48 CDW•G Start-to-Finish The latest installment of Start-to-Finish,
a series of briefs on pertinent technologies.
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No longer just a fad, portable storage devices have become an important
part of small- to mid-size organization storage strategy. Portable data
storage solutions vary in structure, size and capacity, but all serve the
function of physically storing data on a movable device that is external to
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I ncredibly easy to use, the newest entries in the category
of portable storage devices are small in size but large
in capacity. Ranging in size from a small keychain fob
that’s about the same size as a pack of gum to the size
of a paperback novel, these portable storage devices use
LaCie and Iomega are among the vendors that produce
small portable FireWire hard drives. Maxtor offers its
OneTouch family of external drives with the option for
either FireWire or USB interface. Flash drives, such as the
Lexar JumpDrive and the SanDisk Cruzer Mini, use the
mass storage class drivers and are relatively inexpensive. USB interface. USB 2.0 is the latest version of the USB
How can so much storage fit on such a small piece of specification and supports data transfer rates of up to
Portable storage devices work by plugging them into a
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Form Factor computer with any of the more recent operating systems,
Form factors (an industry term that identifies the physical including Mac OS X, Windows 2000 or Windows XP.
size and shape of a device) for storage have been For earlier systems, such as Windows 98, the drive may
shrinking. In 1956, IBM introduced the first hard drive, require that you install vendor software.
which consisted of 50 24-inch disks and stored 5MB of
data. Today, we can store 100 times as much data on a
flash drive that is the size of a thumbnail. Flash Technology
Mike Kuppinger, digital media product manager for Flash drives, which hit the marketplace in 2002, can
Kingston Technology Company, Inc., explains the reason currently store up to 2GB. What puts the flash in a flash
behind the innovation. “Shrinking form factors are an drive? They are definitely different than hard disk drives
ongoing evolution,” he says. “Manufacturers continue to because there are no moving parts in a flash drive. Instead,
reduce the die size and increase the density of the medium, they use flash memory (the same kind of digital memory
which reduces their costs and enables them to offer the you find in today’s digital cameras), a silicon microchip
components at a lower cost.” that is sometimes called “flash RAM.” This is memory
designed to hold its contents when power to the chip is
USB or FireWire eliminated.
Most portable storage devices connect to PCs via a USB It can be erased and reprogrammed in blocks instead
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(universal serial bus) or FireWire port. FireWire became of one byte at a time, or in a “flash.” Since there are no
an official standard (IEEE 1394) in 1995 and is based moveable parts, flash drives are more durable than disk
on interface technology originally developed by Apple. It drives. In fact, as a test of that endurance, Kuppinger says
supports data transfer rates of up to 400Mbps. that flash drives can fall 10 to 15 feet without damage.
CDW•G Start-to-Finish 49
Taking Pressure Off the LAN
Portable storage is great for moving huge files around the office.
Paul Streit, a senior solutions marketing manager at Maxtor, says
that portable storage eases the organization’s storage burden. USB Flash Drive
“E-mail boxes fill up pretty quickly, and IS groups are budget
conscious, so they put the squeeze on how much storage you get
and how large a file you can send. With anything over 10MB, A USB flash drive is a compact memory drive that can act as a portable
especially if you are talking about 50MB or 100MB, e-mail hard drive, allowing you to easily store and trasnport data. About the
size of a pack of gum, USB flash drives let you transport client
becomes less and less practical,” Streit says. presentations, bring in work from home or carry thousands of photos.
External hard drives, which have shrunk to the size of a paperback Because USB ports are more common than CD or DVD drives, USB drives
will work in most computers. But how do they compare with other
book, can also conveniently transport large files. According to storage devices?
Streit, they fit into a briefcase and are an excellent solution for
agency or department work groups for moving extremely large files
Floppy disks can’t compare to
off the LAN. They also get extensive use by creative professionals Floppy Disk
USB flash drives, which offer
more storage in a smaller
working in photography, video, graphic design and architecture package and also don’t
require any special drives.
as well as for large prepress design files or engineers’ CAD files.
Zip drives aren’t standard on
most desktops, so transferring
Zip Drive data can become complicated.
