What good is a Data Backup if your PC won’t work!

By Brian Blanchard, Sales Director – EMEA, CMS Products Inc.

We are hearing more stories these days about how people are losing or having portable storage or Laptop PCs stolen. As devices get smaller, they become easier targets for theft or for getting mislaid. The traumas of transporting a PC or storage device and the current trend of upgrading software automatically coupled with the risk from viruses and malware mean the PC is open to problems during travel. More people are travelling and taking their IT with them. This is a potential problem for both the business and the individual. Reliance on the PC during travels means you have to consider the worst.

How can you cope with the loss of a PC, CD/DVD, USB Stick or external storage device? What do you do if your PC fails to start-up or run correctly. How would you be able to continue working if you lost the use of your PC whilst travelling? Don’t think a data backup will be enough protection, it won’t.

There are 2 considerations here. First, it is important that, if your storage device or PC is lost or stolen, the recipient of your device is unable to access the contents. Second, you need to get access to your data, programs and PC very soon in order to ensure the continuation of your business or private use. Being on-the-move means this is often difficult to achieve.

A solution to the first point is to make sure that the information on your device is encrypted, whilst a solution to the second is to have a spare system disk which is ready to be installed inside your PC or inside a similar one if your PC was stolen. Knowing that you have a backup of your data in the office won’t help you recover whilst travelling. Not everyone has an IT department waiting for their call either. Even if they do, the chances are that the IT department will not be able to get them working again in minutes – typically it is days.

This spare system disk will not only have a copy of your data files, but will have all programs and settings needed to operate your PC. It is not a backup but a fully ready disk waiting to run your PC with all your applications and data on it. Just think how long it would take to set-up a new PC the same as the one you’ve just lost.

A good analogy is the spare wheel in the back of your car which is the solution to a puncture that gets you back on the road again quickly.
A mobile worker with a spare system disk has the solution to a PC system problem. Imagine you are driving to a meeting and get a puncture. Luckily, most of us can either change the wheel or call roadside assistance to do it. However, if you don’t have a spare in the back, even roadside assistance cannot help you. It is off to the local tyre specialist – when the low-loader eventually arrives to transport you and the car. That will certainly delay you and you could end up losing valuable business.

With a spare system disk in your bag, if anything does go wrong with your PC’s system disk or the software gets corrupted, you are only a few minutes away from working again. If you are not comfortable changing the disks – just call into the local Computer store and get them to do it. In fact now it is possible to start-up and run the PC from the spare system disk attached to the USB port, so no screwdriver or technical skill is required to recover. Corporations around the world are finding that by deploying spare system disk solutions to their mobile workers, up-time is increased and IT costs reduced. Usually ROI is measured in weeks not years.

Protecting your PC and storage devices from unauthorised access can be done through the use of encryption. Software is available that creates encrypted areas, known as Vaults, on the storage device where access to decryption can only be made after entering the correct pass-phrase. This encryption can also be found on full disk encrypted solutions where the external storage disk is attached to the USB port and a screen prompts for the pass-phrase. Again the storage device is permanently encrypted, decryption occurs in the memory not on the disk surface and only after correct pass-phrase entry.

A USB stick could be encrypted with Vault software, data files loaded onto it and the Stick sent to another part of the world. The recipient would get an e-mail with the pass-phrase and be able to download software which will use the pass-phrase to de-crypt the sensitive data on the Stick. If the Stick is intercepted on its way, the data is secure.

Ideally you need both a spare system disk and encryption. Hard disk drives are now available that have encryption chips on them so that the system disk in your PC will be automatically encrypted once given an access pass-phrase. Similarly the spare system disk can also be hardware-encrypted. Although encrypted, the drives still have the ability to start-up the PC so maintaining the benefits of carrying a spare system drive but with the added benefit of being secure from unauthorised access.

The hardware-encryption which is now appearing on Hard Disk Drives does not appear to impact cost – in fact within a couple of years probably all hard drives will have encryption chips built-in.

So don’t just buy a Data Backup solution for your Desktop or Laptop PC, buy a solution which creates a ready-to-use spare system disk and has encryption, after all, what use is a data backup if your PC won’t work!

PST Europe Ltd is exhibiting at Storage Expo 2008 the UK’s definitive event for data storage, information and content management. Now in its 8th year, the show features a comprehensive FREE education programme and over 100 exhibitors at the National Hall, Olympia, London from 15 - 16 October 2008 www.storage-expo.com

Source: StoragePR