IBMs ThinkVantage Tools
System Migration Assistant, probably my personal favorite in IBMs tool chest, provides a way to migrate a users settings and fileseither between a client and server or between two connected PCsdramatically lowering the time and cost of acquiring and deploying new hardware. IBM Rescue and Recovery (formerly known as Rapid Restore) is a particularly impressive offering that foreshadows some of the capabilities Phoenix Technology and Intel plan for future PCs. Pushing beyond software such as Microsofts System Restore and Symantecs Go Back, Rescue and Recovery creates a secure repository on your PC where it maintains a complete image of your machine and a series of restore points. It also allows you to enter a pre-boot mode which (much like Go Back) allows you to recover a completely trashed machine. But unlike Go Back, you can actually launch a browser and get online help or forward a file that you otherwise wouldnt be able to access even while the system is down.To render those hard drives less vulnerable, IBM has a unique (and kind of cool) hardware offering called the Active Protection System implemented on the new Thinkpad X40.
Read a full review of the stunning new X40 at PCMag.com.
It uses an accelerometer to sense movement, and it locks the drive heads out of the way; if the laptop is dropped, the heads dont pound into the disk, breaking the drive. Even hardened notebooks dont have this technology.
Other tools in this set include Image Ultra, which helps you manage drive images; Access Connections, which helps users move seamlessly between wired and wireless networks; and Software Delivery Assistant, which assists you with the deployment of new software.
One other interesting component is the IBM Embedded Security System, which complies with the current specification from the Trusted Computing Group. I covered the TCG extensively in a prior column, but in brief it creates an encrypted repository on the hard drive for storing sensitive data. (I also sit on the advisory council for the TCG, and IBM is the vendor that has been most aggressive about supporting the related specification in hardware.)
Given current security concerns, I cant understand why only HP provides a similar offering today. (Intel makes a compliant motherboard but few vendors besides IBM and HP use this technology.)
The increased emphasis on support tools is just one example of how Ward has energized all of IBM behind the PC Division. Another example of that support: IBM is finally rolling out a full advertising campaign (including its first TV spots in three years) to push its program.
For the first time in years it seems like IBM is investing in the PC business, instead of seeking a graceful exit. IBM is one of two companies that would diminish the PC business by its departurethe other is Apple Computer. IBMs revitalization of its PC business is the highlight of my month.
Rob Enderle is the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a company specializing in emerging personal technology.
Unfortunately, this solution runs from the hard drive, so if the drive itself fails you are still out of luck. Eventually this pre-boot environment will be in BIOS, but a hard drive failure will still destroy data that isnt backed up.