We've been hearing frequent debates about whether it's safe, sensible, and ultimately workable to let employees use their own personal computers as their work systems. In an increasingly mobile and cloud-based technology environment, the questions are becoming ever more urgent.

IT Business Edge has gone into the trenches, visiting Carfax and interviewing its CTO, Gary Lee, to find out how its program, which involves about 30 percent of its 500 workers, is going. It's a revealing look at what works well and where the challenges lie. Lee says:

We've allowed employees to purchase PCs for a while now, essentially providing an interest-free loan so they can update their personal PCs. So we think it'll be an easy transition. Friday afternoons are personal development time for our developers. They go off and try new things, so they do downloads we wouldn't let them do on a Carfax PC. They bring their machines into the development center. When it's a non-Carfax device and they hook into the wireless network, we push them back out onto the Internet so they're not on the Carfax network.

Lee sees his program as an employee benefit (noting that if an employee leaves, he takes the computer and pays back the loan). He also acknowledges that smartphones should be included in the program, since more and more employees get their work done on the road with no computer at all.

There's much more to figure out, of course, but Carfax is off to a fast start. You can certainly learn from what they've tried so far.

-- Don Willmott