Laptops have been common equipment in business and education for decades. Over that time, many crucial workflows have come to depend on laptops always being ready and available. This had led to an explosion of secure laptop lockers on the market, all claiming to offer the best security and management.
Finding the Right Secure Laptop Locker Can Be a Challenge
Laptops are challenging assets to manage. They’re fragile and expensive pieces of hardware that are also vulnerable to network-based attacks. In fact, despite the evolution in IT attacks over the decades, many of the worst data breaches today are still attributed to lost laptops.
Secure laptop lockers are an excellent way to protect these valuable and vulnerable assets, and with embedded intelligent control systems, they improve how your organization runs. But it can be overwhelming to sort through the many different systems on the market today.
Many systems are designed for very specialized use cases that may not fit your needs. You have mixed needs that no single system seems to accommodate. Or, like most businesses, you have limited floor space for a locker system.
Real Time Networks knows just how tricky finding the right solution can be. We’ve helped many businesses figure out how to deploy complex smart locker implementations over the years.
Doing Your Research Will Pay Off
Researching the different options on the market is well worth your time. Especially in education, where laptop use is expected to continue expanding in coming years, deploying a secure laptop management system today will leave you better prepared for what comes next.
The right secure laptop locker system will provide your business with many benefits:
- Cost-Effective Laptop Management: With a laptop locker system, there is no staffing needed to manage transactions. Everything is automatically managed by the system itself. This means reduced labor costs and faster operations.
- Better Accountability: You always have an accurate record of who took which device and when. There is no human error that can creep into transaction logging, and automated alerts can be sent in real time if laptops are not returned on schedule.
- Improved Device Safety: Secure laptop lockers are specifically designed to store electronic devices. Ventilation ensures they’re kept at a safe temperature. Integrated charging ensures they’re always ready.
- Convenient Storage: Stand-alone locker systems can be installed directly into existing spaces, so you don’t need to design and renovate separate computer rooms. They can also be installed at the place of need to cut down on transportation time in large facilities.
- Powerful New Workflows: Not only is routine work automated, but the smart technology embedded in locker systems lets you do many new things. For example, lockers can automatically alert tech support staff when a returned laptop is flagged as needing repairs.
7 Must-Have Features to Look for When Evaluating Secure Laptop Lockers
To get as many of these benefits as possible, you’ll need to consider a few different features in the locker systems you evaluate. Make sure you’re evaluating both the hardware and software components of secure laptop lockers. In high-quality systems, these components work together to create a secure storage solution that is greater than the sum of its parts.
1. User Authentication
By their nature, mobile electronics are always going to be high-value targets of both theft and network-based attacks, so it is important to ensure that only properly authenticated users are able to access your laptops.
Consider which authentication methods each locker system supports. Common methods include PIN codes, swipe cards, mobile phone app authentication, and biometrics, such as fingerprint or facial readers.
More secure systems tend to come at higher price points, so be sure to buy the correct level of authentication. Overbuy, and your laptop security won’t be cost-effective. Underbuy for your security needs, and your expensive electronics are at risk.
Also, consider whether your needs might change over time. Your organization may rely on lower cost, lower security PIN codes today, but if your facility may upgrade to swipe cards or mobile phone authentication in the future, you’ll want to make sure any locker system you purchase can support both standards.
Also, consider how responsive the locker system’s software is to access requests. Will an authorized user have access to the entire cabinet? Or does the system let you restrict them to accessing individual compartments by job type or department?
2. Content Surveillance
Content surveillance tools monitor equipment inside lockers. They are an excellent way to improve accountability. They verify that the correct device has been returned when a user signs a laptop back in.
Often, wireless RFID asset tags are used for content surveillance, but wired USB connections can also be used for devices like laptops. When a laptop is placed in a locker, the surveillance system checks that the RFID tag or USB connection matches the device that was supposed to be returned. If the wrong device is detected or if there is nothing there, a supervisor can be alerted.
3. Modular Design
If finding a locker system that will fit your floor plan is a major concern, then you’ll want to be on the lookout for a modular system. Modular locker cabinets are assembled compartment by compartment. They can be built vertically or horizontally, and you can often mix and match different compartment sizes if you’re storing different electronics.
Modular designs make a laptop locker system much easier to deploy directly at the point of need, such as next to a time clock on a warehouse floor or outside a classroom in a busy hallway.
4. Electronic Device Support
Some systems advertised as secure laptop lockers are really just glorified storage cabinets. You need to find out what features they have that actually support the storage and management of electronics. Laptop lockers should have ventilated compartments that help prevent devices from overheating. Other more advanced systems will also include built-in charging ports for electronics so they can be readied while they’re sitting idle.
5. Smart Tech Management Solutions
A good secure laptop locker system will be designed as a smart technology platform. Smart technology can monitor itself and make changes on the fly, based on how people are using it. It can turn a bare metal locker system into a source of business intelligence.
A smart locker system can perform detailed transaction logging. This provides a complete audit trail of who used which laptop when, and provides a transaction history that is 100-percent accurate for better accountability. This can be an invaluable tool in sectors like law enforcement where maintaining chain of custody is important.
Smart lockers also let you deploy a variety of customized workflows. For example, you can set computer-monitored sign-out curfews on your equipment so administrators are immediately notified when laptops aren’t returned on time.
You can also perform fault logging or program other triggered events to occur at laptop sign-out or return. Fault logging features let you lock electronics in place if a user reports a problem with the device. For faster servicing, the locker system sends technicians an alert that a laptop is in need of repair.
6. Emergency Operations
Laptops still need to be managed even if there is a power or network outage at your business. Check whether the locker systems you’re considering are able to function even in these emergency conditions. They should have a battery backup that allows laptop transactions to continue. They should also have some amount of local data storage so logging and other activities can take place even if the locker system can’t talk to the rest of your IT infrastructure.
7. Provider Service & Support
Beyond evaluating the hardware and software of locker systems, you should also consider the support services that system vendors can offer. You very likely will need to modify your system in the future. Will your vendor be available to assist you? How responsive will they be if there is a problem that needs immediate attention?
Properly Evaluating Lockers Now Will Pay Off Down the Road
Laptops and other mobile electronics need to be treated like the essential equipment that they are. Secure laptop lockers with intelligent control systems are an excellent way to both protect these valuable assets and improve how your organization runs. Taking the time to evaluate secure laptop lockers for these seven must-have criteria will ensure that your organization will get the most from the one you choose.
To learn more about deploying a secure laptop locker download our guide, Best Practices for Physical Asset Management.
Ready to chat about asset lockers? Contact us for a complimentary consultation.
About the Author
Shannon Arnold is the VP of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships at Real Time Networks.