Deceptive drives

Let's step outside the enterprise-storage glass house this week and focus on a lighter subject: solid-state microdrives.

Lighter subject, indeed. Weighing only about 6 ounces,this tiny device may look like a charm on a key chain but don't let its minute dimensions deceive you. Thoseminuscule drives hanging from belt clips and neckstraps can host from 16MB to as much as 2GB of storage, with a 1GB drive sporting a premium price ofaround $900.

Microdrives don't measure up to the capacity and performance of their big brothers, but at the TechXNYtrade show last month, JMTek demonstrated microdrives with transfer rates between 800KBps and 1,000KBps.

Very respectable performance for its intended target market of personal-use storage hardware.

And here's the real kicker, USB-based microdrives are true plug-and-play tools. On any recent version of Linux, Mac, or Windows OS, all you have to do is plugin your microdrive and away you go. No need to load software or add a pesky device driver to yoursettings. Toss in an average 10-year life expectancy for data stored on microdrives, and one begins to understand why vendors such as JMTek, IBM, and Trek2000 have embraced the technology.

Although the gee-whiz factor is high because of their tiny size, there are ways to put large-capacity microdrives to work at the office. JMTek's USBDriveProfessional locks your computer when removed from itsUSB port. JMTek also suggests an e-mail microdrive that compresses and encrypts your e-mail and data to more easily and securely transport it when travelling-- although it may raise a few eyebrows at airport security.

Speaking of security, Trek 2000 offers a microdrive called Thumbdrive, which has a fingerprint reader thatallows only an authorized user to access the secrets stored within the drive.

Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate the availability of waterproof microdrives, and JMTek even offers a convenient, system-boot microdrive that can save theday if your computer OS fails or the system won't reboot.

Even the most basic microdrives allow tech-support people to easily carry around gigabytes of diagnostic software; sales reps to move their portfolios, demos,and presentations without a bulky laptop; and employees to walk their files -- no matter how big --home after work.

But before everyone runs out to get their own microdrive, let's look at the dark side of coin. Flashmemory drives can suddenly become a part of your storage network even if you don't intend them to; any user -- notice we didn't say "employee" -- can buy one and bring it to your office. And every one of those gadgets can become a leaking point through which gigabytes of confidential data can be smuggled away from your company, all on a cute little chain.

Is your storage network leakproof? E-mail us at dan_neel@infoworld.com and mario_apicella@infoworld.com.

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