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SE Diaries: My Own Use Cases for Windows To Go

Our special guest blogger is Matt Drake, an IronKey sales engineer, who joined the company in 2013. 

As an IronKey™ sales engineer covering Asia Pac, I am always on the road constantly relying on my Windows To Go device. While my corporate laptop is my primary machine, I never leave home without my IronKey Workspace W500 64GB setup. This device allows me to utilize any Windows compatible PC as my corporate desktop. The separation of hardware and software components opens up a lot more flexibility for how people can consume IT.  My IronKey flash drive acts as my second work PC and personal crisis solution.

I have had the misfortune in the last six months with having two significant IT issues; both taking several days to resolve. Despite being a home-based worker who travels regularly (with no IT department at the end of the corridor to leap to my rescue), in both cases, my down time was minimal.

 A few months ago, I fired up my laptop and found it was unable to connect to any network, wired or wireless. So what did I do? I simply grabbed my W500 and booted my “broken” laptop into Windows To Go. Bingo. Everything worked as it should. This had the double advantage of proving the issue was software related, helping speed up the resolution, but more importantly, allowing me to carry on until our support team implemented a solution.

 Then, a few weeks later I had a laptop screen failure. Yes, this was fixed a day and a half later by the hardware vendor’s onsite support, but without my Windows To Go device as a backup, I would have been limited to using my laptop at home with a desktop monitor. Not great if you have to do customer visits. Instead I borrowed my wife’s MacBook and took that to the meeting, booting into my Corporate Windows desktop using my W500.

Fortunately IT failures are not regular events. They do happen, and often at the most inappropriate moments. Having a Windows To Go device in your pocket or brief case can save your bacon. I make sure I use mine fairly frequently so mail does not get too out of sync and Windows updates are not too far behind. I also use a real-time backup service on my primary laptop. The syncing of documents to either a cloud service or corporate file share not only provides a backup, but is also helpful for accessing data across multiple devices.  

Another key use of Workspace devices is to test software. When Microsoft released the Windows 10 Technical Preview, they stressed that it should not be used as a primary device. As a home based worker I have limited additional hardware to test software – no problem. I installed Windows 10 onto an IronKey W300 Windows To Go device. Adding Microsoft Office makes it a useable tool for most of my work, so I can happily explore this exciting new OS, safe in the knowledge my “real” corporate desktop is a quick reboot away.

 This is how I use Windows To Go to help me be more productive. What about you?

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Sochi Games and Windows To Go – BYOB — Bring Your Own Burner

With reporters just starting to show up at the Sochi Games, their horror stories are emerging on everything from yellow drinking water, poisoned dogs and roofless hotel rooms to a hacker heaven. Digital connectivity and security are going to be hot topics and major issues during the Games. The IronKey Workspace™ for Windows to Go, a PC on a Stick™, is a great solution for anyone traveling to Russia. Here’s why:

Russia has LAWFUL interception of ALL communications. There is ONE network, completely government controlled. What this means is, if you want to be online — unless you are working on a highly classified government network from your country of origin — you WILL be monitored and almost certainly hacked.

Even if you have a VPN, the Russian network will own your PC, your credentials, your certificates, etc. So you’re toast.

But you have to be connected and get work done. What do you do?

Take three things on your trip:

  • IronKey Workspace W500™ for Windows To Go, with your needed applications and public files. You can plug the Windows To Go drive into almost any computer, work solely from the USB stick and not leave a trace behind.
  • Laptop, with the hard drive either disabled or removed (just to be safe)
  • Burner cell phone – buy with cash.

The good news is you can be connected this way without digital harm. The bad news is that, while you’re in Russia, you’ll have to assume all of your communications are public and not secure.  But you can stay completely connected, be productive, and still be safe when you return home.

While in Russia, you can use Windows To Go in your laptop, do all your work with your regular applications and stay connected to home base. The Windows 8.1 operating system you load on Windows To Go must contain applications and files that are not sensitive, because once you log on to the network, you need to assume anyone can see them and know it’s you. Same thing with when you use your cell. Even burner cells can be traced and triangulated. Just ask the DEA.

