Providing a safety net
Lost USB drives, stolen laptops and corrupt data; high profile instances of all three have been growing. So what security products can a dealer embrace to capitalise on this evolving challenge for offices?
There are two sides to the subject of security: the security of physical objects and the security of the less tangible data. In a world full of identity theft and lost information, there is ample scope for a dealer to market the benefits of spending money on security products for both. No consumer wants to lose either client documents or a laptop containing a year’s worth of tax returns, for example.
Looking first at physical security, this has been on consumers’ minds for as long as there have been offices. But while hiding papers under the floorboards might once have been the way to keep them safe, nowadays people require a more complex form of security.
Joanne Straub, Marketing Production Manager at SentrySafe, explains the consequences that an office could face today. "Statistics show that if a company’s records are lost in a fire, 17% cannot furnish financial statements and can suffer a reduction in credit rating," she says. "A larger percentage (43%) go out of business. The economic upheaval and uncertain times have increased sales of safes for the home, and businesses are following suit."
She continues: "The security category is projected to progressively grow through 2014 driven by life events and record keeping needs – paper and digital."
Safes have been around for centuries, but the need to secure laptops and portable hardware is new and fast growing. The loss of a laptop poses as much, if not more, of a threat as losing unique documents, and there are some alarming statistics available.
"Our recent survey, performed by [global market intelligence firm] IDC, confirmed that 90% of US organisations have experienced laptop theft," says Christopher Franey, President, EVP at ACCO Brands International and head of its Kensington security products.
"In Germany, 89% of organisations have suffered laptop theft. Cumulatively, the 300 survey respondents estimated that their organisations had lost 3,320 laptops in the past year. On average, US respondents estimated that each organisation loses 15 a year. Security is certainly an issue."
Sales of security products are starting to reflect offices’ increased interest in this situation. After all, 15 laptops a year is a lot to lose through theft. Franey says: "With organisations, in France for example, investing 19% of their laptop-related security spend on physical security we know that there’s a market for our solutions."
The growth of laptop security products specifically is growing and developing as the range of laptops available continues to expand. One area that is yet to be fully tapped is the area of tablets, such as the iPad, but it may not be left untouched for long.
"Suffice to say that the Kensington team is closely monitoring the tablet and smartphone space," says Franey. "There are many opportunities presented by mobile devices. It’s about coming to market with the right end-user and budget-holder value propositions, rather than what is technically possible."
Data security poses a more complicated threat. Putting aside the physical security of hardware, protecting its contents when it falls into the wrong hands is a growing challenge. More and more information is becoming digital only, and offices are using portable products such as laptops, CDs and USB drives to transport data.
Dean Delserro, Global Product Marketing Manager, Mobile Data Protection at Imation, says: "The growth of digital information has surpassed expectation, with the amount of digital information doubling every 19.5 months. At the same time, the need for quick accessibility to this rapidly growing universe of information has driven the need for increased data mobility. It’s not surprising that the number of data breaches and data exposure has increased along with the growth of mobility."
The type of online data has also been evolving as Becky Morrison, Senior Manager, Marketing Communications at Verbatim, says. "While most digital content for general consumers is still movies, pictures and music, there is also a significant increase in sensitive data that is digital, such as tax forms or medical records."
While sales of off-the-shelf, either non-secure or password-protected USB sticks have increased rapidly, offices are considering distributing more secure products to staff. "Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and enterprise accounts, more so than home users, are most likely to seek out secure portable storage," says Delserro.
"This is either because of specific industry regulations that require them to do so, such as a doctor’s office protecting patient records, or because they’re conscious of the need to keep their company and client data out of the media. In many cases traditional non-secure removable storage is no longer enough."
There is good reason for offices to take this protection of USB sticks seriously. An online survey recently carried out by Credant Technologies found that 100% of the 229 respondents owned a USB drive, with 54% owning between three and six. On top of this, 85% said that their business allows their removal from the office and almost 10% admitted to losing a USB device containing corporate data.
So does the fact that these devices can be easily lost affect customers’ belief in their security? Apparently not, according to Delserro. "We believe that consumers who understand how to authenticate and encrypt their data feel that their data is secure," he says. "And the need and understanding of secure storage varies with the consumer and the application."
Delserro makes a valid point; a homeowner who transports personal finances on a USB stick may be content with password protection, but an accountant’s office will need to be far more secure. With this in mind, Imation has developed a range of USB sticks that will give employers piece of mind.
Delserro says: "Security scares are contributing to overall awareness of data protection, from SMBs to large enterprises and government agencies. In response to the increased need for secure storage for what is called ‘data at rest,’ Imation has launched a new Defender collection of portable storage devices and management software. These feature government-level, Federal Information Processing Standards-validated encryption, and even biometric (fingerprint) authentication."
The future potential
The understandably strong argument for dealers to stock secure USB drives does come slightly into question when cloud computing is mentioned. There is now scope for offices to store a huge amount of data online, and access it from any location. It can’t be lost, and although there is a risk of hacking and security must be tight, this is reassuring for employers.
However, when asked whether there will still be a market for USB drives, Morrison of Verbatim is sure of her answer. "Definitely," she says. "General consumers will take a while to adopt this technology. Many people still prefer to have the peace of mind to physically hold their backup. Online data storage will increase with time, but the adoption rate of people going completely to this we believe will be slow."
Delserro agrees. "Cloud storage and online data storage may actually contribute to more awareness of the need to backup and protect data, as the discussion moves to ensuring that your data is securely backed up, wherever it resides. Regarding USB and optical products, there are many scenarios where connecting to the cloud is not practical, possible or economical, so users will continue to have a need for portable, removable storage that can be used ‘offline’."
So opportunities abound for dealers interested in branching out into security products. Few people are predicting that employers will relax, as thefts of private information continue to take the spotlight in the media.
Franey at Kensington has a clear message. "Oh there’s a vast opportunity for dealers," he says. "49% of laptop thefts happen in the office. We found that 55% of organisations that hadn’t issued locks don’t do so through a perceived lack of need. Budget constraints were the second least cited reason. My message is go sell! Laptop security is a fantastic incremental opportunity for office products dealers."