I have a very hard-liner type of mentality. Data goes on the server computers (replicated using "Offline Files" on portable comptuers as necessary) and permissions are ratcheted down to prevent saving data local hard disk drives or USB-attached mass storage devices. (Per-machine and per-user temporary directories are cleaned up on a per-boot and per-logon basis, respectively.) Ideally, corporate security / IT policy documents back this up, too.
I've been told by friends who worked in "big" enterprises that this strategy is wholly unrealistic for "large" environments. I disagree, but I will offer the caveat that the largest environment that I get to enforce this kind of strategy in only has roughly 1,000 PCs. (I'm sure that I'm just a starry-eyed optimistic kid when it comes to this...)
My guiding thoughts are:
- PCs are easy to steal. External hard disk drives, doubly so. I want confidential data to remain confidential. (Portable computers use full-disk encryption.)
- PCs should be stateless, easily replaceable, and basically interchangable. (It sounds like you're not up to the level of automatically deploying software so this probably isn't an option for you. It's a godsend, if you can get it.)
- Users should be able to access their data (though not necessarily have all their application software) from any client computer in the network.
- IT does IT's job, and users do the user jobs. That means IT handles backups / restores / etc. "Self service" solutions like "Previous Versions" are one thing, but putting users in out-and-out control of their backups is another. It's not that they can't handle it, but rather that they shouldn't have to. (Having everyone responsible for their own backups would be, to me, like having everyone responsible for their own payroll withholding calculations...)
Like I said, I've been told in the past that this is unrealistic. (I fail to see, with proper "back billing" to departments for their employees' usage of file server and backup resources, how this can't be realistic... but-- hey-- not fighting BS corporate politics battles is one of the reasons I'm a 'hired gun' contractor for project work and not a day-in day-out corporate IT admin...)
There's an implicit trust level in this strategy that IT is doing IT's job. If I was in an executive position and found out that my IT group wasn't fulfilling the basic functions of reliable backups (and all the things that make backup truly a backup) my response would be severe and swift.
This strategy also implies management buy-in. If you don't have that, don't bother. (I'd be looking for another job... >sigh<)
I'd love to have a detailed conversation with someone who can tell me why it's unrealistic to expect users to save all their data onto server computers. I'm not personally offended by the position counter to mine, but I simply can't wrap my mind around the idea that the products of the work of potentially highly-paid employees should be treated with such a lack of care.
No offense is intended to the commenters here when I say this, but I just can't understand the logic. I've been told so many times that what I think is unrealistic, but the "throw some numbers in a spreadsheet" calculations that I've run make me thing that the "hard costs" of centralized storage and backup aren't too much more than a decentralized solution. When you throw in the "soft costs" (and the assumption that the IT department will follow through on such a basic duty as stewardship of user / departmental data), it seems like a "no brainer" that it would be cheaper and more efficient to have all data stored and managed centrally.
This is one of those "truisms" of large-scale IT management that I just don't buy, and I've love to see some data one way or the other to back it up. I have yet to see any data from anyone that substantiates the position of it being wholly cost-ineffective to store and manage data centrally. I generally get some hand waving and vague statements about backup and enterprise storage being expensive, but that's typically where it ends. In organizations that are larger than those for whom I am personally responsible where I've had contracts I've seen baroque "solutions" such as storing disk images of tens or hundreds of "critical computers", time-consuming and performance-sapping logon scripts that XCOPY the contents of "My Documents" to server computers, and out-and-out disclaimers of any responsibility by IT departments to be responsible for data storage.
I accept that there are attitudes in users and management, primarially caused by past dysfunctional IT experiences that these people have had, that drive the decision to have decentralized storage. I also think that these attitudes don't take into consideration (or radically underestimate) the expense to the business in the event of data loss, or in breaches of security. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the way that businesses treat the data created by their "knowledge workers" generally fails to take into account the value that this data could have to other parts of the business in decision support or saving duplicated labor (as is evident to me in the environments where I've seen out-of-control "home directories" and such).
This whole issue strikes me as a management problem associated with businesses not being able (or willing) to ascribe value to data. Because no value is ascribed, it seems to be that businesses are assuming that no value (or very little value) is present.