As the power and cost of laptops have become comparable to desktop PCs, and with staff increasingly expecting more flexible working conditions, many organisations are choosing to swap the trusty desktop PC estate for a shiny fleet of laptops. But with laptops making the bulk of your office computing mobile, the risk of it being lost or stolen is significantly greater. So here’s five of the top things you should do to protect you. These are really the absolute minimum you should do, so if you’re not doing all of them, now’s the time to act.
1. Keep them in the office (as much as possible)
Sounds obvious, but your laptops are much safer if they never leave the confines of the office. “But we bought laptops so we could take them out of the office” I hear you cry. True. The point here is not to keep them in the office forever, but to put policies in place to ensure they’re only taken out of the office when really necessary (i.e. for work work). Try to avoid the situation where employees get into the habit of taking their laptop home every night for personal use. They’re work laptops, so you’re well within your rights to say they’re only for work, so should only leave the office for work-related activities.
2. Locks, locks and more locks
Provide every employee with a Kensington lock so they can physically secure the laptop to the desk. This will help ensure that even if your office is broken into, any potential thief is at least slowed down. While they won’t stop a determined thief completely, the more time it takes the better. You could even go one better and invest in a lockable laptop trolley, like this one by Charcoal, which can store and charge 20 laptops. Just make sure you lock that somewhere secure too!
3. Use passwords
The most basic level of software security – don’t forget it! Make sure every laptop requires a password to access it, and give guidelines on how to create the most secure passwords possible. Even better, don’t let your users choose their password. It’s not just a pain if they forget, but you can make sure they’re a sight more complicated than their wife’s birthday.
4. Install security software
Security software like McAfee’s Total Protection provide high levels of security for the desktop environment, protecting against threats such as viruses, spyware and Trojans. An absolute must for any computer whether it’s a desktop or a laptop, but perhaps arguably more important on a laptop given it’s increased use out of the corporate network.
5. Backup regularly (or even better, don’t use local storage at all)
The best way to protect corporate information on a laptop is to not store any corporate data on it. But since most organisations use desktop email clients that store a copy of their email on the computer (e.g. Microsoft Outlook), there will always be a bit of data on the laptop. The best advice here is to avoid attaching documents to emails (if they’re internal, send links to their location on the server, as these won’t work without VPN authentication outside the office) or use external services like Dropbox which again require passwords. If data does need to live on the laptop, just make sure it’s regularly backed up on the server so if the laptop does go missing, you’re not left losing a year’s work.
So this is a short list of the absolute bare minimum you should do to protect your laptops. There are many other, more sophisticated steps we would recommend as your business grows (such as data encryption, remote lock & wipe software etc.), but if you’re a small business looking for the basics, this is the best place to start.
How do you think we did? What are your top 5 absolute security essentials?