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We're trying to get our company to let us use our own personal laptops for client work. We've agreed that any code/data will be encrypted using something like TrueCrypt, in case a laptop is stolen or lost.

However, the company is still skeptical and not sure they want to allow us to use our personal machines for development. They would rather buy us laptops... but we want to use MacBook Pros and they don't want to pay for them. Even if they did buy us laptops, we would stil have the issue of needing to encrypt the code/data in case of theft/loss.

Do you use your own laptop for work? What are the arguments for/against this?


UPDATE: Thanks for all the responses, its given us a lot to think about. This was originally brought up because we were asking for a "personal loan" to buy new laptops for ourselves, and then we threw in there that we would use these laptops for work too - since right now we use our personal laptops occasionally, e.g. at client site or weekend support.

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I use mine for work, but only for administrative or non-critical code (doesn't matter if it's leaked type stuff). My company provides us with an MSDN license that extends to personal machines if they're used for work, so the payoff is very worth it in my case. –  Joel Etherton Mar 9 '11 at 12:07
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If the laptop is lost or stolen, TrueCrypt won't necessarily prevent your data from being accessed. citp.princeton.edu/memory –  Matt Ball Mar 9 '11 at 13:18
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10 Answers

up vote 29 down vote accepted

Personally I don't like using my own hardware to for work in the course of my employer's work, with the exception of using my personal workstation to remote into my workstation in the office, and the odd email from my phone. The only exception I tend to make is that I bring my own keyboard.

There are multiple reasons for that, a few that I can think of off the top of my head are:

  • Who's responsible to get the laptop fixed if there are any issues with it, ranging from a virus to a hardware problem? If your work-supplied laptop doesn't work, it's your employer's problem. If your personal one doesn't work, it's your problem - do you have the money to have a backup machine on standby?
  • Personally, I don't like mixing code for my personal projects with code written on my employer's time on the same machine, but prefer to keep those separate. That way, it cuts down on the discussions as to who owns what.
  • You might have to cease control of your own personal laptop to your employer's IT department to comply with their policies and their clients', for example to avoid issues when your laptop dragged in a virus that knocks out the client's Intranet for days. I don't buy my personal machines so I give other people control over it...

This might sound slightly off, but how bad are the machines that your employer is planning to supply to you?

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Also curious how bad they are, especially how much 'better' would it be working on MacBook Pro and,.. is that what you (or others) have? –  Garet Claborn Mar 9 '11 at 4:52
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I agree with this 100%. For simple legal reasons, you don't want to use your personal laptop for work purposes. Sure, your employer won't give you the best machines on the market, and they won't give you control to install everything you want, but in the grand scheme of things, it is worth dealing with. –  MaQleod Mar 9 '11 at 7:17
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Encrypting and security issues are a pain, for me the level of security would mostly define my choice,... but I'm all for using my personal laptop for coding at work. It would really depend on the work environment and how much hassle is involved.

One of my biggest reasons is that I can more deeply customize my laptop along with having my complete programming toolkit (various utilities, specs, libraries, et cetera..) while some of the clients I work for very much want all their machines to have the exact same software with nothing added, or especially, downloaded.

Another reason would be that I know my hardware. I chose it because I can use it more effectively. Even though the end result obviously needs to (usually) be run on more than one machine, having a good baseline for performance is a nice help in many stages.

Personally I think the answer to this would vary greatly based on the work and company. For me, it is a must really to begin with because I work with more than one company and I've got to change sites all the time.

If every company provided me a laptop for their project, that ... would get out of hand. Though it might be nice! If I had to use a dekstop, well it simply doesn't always work out that way, especially when multimedia gets involved.

Take into account the size of the project and company, how secure the project needs to be realistically and also just how formal or informal the work environment is in general, along with your own preference and laptop. What do you gain in trading for the hassles and a few risks? (like damaging your laptop on the job)

Finally, company laptops are nice to have. Often it will end up being much neater, more manageable than the 'Work' folder or partition. When this equates to productivity, watch out.

Whichever way gets you the best code faster, go for it.

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Oh right, also sometimes bringing work home can be the same as "going home early to work" which I love =P overtime though...especially the sort where you end up just 'doing it' because you're there and stuck on something, but not on the clock... no good. –  Garet Claborn Mar 9 '11 at 5:02
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+1 - "Whichever way gets you the best code faster, go for it." –  jmort253 Mar 9 '11 at 5:07
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No way would I want to use my personal laptop for work purposes - I bought it for me, not for my company. It holds my files, my software, my details, you could go as far to say my life.

A good company should go part of the way to giving you your ideal workstation, not make you pay for it out of your own pocket.

Plus, if you're involved in programming in your own time, mixing work code and personal code is just a huge no-no, could actually lead to legal issues in terms of intellectual property and the like.

