The vulnerabilities of laptop computers are well documented. Incidents of laptop theft and loss have caused severe damage to individuals and companies in Kenya. Lost or stolen, company issued, laptops usually contain valuable data that can include anything from financial transactions, customer/employee records or secret product designs.
Traditional laptops therefore translate into a large risk exposure for local companies. Aside from lost information, organizations are exposed to significant costs in terms of regulatory fines. Legislation, for instance the Data Protection Act, will soon mete out serious penalties for companies that breach privacy codes.
The threat of identity theft and potential damage to a company’s reputation should compel Kenyan companies to radically rethink laptop security.
Using thin clients is an alternative that should be accorded serious consideration. The term thin client refers to a network computer (laptop or desktop) without a hard disk. This computer (and its software) is part of a network that acts as an interface while the network server computer does all the real work.
Thin client laptops contain enough information to start up and connect to the company’s network. It might have a hard disk and program/files are accessed and saved in the network server.
The security advantages of thin client portable computing have prompted multinationals to increasingly deploy them. Various aspects are evident.
Thin clients do not have a hard disk drive. As a result valuable data cannot be stolen. Virus infection is minimal because thin clients are XP embedded and have a Hyper Write Filter which prevents any virus from installing itself locally. If infected, the ‘locked down’ mechanism means that a simple reboot removes any malicious code.
Apart from offering a lower risk of being stolen, thin laptops offer a secure environment for remote working because users access data over an encrypted network.
E-mail and internet usage are two indispensable applications for the mobile worker. They are therefore targeted by malware. However Microsoft Internet Explorer and Microsoft Outlook are more secure when server-based.
Data backups and restores are not necessary in thin computing because all the data is stored on the server and is managed by the enterprise backup strategy.
Thin computing however demands a well developed ICT infrastructure with high data rates of internet access in public networks. The current laying of fiber optic cabling in the country will go a long way in making thin computing a viable alternative to traditional laptops.