From the March 2001 issue of Entrepreneur

Sure, your laptop's great when you're on the go, but it's not the most secure form of computing. It might get lost or stolen, and when that happens, it's not just hardware loss you have to worry about-what about all the sensitive documents and private messages stored in there?

PC Guardian can help-on both fronts. The company's Road Guardian Survival Package offers a security cable to lock your laptop down and Windows-based encryption software to prevent anyone from accessing the information on the PC if it does happen to disappear.

The package includes three separate software applications to secure the different types of information your laptop holds: Encryption Plus Folders, Encryption Plus Secure Export and Encryption Plus Email. Encryption Plus Email works with either Lotus Notes or Microsoft Outlook to encrypt e-mail and attachments. Once the software is installed, a key icon appears in the tool bar of your e-mail program. Click the icon to activate the program. On activation, you're prompted to encrypt each message you send and select a password for each recipient. (An easy-to-use Password Manager helps keep track of the passwords you've assigned and can be instructed to always use the correct password.) To open a message, your recipient must enter the password. Unfortunately, the encrypted message opens as a text file, which is not as easy to read as most e-mail messages and may lose formatting. Attachments, however, don't have this problem and open in the format in which they were created.

Encryption Plus Secure Export allows you to encrypt any application file, which can be attached to an unencrypted e-mail, saved to a hard disk or saved to a network server for safe storage or backup. Like the e-mail application, this is easy to use, and you can quickly browse through your PC and select which files to encrypt. The drawback is that the encrypted files are automatically saved as self-extracting .exe files. Due to the constant threat of viruses, some cautious companies won't allow employees to receive files of that type, so your message may never make it to the recipient.

Encryption Plus for Folders allows you to encrypt folders residing on your PC in case your computer falls into the wrong hands. Every time you boot up, you'll be prompted for your user name and password, which can become tiresome if your computer doesn't contain highly sensitive documents. It also won't encrypt folders that reside directly on your desktop or anything that resides in your Windows folder, so as to avoid encrypting anything that could interfere with the way your computer operates.

PC Guardian's package offers a plethora of tools to keep your laptop-and its sensitive data-safe. And at $99.95 (street), it could be a wise investment.



Liane Gouthro, a former technology reporter atPCWorld.com, freelances from her home in Brookline, Massachusetts.