Data is more expensive to replace than equipment.

Data is expensive. We usually don’t think of it that way because it seems so ephemeral. If a laptop is stolen or lost, we worry about the replacement value. We don’t think as much about the cost of replacing the data. You can’t reach out and touch data in the way that you can an expensive laptop. The value of a laptop is easy to calculate. We can just look it up on the internet and order a replacement as easy as adding it to a shopping cart.

It’s much harder to figure out the value of data. Calculating the value depends on how hard it is to replace. Some data is irreplaceable. Other data is easily replaced. The problem is that if a laptop is lost, unless we know the precise characteristics of the data that is lost, we don’t know what the mixture is between expensive and cheap data.

This is where the oft quoted figure of $30,000 – $50,000 to replace a lost laptop comes from. Replacing the hardware is simple. Figuring out what data was lost and the value of that data, when you don’t know precisely, or perhaps even generally, what data was stored on the laptop when it was lost, is next to impossible.

A key part of any strategy around allowing important data to reside on mobile devices such as laptops and tablets is knowing precisely which data is on those laptops and tablets. You can accomplish this with an effective endpoint data protection solution, which has the benefit of not only providing you with a copy of all the important data on the laptop, but allowing you to determine what was on the laptop.

As the workforce becomes more mobile, understanding which data is on devices becomes as important as managing the devices themselves. This isn’t just important for the purposes of being able to replace the data, but, in many industries, is likely to have compliance implications as well. The licenses for an effective endpoint data protection solution for mobile devices (including laptops) for most organizations will cost less than:

  • The amount of money spent tasking IT professionals to figure out which sensitive information may have gone missing when a laptop goes astray
  • Or the cost of dealing with the regulatory fallout should that information turn out to be subject to the organization’s compliance responsibilities

The key is to start thinking about the data being more expensive than the equipment. The next time someone argues with you about that, ask them how they'd figure out the value of lost data. Unless they've spent some time thinking about it, they're unlikely to come up with a good answer to that question.

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IT pro Orin Thomas provides true tales, snafus, news, and urban legends for Microsoft Windows system administrators.

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Orin Thomas

Orin Thomas is a contributing editor for Windows IT Pro and a Windows Security MVP. He has authored or coauthored more than thirty books for Microsoft Press, founded the Melbourne System Center,...
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