A third of IT shops support personal smartphones, tablets at work

Some IT shops provide technical support for personal smartphones, tablets and laptops used at work, but the percentage is still relatively small, a Gartner poll found.

Of 938 businesses surveyed in nine countries, 32% said they support personal smartphones, while 37% said they support tablets, Gartner said Thursday. Laptops owned by workers got the highest level of IT technical support, at 44%.

The overall level of support for personal devices was 44% in Brazil, Russia, India and China, known as the BRIC countries, which have a larger number of young workers and growing economic power. The five non-BRIC countries surveyed, U.S., U.K., Germany, Australia and Japan, had support levels at 28%, Gartner said.

Gartner theorized that the five non-BRIC countries consider Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs as causing both technical and legal problems, while BRIC countries see only technical concerns.

"In BRIC countries, employee turnover can be high in some sectors, leading to more theft of devices and data [so] BYOD and virtualization can reduce those enterprise losses," noted Gartner analyst Chae-Gi Lee in a statement.

However, the fast growth predicted in smartphone and media tablet shipments in the next five years will drive IT consumerization, which requires enterprises to make their IT infrastructure mobile-ready for workers using their personal devices, Lee noted.

The essential tools need for developing a standard mobile-ready environment include mobile device management, network access control and mobile data protection, Gartner said. Gartner also urged companies to set up a mobility strategy team inside the IT department for data management and to develop a BYOD policy to balance costs and consider ways to reimburse workers.

The survey was conducted in October and November of 2011.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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