November 06, 2008, 12:33 PM — Don't you love the way technology prices drop and drop? Think about an 8GB storage device attached to your keyring. The cost of solid state memory keeps plummeting at an amazing rate, and I applaud the chip makers and manufacturers integrating such memory into their products.
So why do I say â€œdangerâ€ in the headline? Because an 8GB USB thumb drive will become the backup medium of choice for more people, and that's a lousy backup plan. Because an 8GB thumb drive full of your company data on an employee keyring can be lost so quickly and so easily you won't know what happened until someone starts liberating some funds from your bank account. Because employees who want to steal information from you have a faster, easier, and sneakier way to do so.
Here's the age-old question: do the positives outweigh the negatives? Yes, with proper management.
If your employees are using local USB drives of any kind as their backup of choice, shame on you and your IT policies. This certainly includes the traveling laptop users who think a thumb drive is proper backup, especially when they keep the thumb drive in the laptop case. Lose the laptop case, lose your backup. By the way, that happens over 10,000 times per week in US airports alone. Yep, 10k every week. Gone.
If you have non-authorized employees who can get to sensitive data on their computers, and you haven't blocked the USB ports, shame on you. Sure you trust your employees, or at least most of them, but remember the verify part of the equation. If you're big enough to have a network-based personal computer management system, track USB drive use across the employee base. What are they downloading? Still feel comfortable? If not, block those USB ports, or at least log the activities.
USB drives are handy, and putting 8GB in a tiny drive makes it easy to shuffle large files around. With USB 2.0, a video file will transfer quickly enough to be bearable. That's good.
As with all technology, make sure the good outweighs the bad for your company.