Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dell, McAfee, Seagate Deliver Self-Encrypting Hard Drive

Having figured out that the existence of encryption software doesn't actually mean that such systems will be installed and used, hard drive maker Seagate has decided to offer a self-encrypting hard drive for notebook computers.

The company on Monday said that it is shipping its new Momentus FDE (full-disk encryption) notebook hard drives, at speeds of 5,400 and 7,200 rpm, in capacities of up to 320 GB, to defend against the possibility of a data breach following the loss or theft of a laptop. A 500-GB model is coming soon.

It also said that Dell is shipping a notebook with a 160-GB self-encrypting drive and McAfee ePolicy Orchestrator (ePO) management system and endpoint encryption client.

Notebook computers are stolen every 53 seconds and 97% are never recovered, according to the 2007 Annual CSI/FBI Computer Crime and Security Survey.

Just last week, two laptops were reportedly stolen from the Tonsler Park voting precinct building in Charlottesville, Va. According to NBC affiliate WVIR, the laptops were encrypted; they contained the names, addresses, and DMV numbers of the approximately 25,000 registered voters in the city.

Also last week, a laptop containing limited health information about 100,000 patients of Baylor Health Care System was reportedly stolen from an employee's car. A letter was sent to the 7,400 patients whose Social Security numbers were stored on the computer.

Momentus FDE drives are intended for both personal and corporate use. Consumers can simply install a Momentus drive, enter a BIOS password, and then log into the operating system as usual. Thereafter, data is protected by AES encryption.

Through McAfee ePO, enterprise IT managers can enforce corporate policy, prove policy compliance, and perform other administrative operations on Momentus FDE drives.

McAfee's software provides 256-bit AES encryption; Seagate's Momentus provides 128-bit encryption. Seagate maintains that 128-bit AES provides sufficient security and that a weak authentication key is more of a worry than a 128-bit encryption key.

Chris Parkerson, group solution marketing manager for data protection at McAfee, said that hard disk encryption has been available through software for years. The reason, he said, that Seagate, McAfee, and Dell are offering encryption on a hardware level is that consumers wanted security to be even easier, to come built in on the machines they're acquiring.

Challenges in the Distribution Industry

Question: How do you efficiently manage your inventory to get better profit margins, and more satisfied customers?

Answer: Better inventory management systems.

Your inventory is your most valuable asset. Managing it properly is key to maintaining cash flow, ensuring positive customer service, and keeping operations running smoothly. If your product isn't moving, it's just dollars sitting on a shelf. For leveraged distributors, who've purchased inventory with a bank loan, it's even more important to turn over your inventory and maximize it as an asset.

It can be tempting for your buyers to overstock the warehouse for fear of running out. But if you've filled your stock locations with products your customers don't need (rather than the stock they do need), you'll miss valuable opportunities to make money and build customer loyalty.

Columbus IT solutions can give you better visibility into demand and delivery help you optimize your stock levels, manage your inventory, and make well-informed business decisions so you can sell more product and keep your customers happy. And that means greater competitiveness, and a better bottom line.

Question: How do you quickly and easily track deliveries, so your customers stay happy – even when there are delays?

Answer: Fast, accurate, “Available to Promise” capabilities.

Complex delivery schedules and unpredictable arrival times are part and parcel of the distribution business. Yet, your customers want to know when their products will be delivered – and they want to know now. That means your sales office is calling your production facilities, and expecting accurate answers as soon as possible. Currently, it could take up to three days for the appropriate person to get the answers your customer is looking for. That means a lot of phone calls – and a lot anxious people.

With a distribution solution from Columbus IT, you can get the scheduling answers you need in seconds, rather than days. With ATP (Available to Promise) capabilities, sales subsidiaries can automatically receive scheduling insight as soon as they enter a sales order into the system. You can find everything you need to know, all on one screen. That way, the right people will know right away what date they can promise delivery.

Should a delivery be delayed, the sooner you know, the better. Because you need to communicate the change to both your external supplier, and your sales office (who will then need to explain the situation to your customer) real-time, accurate updates can enable you to make allowances for the delay. Our system gives you alerts the moment the sales orders are having problems, and will identify which orders are delayed and why. That way, you can avoid the cost of having to rush the product by expensive methods – and avoid the even greater cost of an unhappy customer.

Question: How do you maintain efficiency and make fast, appropriate decisions when production facilities, sales offices, and suppliers are located across the globe?

Answer: Master planning and a streamlined supply chain.

As a distributor, you may have 1 to 3 production facilities and 5 to 20 sales offices around the world. As if that weren't complicated enough, your raw materials may be shipped from almost anywhere in the world – and depending on their origin, delivery times could be 5 to 6 weeks. That means you need to be able to forecast what you'll need and when you'll need it – and make the appropriate adjustments if and when expected delivery times fall through.

Distributors who operate in countries with wide regions and territories have additional operational challenges, as managing and integrating information on stock levels, sales, and other important data can take time to analyze and manually input into the system. For example, it could take you one month to get a report on stock levels in a remote location. As a result, you won't know what the customer in that region requires – and that can lead to serious losses.

With global operations such as these, it's even more important that you have the technology necessary to input, update and view accurate data in a timely manner, so that you can have a complete picture of your operations, and make swift, profitable decisions – especially when things like deliveries go awry.

At Columbus IT, that's exactly what we help you do. With Microsoft Dynamics AX and our custom modules such as Master Planning, we can help you streamline your supply chain, and provide you with the forecasting and scheduling capabilities necessary for efficient operations in a global environment. With these tools and more, we can also help you gain a complete, clear picture of all your business practices, so you can make better, faster, and more profitable decisions at any time.

Question: How do you build strong customer relationships, and manage mass amounts of customer data – even when a salesperson leaves the company?

Answer: A solid Customer Relationship Management system.

As a distributor, it can be challenging to keep your customers happy all the time. Deliveries can be unexpectedly delayed, and sometimes you may find yourself out of the stock that is suddenly in such high demand.

What's more, you also have the challenge of dealing with mountains of customer data. In a business that requires you to juggle countless numbers and an abundance of information (about logistics, stock levels, delivery times, and much more), it can be difficult to keep all your customer information accurate, up-to-date, and readily available. Chances are, your salespeople are closely tied with each customer – and that means that when a salesperson leaves, all the knowledge they've collected on that customer leaves with them.

As a result, more and more distributors are turning to us for Microsoft CRM. This modern CRM solution works with your business to help you organize and use customer data effectively, from any location, and improve your customer service for greater competitiveness.

Question: How do you run an efficient, lean operation and maximize profit margins, while still meeting the needs of your customers?

Answer: More automation, and better forecasting.

The distribution industry has generally seen a decline in profit margins in the last 5 – 10 years. Meanwhile, costs in areas such as transportation have increased. As a result, you need to keep your operations as lean as possible. That means keeping fewer materials in stock, improving forecasting abilities, and following-up on purchase orders to ensure that you can meet production needs and prevent delays.

A need for greater profit margins also means that you simply have to drive more product. To do that, you need to infuse your operations with greater efficiency and more automation, wherever possible.

A distribution solution from Columbus IT can save time for your employees – freeing them from time on the phone with expediters, manually inputting data, or struggling with numbers that don't match up. With our solutions you can automate data collection and more. You'll also get greater visibility into your entire supply chain, and forecasting abilities that will help you run your operations as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.