Sadly in today's society, keeping valuable IT equipment such as laptops, PDAs and iphones and the even more precious data they contain out of the hands of thieves is one of our biggets concern. But just what can we do to minimise the risk of theft?

Rely on recovery software

If a thief steals your laptop, tracking and recovery software can help you get it back. For £25.95 per year you can use Absolute Software's ComputraceOne - a tracking utilitiy that connects periodically to a central server, which can then trace your laptop's location on the internet and summon the local police to recover it. Absolute Software claims that Computrace can survive on a laptop even if the thief successfully reinstalls the operating system, reformats the hard drive, or (in some laptop models) swaps out the hard drive.

The laptop's location may be pinpointed by IP address or by GPS, depending on the device. Absolute even offers a Data Delete capability that can remotely erase the entire hard drive of the stolen PC or specific data files – allowing users to keep confidential data out of the hands of strangers. Discounts are available and vary depending upon number of devices covered and duration of contract, but the overall expense pales in comparison to the cost of data loss.

Back up and encrypt your data

Regardless of the precautions you take, a laptop may still get lost or stolen. So it's vital to keep the loss to a minimum by ensuring that all important data is backed up and encrypted.

Encrypting data on laptops and on USB drives is relatively easy these days, thanks to numerous inexpensive security tools that provide military-grade encryption. But these programs are only as effective as their users allow them to be, so make sure that you understand how to take care of the equipment. For instance, instead of letting a laptop sleep during travel, it should be shut down completely, thereby locking the drive.

You must also know which folders are encrypted and how to back up files. An online backup/sync service can handle this task very efficiently. Make sure that the one you use demonstrates its routine so you can tell whether it is functioning properly.

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