Not Just a Storage Device
USB drives, however, are quite
common and don’t require
“One of the most beautiful features I’ve seen is using USB flash Optical storage is great long
term, but can be easily
drives as a configuration key with Windows Connect Now,” says Optical scratched. USB drives are sturdy,
Storage resiliant when dropped and can
Steffen Hellmold, president of the USB Flash Drive Alliance (UFDA). have data added or deleted as
often as needed.
He explains that the Windows XP Service Pack 2 configuration External hard drives are great
utility allows you to use a USB flash drive to configure a wireless External for backing up large amounts
Hard Drive of data, but are shock sensitive
LAN. (See “Service Pack 2” story on page 74.) due to internal moving parts
and are also not as portable.
You can plug in a USB flash drive, run Windows Connect Now
Flash memory cards, which are
to propagate the WLAN settings, including SSID (service set Flash often used in electronic devices
Memory such as digital cameras, can
identifier), WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) Key, etc., to your USB Card
work in conjunction with
flash drive. Then you can plug the USB flash drive into the other
devices you want to make part of your wireless LAN. Any wireless-
enabled computer running Windows XP can use that same portable
device to seamlessly configure either computers or headless devices,
such as wireless access points or printers, to the network.
IT A nalysts forecast that the worldwide market for USB flash
drives could reach $4.5 billion in 2006. Their inexpensive
cost, ranging from $16 for a 32MB flash drive to slightly
more than $300 for a 300GB external drive, has been driving this
With numbers like these, portable storage grabs attention,
though not all of it positive. In fact, Gartner analysts released a
popular study in 2004 that highlighted the security risks posed by
portable storage devices, including introduction of malicious code
into the organization’s network, theft of proprietary information
Portable storage devices, now available and exposure of confidential data if the devices are lost or stolen.
at reasonable prices, are popping up
everywhere. When used in a controlled Security First
manner, USB flash drives and larger In the past, the security risks of using portable storage devices
portable storage drives can serve may have been underestimated. Organizations should evaluate
portable storage use in their own environment and develop a
useful functions for small- to mid-size security policy to govern colleagues’ use of the drives. Some
organizations and agencies. organizations choose an outright ban and disable the USB ports
on all computers. However, many organizations and agencies have
50 CDW•G Start-to-Finish
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concluded that portable storage devices have a place in
the work computing environment, and instead of simply
banning them altogether, allow their use on a controlled
By allowing coworkers and guests to have unauthorized and
basis, adding security where needed. uncontrolled use of portable storage devices, companies are exposing
themselves to serious breaches of security. General security measures
Gartner recommends using personal firewalls to limit can apply to the wide spectrum of portable storage devices.
They let you take advantage of their benefits,
activity on USB ports. Other software solutions allow but prevent their unrestrained use.
administrators to control ports selectively. The USB Flash
Drive Alliance also recommends that users run a virus
scan on the contents of the drives before accessing any
files. Current antivirus software will automatically scan
media upon detecting it, whether it is a USB flash drive or
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a USB hard drive.
Built-in Security Features
Flash drive manufacturers have taken steps to increase Manage port access
security on the devices as well. More devices with built-in with tools such as
Implement a specific digital rights
security features are hitting the marketplace. The most host-based intrusion security policy, with management
prevention products ongoing training and
common feature is the ability to set a password for the and mobile data review, to increase helps control
security awareness files sent through
device. This level of protection satisfies the basic security protection products
m a k e r s
among employees. e-mail or shared
requirements for many companies. corporate data.
By 2006, USB flash drive manufacturers want to be in
a position to offer administrators control over users who
are outside the organization’s IT policy. “The solutions “Portable storage devices save time, and they’re faster
for making a secure environment, in combination with compared to burning a CD or DVD. Many flash devices
systems and USB flash drives, are under development,” are rated for 100,000 rewrites, which means you could
says Hellmold. “The USB Flash Drive Alliance is moving use it everyday for five years and not even come close to
forward on standards.” wearing it out,” Streit says. “Price point has really made
it happen. The fact that you can have a useful amount
of storage for 20 bucks has turned out to be a winning
Simple Backup System combination.”
