Mobile is here, and it's hot. But as more employers embrace the "bring your own device" movement, or BYOD, questions abound over whether the workplace and the worker are ready for the heated issues that are cropping up.
"BYOD is like the Wild West -- rules are being created and changed on the fly," said Ilan Sredni, an information technology expert and CEO of Palindrome Consulting in Miami.
At some Broward Health System hospitals in South Florida, doctors roam the facilities with their own preferred laptops and tablets, updating patient orders and scouring records online.
Jean-Jacques Rajter, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., pulmonologist and former chief medical information officer at Broward Health, said it's an advantage to have a portable computer at your fingertips to show an image to a patient with a tap on the screen.
He uses a laptop that converts into a tablet, enabling him to review his patients' office and hospital charts at the same time.
He accesses information through a Citrix program that stores information in the cloud, he explained. "No patient information is housed on the device." Of course, the hospital has taken security precautions and encrypts the doctor's personal device so if it is lost or stolen, it will be wiped clean remotely to protect patient privacy.
While the hospital has a formal BYOD program, other businesses are allowing it on a more casual, individual basis. And with the surge in smartphone and tablet popularity, employees are bringing their devices to work and tapping into company networks, whether employers permit it or not.
The most important thing a business can do is have a policy around use of personal devices and make employees aware of the sanctions for breaking it, said Mark Stein of Higer, Lichter & Givner in Aventura, Fla., an intellectual property lawyer who specializes in computer and Internet issues.
"The policy has to be relatively easy to enforce and enforced uniformly," he said. That can be a challenge. A Cisco Systems survey of global information technology professionals and young workers found 71 percent of Gen Y workers said they don't obey IT policies.
Clients are stepping into the conversation, too. The country's biggest banks and financial institutions are conveying an anti-BYOD message to their law firms, accountants and service providers.
Recently, the global chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs' legal department said he is concerned over a potential breach in confidential financial information and doesn't mind if his lawyers have personal smartphones in their pockets -- he just doesn't want them to use the same devices for business.
Cindy Krischer Goodman: email@example.com.