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I'm a junior dev in a really small tech company. I usually work on a big project, but due to management (it's a joint thing with a bigger company which is slower in their decision process than us) I sometimes end up in dry-spells. During those times I generally work on small side projects.

For the current side projects I'd need a couple of small servers, just to pass data between them. We can surely afford buying the needed resources, but, since we are still setting things up as we go, this could take some time (and if the other company makes up their mind in the mean time, I will have to leave the project and those resources will be useless). I can do my tests on some machines I personally own, but I think this could be a issue. What's the right thing to do?

Edit: Since so many asked, in this case I am speaking of company side projects (generally small things that are put on hold or killed when I'm needed elsewhere)

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    Can you set up a couple of VMs, or even something like docker containers? – HorusKol Mar 7 '17 at 12:30
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    Consider any legal implications of storing your company's data or intellectual property on your servers. The last thing you want is for your employer to sue you for stealing/misusing company data). – Snow Mar 7 '17 at 14:43
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    What exactly does "side projects" mean: open-source contributions, tinkering, personal learning, for-profit side-work, or something which might someday develop into your own company/ software product/ service/ website/ app? – smci Mar 7 '17 at 15:02
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    It depends on the company, but be careful! I have seen folks end up in serious trouble because they put company intellectual property (the code they wrote at work) on a non-company-controlled server, even though they were acting with the best of intentions. – Jeremy Banks Mar 7 '17 at 15:53
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    You can't just run both servers on one machine and just pass the data via localhost? Or even perhaps run a couple of VMs if they must be separate? – Luke Mar 7 '17 at 17:17
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Generally, using personal resources for a company project is not a good idea and should be avoided.

For good reason, companies tend to have policies and security restrictions about resources and your personal resources may not adhere to these standards and even if they do, they are outside the control and support of your company's IT personnel. In some places the local laws might even allow the company to hold you liable should your personal resources be used for mission-critical purposes when something goes wrong or if something fails.

If you're running into dry spells, you generally want to contact your superior to inform them that you've run out of work. This could be an excellent time to request some company resources you could use to set up the things you'll need later in the project or to pick up or refine skills that will be of use later in the project or in other future projects in the company.

This doesn't mean that you can't use your personal resources in your own personal time to set up a proof of concept or to gain some experience. If you want to do this during company time though, you should get your supervisor to give you the go-ahead for this.

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    You might consider adding: Depending on location/local laws, there is actually some laws that protect the company if you use personal resources. Such as if you setup a mission-critical server (or they deem it as such) it is not always a simple matter of just "taking back your computer". – Sh4d0wsPlyr Mar 7 '17 at 14:56
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    And if not everyone in the company knows that the servers are yours (and respects that), you risk that people start meddling with them, querying whether they are actually yours, etc. Always keep personal and company properties separate. – Jan Doggen Mar 7 '17 at 15:29
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    My question was bad worded. I am assigned to company side project (my supervisor is well aware of those dry spells) – frollo Mar 7 '17 at 16:14
  • A lot of companies have clauses in your contract that mean anything you create during company time belongs to them. Even if you get approval, just by being at work when you're doing these things is opening you up to the potential of the company seizing your work. Personally, I would try to work on something similar that could help the company as a side project, whilst keeping my own personal ventures to my own equipment and time. – MildCorma Mar 8 '17 at 12:35
31

I think in this case the right thing to do is ask your manager. If your boss is okay with it then it's fine; Otherwise don't do it. If your manager agrees to this it may be wise to get some sort of email or written confirmation.

Just be sure you have a solid plan for keeping any company assets(source code, database, etc) backed up.

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    This is only a good answer if you assume managers will never change their mind or outright lie. – pzkpfw Mar 7 '17 at 18:22
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    @pzkpfw Noted, answer updated. – Mister Positive Mar 7 '17 at 18:24
  • I would never assume a manager outright lied to me. If I thought for even a moment my immediate superior was going to lie to me, I would (and have) leave that firm without hesitation. – corsiKa Mar 7 '17 at 22:48
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    @corsiKa I agree with you in principle, but nothing wrong with covering yourself. – Mister Positive Mar 7 '17 at 23:08
  • I'm not sure what you mean by covering yourself. However, from the employee's perspective, there's zero difference in the short term between a lying boss and a wrong boss, so it's good to be prepared for that eventuality. – corsiKa Mar 7 '17 at 23:18
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It's generally always a bad idea to mix your personal and professional lives - everything may seem to be OK until such time as you and your employer decide to separate, at which point it can all get very nasty very quickly, particularly if the separation isn't amicable. Would you still be happy to let your employer access your personal machines if you got fired?

As other have commented, there's very little need for a small company to buy any servers - just fire up a VM on your favourite cloud provider at minimal cost and get done what you need to get done.

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    Doesn't even need to be "on your favourite cloud provider" -- OP could just download some free virtualization software (VMWare Player, VirtualBox, Bochs, ...?) and spin up a couple of VMs locally (assuming their system isn't itself virtualized). – a CVn Mar 7 '17 at 12:50
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My impression is that you are going a dangerous path:

  • What happens when your server get compromised/hacked? Do you want to explain to your manager that somebody has the companies secrets because you took an unauthorized shortcut?
  • The company has no interest to have an employee take control of company resources (source code, in your case).

If you want to get the managements permission get it in written but I highly doubt that they will accept. Most likely it will have an negative impact on you ("that guy who wanted to copy our source code")

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Here are the steps I would take.

  1. First approach management
  2. Discuss feasibility. Can this even be done
  3. Discuss risk both to you and the company.
  4. Discuss liability. If systems are damaged, who is responsible.
  5. Discuss security. What will be in place to protect your systems, their systems and both systems?
  6. Discuss ownership. If you have your own projects on your systems, does the company have the rights to those once you are connected.
  7. Discuss duration: How long before you remove your systems from theirs? What happens if you leave before the end of the project? Will your systems be tied to a company you no longer work for?
  8. Discuss decoupling. when the project is over, how will the data and applications be removed? Are there provisions to restoring your systems to a pre-project state?
  9. Discuss future ramifications. Will the company be able to go back to your systems for any reason.

This is a VERY complicated issue, and unless you have a very clear understanding of all the above, laid out in writing and signed by all parties, I would avoid this like the plague.

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