Are backups your back door?

There's a plastic cartridge on my desk – a backup tape. Our sales manager in eastern Europe gave it to me during our recent sales meeting. "What's this?" I asked him. "It's the complete customer database of a large mobile operator," he said. "Where did you get it?" I asked, alarmed. "From a reseller," he said. "You can buy it on the streets of Moscow for $25."

I looked at the tape again. What if my credit card information was there? Or my health records? Or my company's trade secrets?

Your company probably uses backup tapes. Each could have more than enough space to house the world's credit card numbers.

You might assume these tapes would have some kind of built-in protection, some kind of mechanism that ensures that if they fall into the wrong hands the information on them won't be read, but you'd be wrong. And according to the Enterprise Strategy Group, 93 percent of companies leave their tapes unprotected – trusting the driver who picks up these tapes and drives them to an offsite storage location.

The risk of entrusting your crown jewels to a van driver is high. Even Iron Mountain, the leader in offsite data protection, recommends its own customers encrypt backup tapes before entrusting them to its secure warehouses.

There's probably a good reason for why your company doesn't encrypt its backup data. Most solutions on the market today were too slow or too complex (or both) to integrate into an already intricate IT environment.

But thanks to recent innovations, encrypting backup tapes can now be done quickly, with no impact on performance and without changing the way you do business.

Or you could do nothing. Here's hoping your data doesn't end up on the streets of Moscow.

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