Accountants have a duty to make sure their clients' confidential financial files and tax forms are kept safe, and fortunately there are some good products on the market for doing just that.

Apricorn, a Poway, Calif.-based maker of portable hard drives, recently released the Aegis Padlock SSD, an encrypted solid state drive with an alphanumeric keypad on top that allows you to set a PIN code to safeguard its contents. The code can be between seven and 16 digits in length.

The device attaches to a USB port on your computer. You press a key combination to set your PIN code, confirm it and then unlock the drive. The drive has LED lights that flash green, blue or red to indicate whether you have successfully set a code. I tested out one of the devices and it took me a few tries before I got it right, but I eventually succeeded in unlocking the drive.

I was then able to copy over several files successfully to the drive, just by copying and pasting them, as I would with any USB drive. But by password-protecting them, you can be more sure that they're kept safe.

The drive also offers some other bells and whistles, such as the ability to set an unattended auto-lock function after a pre-set amount of time to protect against unauthorized access in case you leave the drive unattended for a while. There is also a protection feature to safeguard the drive in case a thief tries to use a “brute force” method of defeating the drive's cryptographic scheme. After five tries of entering the wrong PIN code, the keypad will not respond and the LED lights will turn off. After 10 tries, the keypad will lock up and the LED lights will just blink red. You can also set a “self-destruct PIN” and perform a complete reset of the drive.

Overall, the Aegis Padlock SSD provides a worthy successor in a long line of secure external hard drives for making sure your important client files stay safe.