Thrill of the Kill Switch

When Steve Jobs unveiled enterprise-level capability for the iPhone, it was one more major erasure mark in the blurry line between consumer and enterprise technology.

But it wasn’t just the gadget’s ability to tap into the widely used functions of Exchange 2007 that made it more friendly for corporate environments — also notable, if somewhat unsung, is the phone’s remote data removal capability, accessed through Exchange, a feature that is becoming more and more crucial in an era of remote workers.

Although this type of functionality has been available for years, it’s likely to become a must-have for IT departments, and gadget and software developers that refrain from including it could be passed over in favor of those who’ve taken the time to ensure data can be removed from a device, no matter where it is.

“This feature, of wiping out data, is gaining momentum because even through the opportunistic thief might not be interested in the data, the second or third owner might be,” says Cam Roberson, director of marketing at Beachhead Solutions, developer of data destruction and encryption products.

According to IDC, nearly 60 percent of corporate data on desktop and laptop computers is unprotected. Encryption has become far more widespread than in the past, but data destruction has become a viable option as well.

Security measures tend to be tricky when remote workers have their passwords in a visible spot, such as in an accessible file on the laptop or PDA — some IT managers have noted, with much eye-rolling, that they’ve seen employee computers with easily-located Word documents labeled “passwords.”