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As a freelancer: Yes. Perfectly normal (at least here). In my country, it's favorable when freelancers use their own machines, because it reduces the risk that the contract gets classified as "evasion of a regular employment" by the state.

As an employee: No, except maybe for employees who normally work on a desktop computer, but have to go to clients infrequently, so they use their personal laptops. Generally, the employer has to provide all necessary means to do the job. By the laws of my country, the employer is responsible for the safety of the work equipment, but this is obviously a problem when employees bring their own machines.

Dislaimer: IANAL yada yada yada

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Yes and no.

I use personal laptops with startups in most cases. However for established companies, no, they usually provide one i.e. with pre-installed tools for keeping company information secured.

This may be true for me or for most IT professionals, I use personal laptops for doing researches related to work at home; I don't consider it as a work though.

One advantage of using a personal laptop is:

  1. Control - You can install your preferred tools for improved productivity; that iss something you can not do if there's an approved list of software that your company allows to be installed on a provided machine.

Two disadvantages of using a personal laptop are:

  1. It will wear out soon, because the amount of usage is inversely proportional to its life.
  2. If your company requires that your machine will be made available for audit, then there's a big chance of your personal data and activity be compromised; you don't want your credit card details exposed to your information security analyst no matter how ethical he is.

Two advantages of not using a personal laptop are:

  1. You don't need to worry about personal data and activity being compromised
  2. Save your personal laptop's life while working

I don't see any disadvantages in not using a personal laptop for work.

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You don't mind wearing your own laptop out so you have to pay to replace it, instead of just using a work-issued computer for free? –  sevenseacat Mar 9 '11 at 11:58
    
@Karpie, if I'm with a startup company, no. I consider that. –  Joset Mar 10 '11 at 0:32
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Against, I like my two screens set up. A laptop screen is too small, I got it where one screen would have my code and the other would have firefox/chrome/ie open up to see the result.

I guess a laptop would be more personal but you're at work anyway >_<. What are you going to do? Bring the laptop home? Then it would be like bring work home, which I rather not do.

The pro I've had with laptop for work is the fact that I could set up my own environment and local web server. Even then I ended up bringing work home sometime and would be working over time -_-.

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Good point about bringing work home, plus I do like a dual-screen setup too (even have one at home) and I don't think the MacBook Pros can drive two screens. They can drive one and you can use the internal one, but that's not that great. Plus, even good laptop keyboards aren't that brilliant for coding anyway. –  Timo Geusch Mar 9 '11 at 4:43
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I work with a laptop. I have a widescreen monitor, keyboard, and mouse that I plug into at work. I have the laptop widescreen and the widescreen monitor. It's great! –  jmort253 Mar 9 '11 at 5:09
    
Same here, gotta have that keyboard lol. I like trackball mouse for laptop :P –  Garet Claborn Mar 9 '11 at 5:43
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I use my personal MacBook Pro for work, but we have a strange setup. I actually go to work for half a day every other week, so mostly work from home. It was actaully expected that I would use my own hardware (the boss is a tight-arse). At home, I plug into a big monitor. At work, the 15" is big enough to get by. I have an external hardware with Timemachine for backups.

I have no encryption or similar on my machine or special security beyond what I'd normally set up for myself.

I have worked at a place where they mandated use of their virus scanner if you wished to plug into their VPN using your home PC. They also provided the preconfigured router you had to use if you wished to VPN into work.

Pros:

  • For a desktop machine, you don't want a spare one of those floating at home.
  • For a laptop, you always have all your stuff on the same machine
  • You are more likely to get a better configured machine
  • You can upgrade whenever you want

Cons:

  • The big one: you have to pay for it yourself plus any upgrades
  • If your machine goes bung, it is up to you to fix it
  • You have to manage your own backups, etc...
  • For PCs, your security may be compromised by your slack co-workers
  • You may find different staff running different versions of OS, software, etc... A SOE can be a useful thing.
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At the moment I do use my own laptop for work. But I keep things clearly separated by running a virtual machine as my work instance (using VirtualBox). That way there is no mixing of my personal files with work files. It's a Core i7 with 8GB RAM, so performance of the virtualized environment is pretty good.

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No, I don't and I wouldn't use my personal computer for work. Per my employment agreement (in the USA) all work conducted using company resources is property of the company. But it doesn't necessarily follow that work conducted on non-work computers is not property of the company.

If I develop something on my own time that's unrelated to our business on my own computers without using any company resources then I own it. I wouldn't want to risk giving up any more intellectual property rights than is already required by being a work for hire software developer. Mixing those two is asking for potential legal trouble.

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If the company gets sued, maybe years later (something subject to financials or patent disclosure or prior art for instance), any laptop used at work or with work materials on it might just be subject to being subpoenaed.

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