I have had my laptop stolen once, about seven years ago, from the trunk of a locked car parked at a shopping mall. You never forget that experience of being violated, of being stupid. (And it seems to be getting more common, according to this story in the LA Times last year where thieves follow customers buying new PCs home from Apple Stores.)
There are many “phone home” products or services designed to track down a stolen laptop and help authorities recover them, including:
- Absolute Software’s LoJack for Laptops
- Brigadoon’s PC/Mac PhoneHome
- Apple’s MobileMe for iPad and iPhones
- And there are a number of open source and free products such as PreyProject.com that are available too
A new entry to this market is from Blackblaze, an online storage vendor. As part of their $5/month backup plan, you can now track your laptop’s last location. If you are considering using a new backup service, it might be worth checking out.
There are several issues with enterprise IT shops using these services, most of which are designed for consumers. The tools lack central monitoring (although LoJack Complete does and is worth looking at). An alternative to using these “phone home” services include central imaging tools like Symantec Altiris and Kaseya, although you will need to program and customize them to handle these sorts of situations. Also, do check to ensure that the features promised on the Windows version are close to what are offered on the Mac side: some services don’t quite achieve parity. (LoJack’s Mac version doesn’t include the special embedded BIOS agent that comes with their Windows product, as an example.)