Is Flash Storage Ready for Small Business?

USB drives have been a popular gadget among consumers who like to move digital content from one computer to the next. Their wild popularity, born out of portability and capacity, has led businesses to look into the benefits of using the drives.

But USBs also scare many companies, which routinely ban them for fear that ousted or disgruntled employees will plug them into computers and make off with sensitive corporate information to use it for ill gains.

Kingston Technology Company today moved to solve that problem by introducing DataTraveler Elite Privacy Edition, a USB Flash (define) drive that locks down data with 128-bit AES (define) encryption, a powerful security protocol.

Capable of storing up to 4 gigabytes (GB), DTE Privacy Edition is tailored to meet security and compliance requirements for businesses. If the drive is ever lost or stolen, the integrity of the data stored on the device remains intact.

AES is just the beginning. The drive also features a complex password protocol and a mechanism that locks out attackers after 25 consecutive failed password attempts, ensuring information is accessible only by authorized users.

Such users can access the encrypted files without the need for additional software.

The drives may be used on any computer running Windows 2000 SP4 or higher and Windows XP. As with most Flash drives, there are ascending grades of capacity, with the base model priced at $48 for 256 megabytes, to $347 for the 4GB gadget.

Gartner analyst Joseph Unsworth said businesses that depend on keeping certain data sacred, such as those in financial, government and health care markets, need products that use robust encryption technologies like AES.

“The reason why a lot of U.S. companies aren’t rolling out Flash drives is that they’re scared of them,” Unsworth said. “There’s a lot that can be at risk there.

“Having the IT manager partitioning out these drives and giving administration rights is going to be important. IT managers are going to want to be able to manage these products and help minimize the risk associated with them.”

Kingston and DTE Privacy Edition fits the bill, he said, noting that the company has established trust by selling DRAM modules, which provide the memory for many servers in the enterprise. He said the new drive could open the door to wider adoption.

More broadly, Unsworth said market evidence suggests the business presents a big opportunity for the Flash drive makers, which include SanDisk, Kingston, Lexar (soon to be Micron) and Toshiba.

For example, 51.7 million USB Flash drives shipped in 2004, he said. Only 21 percent were purchased through the enterprise channels, while 67 percent were purchased from the consumer channels. But during that same year, 51 percent of PCs were bought for the enterprise.

Unsworth said that while there isn’t a direct correlation between USB Flash drives and PCs, USB drives are still centered around the PC.

“So that spells a very large opportunity given the installed base of PCs in the enterprise and the fact that enterprise is not as price-sensitive as consumers. They’re willing to pay for increased security because, there is a lot at risk here for some of these companies.”

Article originally appeared on

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