INSIDE WIRELESS: Separation of Business and Personal Information-Some Personal Observations

No doubt you've heard this before, but it's important to hear it again. Keep your personal e-mail and your business e-mail separate. Do not mix them. Analyst J. Gerry Purdy, Frost & Sullivan's wireless guru, tells you why and how to accomplish this. He also explains why you really need separate computers, as well as separate e-mail accounts.


In the past, I have recommended that all PC users, and particularly mobile users, separate their business and personal e-mail. The recommendation then was driven by the rights of organizations to own and manage their information assets, particularly e-mail. Corporate IT management has the right to read any e-mail that comes through the enterprise server.

There are mild cases of simple e-mails with family and friends that likely won't make much difference. However, there are big issues when the e-mail concerns issues that could affect the user's employment, such as an e-mail dialogue about a mental problem, illegal activity or drug problem.

While it is common sense to separate out personal information from work data, there are now even more reasons to separate business and personal information, as enterprises have declared that all information-not just e-mail-is subject to scrutiny. That means the IT department could be looking at any digital file, including applications, documents, presentations, spreadsheets, digital music, videos and photos-literally anything on your hard drive-and determining if it's appropriate to be stored or used on your corporate-owned notebook PC.

Here are four things that enterprise IT departments may do if you intermix personal and business information on your corporate notebook PC:

1. IT can review the applications and data that you have on your hard drive, and decide that some of the applications (say, iTunes) or data (say, personal photos) are not appropriate to be kept on the company's notebook PC.

2. IT may decide that some of your personal applications may conflict with the enterprise environment.

3. When you have a problem and call IT for support, they may find that the problems lie with your personal environment and demand that you make changes to comply.

4. IT may conclude that you simply consume too much hard disk space with personal photos and videos and, as a result, may not have enough space to run the enterprise's applications or hold the necessary enterprise data.

But it's easier to declare what you should do than to actually do it. Because of this total feeling of comfort and convenience, I kept my environments integrated for many years. In fact, I procrastinated about making this separation for the past five years. It's soooo convenient to just have all your e-mail accounts managed within Outlook, intermixing your business and personal e-mail accounts. You feel they are separate when they really aren't. You can set up Outlook to process any one of a number of different e-mail accounts. For example, you could receive a business e-mail and reply to that person using your personal e-mail account.

Your business e-mail is stored on the enterprise server and is often archived for many years for possible future viewing. You likely keep your business e-mail on your business notebook computer, stored in either the Inbox or local folders. Many e-mails you get may be worthless, or spam, so you delete them.

Your personal e-mail is likely read from a popular portal (like Yahoo, Google or AOL) or from an independent ISP via POP3/IMAP. Thus, your personal e-mail may not flow through the enterprise server. But, since it's stored on your notebook PC, it becomes property of the enterprise and liable for review if deemed appropriate.

I finally bit the bullet and have set up separate business and personal information environments. But it wasn't easy. And, even after almost six months, I still don't have the two separate environments working seamlessly.