New laptop pregame: 2013 edition

I stumbled across an article by Dawn Altnam the other day, Laptop pregame: What to do to your company laptops before you give them to employees. Complete with stock photo of snarky guy holding a laptop.

“Pregame” calls to mind a football metaphor…but after reading the article I got the sense that it could have been written in 2003. Remove all references to “spyware” and “cloud” and it could have appeared in Inc or Forbes magazine in 1993.

In football terms that’s going back to the days of the “flying wedge” and no helmets.

Is this how you’d equip your team in 2013 and beyond?

Of course not.

So what can we do better today for notebook prep?

Security: Virus protection needs to be a closed loop. Most small business owners don’t know the difference between benign reports like toolbars/plugins and the nasty stuff like rootkits, much less how to properly assess and respond to a detection alert.

What does your sales manager do when she sees this?

99% of ’em click “allow” or “allow always.” Which could possibly load the trojan which starts to scan their e-mails and files for account numbers. Most tech service providers offer ongoing services to handle these alerts consistently and affordably.

And today, we have web filtering to limit users’ exposure (and company liability) to non-business stuff like porn, pirated software, hate speech, etc.

Firewall: The Windows 7 firewall is generally regarded as business-grade and up to the task of protecting a typical computer, even in a coffee shop or  other shared connection.

In the Physical Protection section the author drops the ball. At the very least every corporate computer, external disk, etc should have an asset tag. These start at about 50 cents per label.

Beyond that every business should consider a system like Absolute Computrace or Awareness Technologies’ LaptopCop. These solutions allow us to locate and track a lost or stolen computer. And recover the latest versions of files from the hard drive, then securely erase the disk.

Every business should have a “lost device response plan” in place before handing out a single laptop. It may be as simple as “Call Charland Tech and advise them of the lost device.” (Which means that WE need a response plan for each client with remote devices. If you’re our client you should ask to see it. If you’re not our client you may still ask to see it.)

And don’t forget Compliance and Data Loss Protection…software designed to prevent problems like

  • Copying your customer list to a notebook or flash drive
  • e-mailing social security or account numbers
  • flagging messages containing certain words for management review before sending

And another thought: Businesses also need to develop a plan regarding remote access to company resources. Most offices have a collection of “stuff” inside the office, with other stuff in cloud services. Do they have a desktop in-house to remote into through GotoMyPC or Logmein? Is there a Small Business Server to provide Remote Web Access?

Answer these questions before running out to Best Buy and buying shiny things.

Ms. Altnam’s post ultimately points out why professional technology service providers continue to exist in today’s era of iPads and self-service cloud apps. Because anybody can do it but not everyone does things right.

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