by Curt Finch

Surviving the Battle of the OS

Mar 12, 20123 mins
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Various consumer devices being used in the workplace presents the subsequent problem of multiple operating systems to deal with and support. Competing operating systems within the workplace is a relatively new issue and raises concerns for IT departments. While it can be a tricky situation, there are some strategies that you can implement to avoid headaches.

Universal Compatibility Requirements

Probably the biggest issue with multiple operating systems running concurrently in the office is the fact that there will be times when systems don’t communicate with each other. While many apps have this functionality built in, it is not uncommon to see some that don’t. If half of the office has an iPhone while others carry Androids (and one or two individuals cling ever so desperately to their Blackberries), transferring data can be a big problem.

Therefore, it is a good idea to have some requirements in place for app communication. This does not mean that you have the right to remove unwanted apps from employees’ personal devices, but rather that you require business communications be made through specific apps so that everyone can access important data. An example of just such an app is Dropbox, the cloud file storage service available on just about every device. It is free, and it also integrates with numerous common apps, allowing the direct upload of documents and files. Using an app like this will provide universal accessibility for anyone who brings a personal device to work.

Emphasis on Centralized Creation

Given the fact that the vast majority of personal devices act as both content consumption and content creation platforms, it is not surprising that many people choose to create business documents or other items from their phones or tablets rather than their work station. This is all well and good for personal content such as notes, dictation, or rough drafts, but unfortunately many of these documents can have proprietary limitations so they can’t be easily viewed on other devices.

You can alleviate this problem by requiring employees to create official content within certain confines. If they want to create a first draft or revise a document on a personal device, there is no harm. However, all projects that must be submitted, uploaded, or otherwise turned in should be created under certain parameters, for example using a provided work computer, to make sure that they are easily accessible and formatted in a manner consistent with company policy.

Update Reminders

While not as insidious a problem as dealing with completely different OS platforms, it can still prove challenging to communicate when employees are running an old version of an OS. No one likes to stop what they’re doing and perform a system update but some will completely ignore update reminders.

Fixing this problem is tricky because you shouldn’t really force someone to update their personal devices, particularly if they have a good reason for not wanting to. I suggest that, instead, if you have numerous employees who work on personal devices, send out reminders about upcoming updates and the benefits therein. Some employees might be out of the loop while others might not know the benefits they are missing by lagging behind. You might find that more people maintain a standard platform this way, and at the very least, you will know that they are aware of the current system functionality.

Divergent operating systems don’t have to be a huge headache. Implementing a few simple policies, and avoiding acting like Big Brother, should keep everyone happy.

What are some tips that you have for handling this problem?