings are working type, and all of my data is stored on our servers. I also work from home at times. We cannot access anything - even our e-mail - on a non-company owned PC. Everything has to be done over secure VPN. Since many people often work with the same files, it would be a nightmare to have to synchronize offline copies.

Laptops are not that expensive any more. I'm sure the additional cost was paid for the first couple times we had a major snowstorm and instead of spending four hours in traffic to get to work it became four productive hours from home.

I do have a docking station/keyboard/full monitor on my desk. That becomes a major productivity enhancement since I can use the dual monitor function. Much easier to refrence one document while working on another with double the screen real estate. Even without the dock, the keyboard is very easy to get used to - I do carry a standard mouse though.

I take mine home just about every night. There is a chance it could be stolen from my car or house. We have also had laptops stolen from the building - desktops too. That is one reason I typically don't keep anything confidential on my hard drive - it is on the server and I get to it via VPN if needed.

If anything, I would look at the policy that allows sensitive data to be stored on a local drive instead of a secure server. Banning a good tool won't fix a broken process.
 
D

davis007

#10
Speaking of taking work home with you. When I worked in Belgium about 8 years ago the computers were ONLY desk tops with all the external drives disabled. They had floppy drives but they were disabled. When I first started I asked to get a portable and was told that this was not permited. I requested the VPN conection so that I could work from home. After getting a very strange look I was told that this was also not possible.

It seems that a few month before I started the network had gotten a virus that somehow got into the payroll software completly disabiling the whole system. They did not get paid for a month, normally a check a week. So the directer of the center of ~400 Research Scientists ordered the IT department to make the system bullet proof. The solution was disable all the data entry methods other than the keyboard and mouse, thus the disabled floppy drives and confiscation of all the portable computers, visitors actually had to leave their portables at the front desk. If they had electronic data to share the IT department would check it and load it onto one of there portables. There were three kept at the IT departement that you could reserve for a trip. The IT department would load the data you needed for the trip and you had to return it the day you came back. It had a removable floppy that the IT department kept while you took the computer. In addtion the whole net work was taken off the internet so no access from outside the building. Apparently there were enough squeals about loss of email that they put in a single conection with several firewalls that ONLY handled email, not WEB or VPN type conections.

I must say at first it seemed like a hardship not being able to work from home. But after about a month of seeing EVERYONE else leave by 5:00 on the dot, my window looked over the parking lot, I started to like it. I arrived at 7:00, the place was locked up until then without special permision if you happend to have an overnight experiment running. Left at 5:00 and sometimes as early as 4:00 with my fellow employees. The REST of MY TIME was MY time. I would move back and work under those conditions in a heart beat.

Once, in the first month before I got the hang of the way things worked, I tried to call a colleagues cell work cell phone, the company did provide those. I could not get ahold of him all weekend. When I say him monday moring I mentioned it. Again after a funny look from him he told me that that was a company cell phone for company work he TURNED IT OFF WHEN HE LEFT TO GO HOME AND TURNED IT BACK ON WHEN HE ENTERED THE BUILDING THE NEXT DAY. WOW.
 
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