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While not meant as a replacement for long-term archival
backup, a benefit of portable drives is their use as backup
for a desktop or critical data. According to Streit, “Many
IT organizations just don’t have the IT infrastructure to
reach down to the desktop level for backups, especially
when there are remote offices that are geographically
How CDW•G Does
dispersed. It can be much more efficient to have a single
drive for backup than to try to reach out in a statewide Portable Storage
area or for a company with many remote employees.”
As for Maxtor’s OneTouch drives, which offer a push- CDW•G has hundreds of portable
button approach to data backup, Streit adds, “We really
storage choices from best-of-breed
designed it to be usable for the nontechnical user. The user
can easily schedule automatic backups on a set schedule. vendors as well as a variety of
security products to protect the
Using two drives, you can have rotating backups so you
can keep an offsite copy.” LAN and the desktop. CDW•G helps
keep you aware of new storage
Future of Portable Storage technologies and capabilities. We
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Although removable media such as floppies and DVDs
remain an alternative, especially for mailing files, Streit
know today’s mobile workforce
believes there is a growing need for portable storage drives needs the right mobile technology.
in the small- to mid-size organization work environment.
CDW•G Start-to-Finish 51
Evolution of Storage
In the mid-1800s, In 1967, the first
punch cards are used In 1956, IBM floppy disk is built, We now have a
to provide input to released RAMAC, at 8 inches. More In 1994, Zip wide variety of
early calculators and the first magnetic floppy disks arrive drives are
other machines. storage solutions
hard disk for data in 5.25 inches and introduced. available. From
1950 tape drives storage, which 3.5 inches. external hard drives,
replace punch soon becomes the flash memory cards
cards. Only a few standard. It used and USB flash drives,
years later, magnetic 50 24-inch disks In 1983, the first hard we are able to
In the 1940s, drive disk becomes a
vacuum tubes drums appear. They to store 5MB and store large amounts
retrieve data faster, cost $35,000 per PC standard. The of data in several
were used for CD-ROM is developed
storage. but store less. year to lease. devices.
this year as well.
Array of Vendors lock-down USB ports while enabling selected users to plug in a
CDW•G has a variety of storage solutions available ranging from USB flash drive, connect a smartphone or handheld, download
external hard drives and flash memory cards to USB flash drives. or upload data from a digital camera or access CDs or floppies.
Symantec’s personal firewalls also help limit the exposure from
Vendors include EDGE, Fujifilm, Imation, Iomega, Kingston,
USB and FireWire portable devices.
LaCie, Lexar, Maxtor, SanDisk, Seagate, SimpleTech, Sony,
CDW•G can help develop these security policies, as well
Targus, Viking, Western Digital and many others.
as recommend hardware and software solutions that decrease
The new products offered by these vendors are able to store
administration overhead, increase productivity and deliver
increasingly large amounts of data in an array of devices.
For example, Sony’s GigaVault Portable HardDisk Media
puts 40GB of storage capacity into a shock-absorbing, pocket-
sized drive that’s less than an inch thick. Its scalable design lets Dedicated to Government
you add more capacity or additional adapters and it features a CDW•G is solely dedicated to serving our government customers.
rechargeable battery. Government organizations and agencies have diverse and complex
infrastructures that require custom solutions. Our customers’ needs
are different from state to state, agency to agency, department to
Managing Security department and person to person. Often, companies focused on
As useful as portable storage devices are, security should come the private sector and corporate customers are hesitant to take
first. Gartner noted that industry best practices include adopting on government customers because of purchasing restrictions or
a suitable security policy for using portable storage devices, requirements. However, CDW•G continues to invest the time and
incorporating tools to help manage port access of USB and resources, offering many long-term benefits to our government
FireWire drives and installing personal firewalls to limit what can customers.
be done on USB ports. CDW•G not only gives you expert knowledge, but we give it to
CDW•G offers several security tools including network port- you quickly. Your CDW•G team will cover all the bases from start
management solutions. Security software like GFI’s LANguard to finish. When you need information and advice regarding your
Portable Storage Control allows agencies and organizations to technology, CDW•G can deliver.
Ask about CDW•G warranty uplifts and extensions to ensure ongoing product performance.