Tablet use is on the rise, and a recent Cisco survey sought to gauge the effect of these devices as they make their way into the enterprise, by both sanctioned means and otherwise.
Requests for tablets within the enterprise are significant-on average, one tablet is requested for every three smartphones-according to the Cisco poll of 1,500 decision-making IT workers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Spain, conducted in late 2011.
At 21 percent, workers in the United States and France are asking for them the most, though U.S. IT managers, at 38 percent, are most likely to issue them. Least likely to dole out the devices, at 27 percent, are managers in the U.K.
Sales are a strong niche for tablets, in Germany more so than elsewhere, with 31 percent of German salesforces using the devices, versus the global average of 21 percent.
Spain, however, appears poised for the highest growth, Cisco said in a statement on the survey, "with 90 percent of IT managers believing the tablet will become more popular in the next two years."
The growing bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend is causing greater security concerns, according to many IT managers. BYOD, along with access to company servers and lost or stolen devices, was named among managers' most-pressing problems.
The BYOD trend presents benefits and challenges for businesses. Companies save money when employees use their own devices for work rather than having to use company-bought technology, and it also can improve productivity. The challenge comes when trying to protect the company's network and data when employees need access from their privately owned devices.
U.S. IT managers seem the most inclined to put their concerns into action, with 75 percent believing that "new rules must be established around security and device usage."
Nearly half of all those surveyed agreed that company applications should be restricted, and nearly all agreed that custom tablet apps would be good for business. Managers in Canada and the United Kingdom, at 55 percent and 56 percent, respectively, felt the strongest about wanting access to applications on tablets to be restricted.
Despite the security issues prompted by BYOD, managers, the survey found, are largely ignoring the issue.
"Globally, 48 percent said their company would never authorize employees to bring their own devices," Cisco said in the statement, "yet 57 percent agreed that some employees use personal devices without consent."
These rule breakers are most prevalent in the United States-64 percent were said to be bringing in devices without consent-while in Germany, at 49 percent, the issue was most contained.
Ultimately, BYOD issues press on businesses' bottom lines, as globally 44 percent of managers said that BYOD issues divert the attention of IT staff from other "important projects."
Still, tablets aren't seen as all bad, as 75 percent of managers, when pressed for a wish list, named email and document sharing as "must haves" and nearly half agreed that video conferencing, instant messaging, access to company databases and seamless synchronization with other devices are "desirable."
The Pew Internet Project recently reported that ownership of tablets among U.S. adults nearly doubled between just mid-December 2011 and early January-from 10 percent to 19 percent-suggesting IT managers, even more so than during the Cisco survey period, have their work cut out for them.