Friday, December 18, 2009

Is it "wrong" to log on to your own home server from work?

It is not unusual for associates of a company to have their own servers at home connected to the Internet, sometimes running their own businesses. One friend had a server on a 386 machine as far back as 1993; another who ran ISP services for my domain from 1997-2001 also did so.

It’s possible to Telnet or otherwise connect to an up server from work when in command mode (as in Unix) and maintain things at home without actually using your employer’s machine in a detectable way (except maybe for the original connection command itself). You can run commands on your machine at home from work and still use “your” machine.

In a situation where a salaried employee works uncompensated overtime often anyway, is this unethical? Should this be against company policy?

I had a situation like this in January 1999, when my friend connected at home in order to get Microsoft Front Page running on my account. The boss wondered why I was watching him. Was I guilty of an ethical breach? Nothing happened, but you don’t like to go near the ethical edge, because it invites further problems later. I could argue that learning the technology would be a good thing anyway (we weren’t even going near the “content” of my domain) and history would prove that correct; one year later I would be working in support.

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