Accountants have a duty to safeguard their clients’ confidential data, but that’s not always easy with computer files, which can be easily whisked off a PC whilst someone is away from their desk or disappear with a lost laptop.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying out a portable hard drive, the Aegis Padlock, from Apricorn, which provides hardware encryption. The 640-gigabyte drive offers a choice of 128-bit or 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard security. The drive was pretty easy to set up, just basically plug-and-play into a USB port. It has a 10-key keypad where you enter a PIN number. Only after the PIN number has been entered does the drive become accessible. It has both administrator and user modes, and lets an administrator set up or delete various user passwords so more than one employee at a firm can share the drive.

The drive is fairly quick at backups. I was able to back up 31 gigabytes of files in about 40 minutes. The only difficulty I had was with changing the administrator password and getting the drive to recognize a new password. I suspect, though, that was probably a case of operator error.

The Aegis Padlock has features to fend off brute force attacks by hackers trying a series of passwords. It will only operate if the correct password is entered and an LED light then turns from red to green. After six tries at cracking the password, the keypad won’t respond and the LED light will turn off. After 50 unsuccessful tries, the keypad will lock up and the LED light will keep blinking on and off. After 100 unsuccessful tries, the drive will remain locked and will have to be completely reset and reformatted in order to be used again, effectively erasing the data.

The Aegis Padlock seems to provide good strong protection for data, but whatever you do, don’t forget your administrator password.