Warranties and special needs
Hard drive disk encryption should be used to protect all company notebooks, but your laptop should also have a fingerprint reader to simplify authentication to the encryption key. "I think disk encryption and fingerprint readers are like soup and sandwich-they go together," said Kevin Wilson, who manages desktop and laptop systems for a large corporation. "Even if you don't use it for network authentication, at least the fingerprint reader gets past system booting."Don't forget the warranty The survey also found that the most important considerations for large companies buying laptop PCs include the warranty and support offered with the purchase. Basic laptop warranties typically last for one year, covering hardware defects and offering seven-day-a-week access to technical support via telephone or e-mail, mail-in repair service, and replacement of any laptop that is flat-out nonfunctioning. But with most companies requiring their laptops to have a useful life span of five years, an extended warranty is a must. In fact, it's a good idea to purchase support plans that go beyond the basics, including coverage for such things as laptops damaged by a steep drop or coffee spills. And if your employees travel outside the United States, be sure that your vendor's support plan will accommodate them. It's also a good idea to see what your vendor provides in terms of on-site support for your notebook's wireless capabilities. "Wireless is the most likely thing to have serious problems on a laptop, and when it goes wrong, you want to be able to get what we call -the paratroopers' in," Wilson said. "I select my wireless on the ability to get the paratroopers in." IT managers also need to think inside the box. That is, it makes their job much easier when vendors ship the laptop, monitor and docking station in a single box. "If people commonly order laptop monitors and docking stations, the fact that your provider can put [them all] in one box and ship it is a good thing," Wilson said. "Otherwise, you get box one of three, two of three, three of three, and you have to get the right monitor with the right laptop." Special needs Some laptop features are good for just about any user, but, from the beginning, you need to identify the special needs of employees and departments in your organization. For example, do you have road warriors who will need to hook up to a projector? If so, don't underestimate the value of an S-Video port, which makes it easy to connect the machine to a television as an external display and is something that many high-priced notebooks don't offer.
A recent Ziff Davis Enterprise Editorial Research study conducted for eWEEK showed that 66 percent of respondents at companies with 1,000 or more employees encrypts data on work-issued laptops, but only 16 percent use any kind of biometrics. Meanwhile, 38 percent of respondents at companies with between 10 and 999 employees reported encrypting data on laptops, with only 21 percent using biometrics. Of respondents at companies with 500 or more employees, 60 percent reported encrypting notebooks, but only 16 percent reported using biometrics.