Once you get home, have IT re-provision your Windows To Go device. Or do it yourself. Load up all your applications and files, including all the sensitive ones. Windows To Go can be used again, completely securely in other countries. You can use it with your regular laptop or the drive-less one you got for the trip. Destroy the cell just like in cop shows.

Bon voyage!

 

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3 Tips For Enabling Data Security and Mobility at Government Agencies

October marks the end of the US federal government’s fiscal year, and Imation’s mobile security experts are very busy discussing the benefit of our solutions with IT staffs at various agencies. We typically see an increase in interest near the end of the fiscal year, but there are a couple of reasons why our IronKey secure USB solutions are more top-of mind this year than in the past.

There is an increased focus from government agencies on enabling computer mobility. Like many other sectors, government agencies understand that mobile devices make employees more productive, a fact which was backed up as recently as May in an 1105 Government Information Group report. IronKey secure USB data storage devices and IronKey Workspace Windows To Go solutions enable end user mobility, as government employees can take their data and desktop environments with them wherever they go securely.

Microsoft Windows 8 spotlights how USB devices can serve as a secure, mobile computing alternative for BYOD. Microsoft cites Windows To Go, which enables a fully functioning Windows desktop to be booted from a USB device, as a key enterprise feature of Windows 8. Government agencies are taking notice.

At the same time, government IT staffs are justifiably concerned about security. The same 1105 Government Information Group report cited earlier notes that agencies are providing their employees with agency-issued devices, primarily because they are worried about the lack of control. A government mobility policy in these situations shifts away from BYOD, since employees cannot bring their own devices.

Any solution involving mobile devices (whether through employee devices or agency-provided devices) must include policies and technology to protect against data leakage or misused data.

In general, we offer these tips as part of such policies:

1) Access control: Agencies must establish and enforce strict methods for granting device access.

2) Auditing: IT departments should schedule frequent audits to make sure that devices are in the right hands and are being used appropriately.

3) Remote kill: Government agencies should deploy mobile solutions that enable remote kill capabilities, so that devices can be erased or destroyed if they fall into the wrong hands.

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Enabling BYOD with a Secure Windows To Go IronKey Workspace

We have now announced Microsoft certification and general availability of our IronKey Workspace W500. Microsoft’s certification process is a rigorous one, so we are extremely pleased to put this stamp of approval on our latest Windows To Go solution. And we’re excited to bring our secure PC on a Stick platform to the Windows To Go solution set.

According to Intel’s IT Manager survey on the current state of BYOD, one of the two largest barriers to BYOD adoption is that the devices used by employees cannot support security, encryption or remote wipe.  The IronKey Workspace W500 solves IT managers’ security concerns with its hardware based encryption, ability to issue ‘silver bullet’ commands to remote wipe the device, and centralized management.  The IronKey Workspace W500 is truly an IT provisioned, IT managed and IT secured device that fits into your network.

intel barriers snap

Source: Intel

Gartner predicts that half of companies will require BYOD in 2017, and as this trend spreads from mobile phones and smartphones to the PC, our Windows To Go workspace offerings position us strongly in this space. Strong market interest in our solutions backs up this trend – for example, we have initiated pilots large organizations that are interested in deploying thousands of devices. Use cases we are seeing include:

  • Executive travelers are seeking to bring a secure device to insecure countries, instead of a laptop.
  • Government agency looking to provide a way for employees to telework securely, using the workspace device on their home PCs.
  • A hospital is looking at providing secure workspaces to medical residents instead of providing PCs –a 10X cost savings.
  • Top universities are testing IronKey Workspaces for their students to use in computer labs, and then to allow them to bring their computing environment home.

Our new IronKey Workspace W500 represents a powerful, secure PC on a Stick offering for enterprise customers. This is a high-performance, ruggedized, high-security platform for organizations who see opportunity in using Windows To Go to support their BYOD initiatives.

You can learn more about the IronKey Workspace solutions at http://www.ironkey.com/en-US/secure-workspace/index.html.