Frequent Flyers Beware

By: Michelle Walker

Technology has made it much easier to take your office with you, but recent efforts to secure borders and make international travel safer combined with the usual threats to portable data mean business travelers must be more vigilant than ever.

Right now you may be visiting Barbados on business or vacation and are reading this column while your laptop is in your hotel room. Or you may be getting ready to leave Barbados on a business trip to Europe or North America and thinking about everything you need to take with you. Either way, have you given thought to protecting your data?

If you're on the road most of the time, the benefits of a laptop computer are obvious - why be chained to a desktop? However, there are many safeguards to consider, especially since you can't take IT staff with you wherever you go.

It goes without saying that one of the most common threats to laptops and to the data inside is the dropping of a computer from several feet in the air. While some manufacturers of computers have developed technology to better protect the hard drive from falls, it's not flawless. In addition, with tightened security at airports, you're no longer the only one handling the machine. You must remember that at least one other person will manhandle your computer when you go through security and might, albeit not intentionally, shake or drop your machine inappropriately.

Aside from the potential for physical damage, there is always the possibility your laptop will be lost or stolen - that's why protective measures must be taken before you hit the road.

While the physical hardware does have monetary value, it's the data that is most valuable to any business traveler, so make protecting the data on the hard drive your first priority.

For example, even if you can carry your laptop as carry-on luggage, it's a good idea to back up your data before you leave. If you're connected to a network while in the office, be sure to use the backup system your IT staff has set up and verify that it's worked. If you're leaving from home, you should back up critical data to a CD or DVD.

Air travelers with laptop computers have become accustomed to removing their computers from their bags while security screeners at the airport scrutinize them, but terrorist threats last year in the U.K. created situations where passengers were faced with the possibility of having them banned from carry-on luggage. While those restrictions have since been relaxed, they could be instituted again. You should be prepared to be separated from your data when boarding a flight, and if you're forced to check your laptop, be sure it's in its proper case. If possible, do not check a laptop bag as luggage - instead place it in another piece of carry-on luggage that does not advertise the contents inside. This keeps it inconspicuous and the layering will help protect against damage.

These precautions make sense all of the time, not just at times of heightened security. Besides, you never know when a piece of technology may fail, so not only should you back up your data before you leave, you should bring the critical business information you need for your trip with you on a separate piece of media such as a CD or USB thumb drive. If you do end up of having any computer problems, you can easily do that critical presentation or demonstration on somebody else's machine at your destination.

In the worst case scenario of laptop theft, complex passwords and encryption solutions make it more difficult for the laptop to be "hacked" by criminals. This way, your computer may be gone but unable to easily reveal confidential information.

If you assume something will threaten your data whenever you travel, these steps will ensure both you and your information, if not your computer, arrive safely at your destination.

http://www.cbltech.com

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