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Since When Did iTunes Become a Corporate Asset?

Posted by: Geoff Smith
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Since When Did iTunes Become a Corporate Asset?

Recently a colleague of mine asked the following question of our circle of techies:  “What backup program do you use to back up your music from your work PC?”   I had to stop and think for a moment, before I realized that while there were plenty of viable answers (Connected, Syncplicity, Mozy, Carbonite, and various NAS solutions), we were all missing something larger here.  WHY was the music on the work machine in the first place?

The how was apparent.  As techies, we generally have local admin rights to our laptops.  And since iTunes is free and can be installed on multiple registered computers, why not load up your work system with all your tunes?

The why is also simple.  It’s convenient, allows you to not have to carry that extremely cumbersome iPod, and you can use your music for various “official” purposes.  How many of us have gone to a conference and while waiting for the presentation to begin, the presenter will play tunes from their laptop to fill the whitespace?

So, ok, I’ll admit it, I have iTunes on my laptop too.  But, I don’t store my music there.  I use it to interface with my iPod, where all my music lives.  And as long as your company doesn’t have usage policies that prohibit it, then no biggie.

But just the other day I was engaging with a customer about a Windows 7 rollout for their existing Windows XP laptops.  They provided a rollout checklist they wanted followed, which included 4 tasks specifically for the transfer of iTunes to the new system.  So, now IT was responsible for de-authorizing the current system, backing up the music files (along with all other local data), reinstalling iTunes on the new system, and doing a side-by-side comparison to make sure it all transferred correctly.

This is the point where we move from the “look the other way” mentality to “Danger Will Robinson!” in my book.  At any point when you make IT responsible for personal data or applications on corporate assets, you by default have included those items as corporate assets haven’t you?  Now instead of saying “go ahead at your own risk,” you are transferring the responsibility back internally.  Are you now responsible for data protection, virus/malware scanning, and even taking help desk calls? (“I deleted my Acid Rock playlist, can you restore it for me?”)  Seems like a slippery slope to me.

And it’s not just music anymore:  books, movies, TV shows, and games are all available.  So, does the convenience of iTunes outweigh the concerns of content?  Is it ok to allow storage of the entire collection of South Park on their laptop?

I recently came across a McAfee knowledge base article on their Enterprise Mobility Manager product.  There is an available restriction called “Restrict iTunes Explicit Content.”  It seems like that slope is now a bit steeper.

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