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Backup and file synchronization
It's a fact of life: Laptops will be lost and stolen. When it happens, you'll need some form of data backup and recovery optimized for the realities of laptop usage.

"That a lost laptop automatically compromises your data is more a perception than reality," says Russ Cooper, director, risk intelligence team at Cybertrust based in Herndon, VA. Rarely is a laptop deliberately targeted for theft--thefts are more opportunistic than targeted.

The biggest loss, then, is access to your own data. If you were working on a proposal, that data has value to you and your organization, even if it isn't confidential. When a laptop is missing, the data is gone unless it was backed up.

"People should back up the data on their laptops, but you need to use backup tools that were designed for remote backup," says Preston. Whatever tool you choose, it must do two things: track data that has changed and offer data deduplication capabilities.

By backing up only the data that has changed, organizations greatly reduce the amount of data to be backed up. This is especially important if the plan is to back up the data over a communications link to a server in the office. Deduplication eliminates the need to back up the same file multiple times (see "

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The skinny on data deduplication," Storage, January 2007).

Many popular backup software products are suitable for use with laptops. Microsoft Windows has the Briefcase feature that automatically tracks the relationship between files on two or more computers. It can be used between a remote laptop and an office server for backup purposes. If you've made changes to any files in the Briefcase while you're away from the office, Briefcase automatically synchronizes those files whenever you log onto the network, in effect backing up your changes.

A number of products do the same thing. "They are called file synchronizers. IBM [Corp.] Tivoli has one. Tacit [Software Inc.] also has one," says Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst, The StorageIO Group, Stillwater, MN.

If the organization doesn't want to back up laptops over the network to a central office, Schulz suggests other options, such as external storage devices or removable media. "You can back up to USB thumb drives, but they also increase vulnerability because they are easily lost or stolen," he says. Encrypted USB thumb drives, such as Kingston Technology Co.'s DataTraveler Elite–Privacy Edition, ensure that data remains protected if they're lost or stolen. Another option entails backing up your data to a CD and keeping it separate from the laptop.

Jack Duggal, managing principal at Projectize Group in Avon, CT, takes a different approach. "I keep a 100GB external hard drive in the office and plug in the laptop once a week to back up the data there," he says. If the laptop is lost, at least he still has his data current as of the last backup.

This was first published in February 2007

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