Data loss is a nightmare scenario for any organisation. Ideas and information are the currency by which modern businesses rise and fall, but it can be difficult to safeguard this data in an age of mobile working and the ever-present threat of cyber-crime.

It’s a menace that’s increasing and evolving on an almost daily basis with the number of cyber-attacks on businesses and government growing at a seemingly exponential rate. It’s clear that current solutions are failing to meet the challenges that the modern security landscape is issuing to organisations, but there is an alternative in the form of device centric security solutions such as Self Encrypting Drives (SEDs).

What is an SED?

Self Encrypting Drives (SEDs) were one of the data security industry’s best-kept secrets, but are now being promoted by governments as a de facto standard. They offer a quadruple whammy by solving many common data loss problems, are easy to use and manage, with a lot less impact on system performance than software encryption and offer a much lower TCO.

At a basic level SEDs provide an in-device security solution by continuously scrambling data as it’s written to the drive. The data stored on an SED is always encrypted and unlike other drives the encryption key itself is also safely guarded in the actual hardware and cannot be accessed by any other part of the system.

This is one of the key benefits of SEDs. By design the drives do all the cryptography within the actual hardware. This means they aren’t accessible to would-be data hackers so the drive is protected from attacks that target other parts of the system, creating a truly secure data storage solution.

It’s not quite a silver bullet to solve the current security crisis. But when combined with a robust, efficient and agile management software solution at a network level, SEDs mean that companies can rest assured that their systems are secure.

What are the benefits?

SEDs solve many of the common problems faced by organisations looking to secure their data. For a start they are in the majority of cases built in at the factory and need little or no set up, a common barrier to adoption within organisations looking to secure thousands of devices. They are also widely available. In 2009 the Trusted Computing Group issued specifications for SEDs, which two months later manufacturers began to adopt and distribute.

Importantly SEDs also do not interfere with a computer’s performance and cannot be turned off. Current security solutions are often focussed on the user rather than the device, but there is strong evidence to suggest that users are switching off their company computers’ security solutions due to the detrimental impact that it has on performance. They might think that they are improving their ability to work more efficiently, but they’re unwittingly exposing themselves and their companies’ systems to cyber attack and potential data breach.

By contrast SEDs are always on from the second they leave the factory so employees simply cannot turn them off. Their processes are also completely invisible to the end user and because the encryption takes place within the hardware there is also no discernable impact on the system performance. The solution moves security away from the end user and towards into the device itself, providing a more robust solution, which means organisations can rest assured that they’re data is secure.

Finally SEDs offer significant cost savings to organisations as over the average three-year lifetime of a laptop, SED management is just a third of the cost of a software-based solution. So given the benefits why aren’t more businesses switching on to SEDs?

Why aren’t more businesses switching on to the benefits?

Quite simply there’s still a lack of awareness around in-device security solutions like SEDs. For a long time security has not been a primary concern for organisations. But increasingly prevalent cyber attacks and the financial impact of data security breaches, which are estimated to cost the world economy more than $1 Trillion per year, mean that’s about to change.

Any organisation employing SEDs can forget about hitting the headlines with a disastrous data loss, and as more public and private organisations begin to realise this interest in in-device solutions will accelerate. Recent research shows that the tide is already turning.

70% of those questioned by the 2011 Ponemon study said they believed SEDs would have an enormous and positive impact on the protection of sensitive and confidential information if a disk was lost or stolen. Whilst the same study found that more than half of those questioned believed that SEDs will become standard in desktop and laptop drive security in the next three years.

The Trusted Computing open standards that include SEDs also already have the support of the UK and US governments. Indeed, the information Commissioners Office and the Cabinet Office are actively promoting the benefits of Trusted Computing and the UK Government’s Cyber Security Strategy will also be launched shortly with Trusted Computing expected to form a key element of this.

It’s clear then that SEDs are not the next thing, they’re already here and companies should act now if they want to ensure their data is secure.