Imagine if you will, a small out of the way cubicle somewhere in the forest of cubicles that makes up the working spaces for the rank and file of the ACME Company. Picture if you will Jane Q., the lead desktop support technician for ACME, sitting at her desk, cup of coffee in one hand, the other mousing through the 100+ emails that hit her inbox overnight. Suddenly, an IM window pops up on screen, and her boss, typing in ALL CAPS, has messaged her…JANE ARE YOUTHERE??? GET OVER TO ME ASAP!!!11!!!
Jane rolls her eyes, sets her coffee down, taps out “on my way” and walks two rows over and three down to her boss’ office (on the inside perimeter of course, since IT rarely rates windows even though they support Windows!) “What’s up?” quips Jane. “Oh nothing,” says her boss, “if you can consider the CEO’s laptop being left on a plane and never being seen again as NOTHING!!!! What are we going to do???!!” Now, imagine you being Jane. What would you answer? Well, hopefully, you could simply smile and say it would all be okay, because you have a stolen laptop procedure. Well, do you?
Odds are you don’t, unless you’ve already experienced more than one case of the laptop growing wings and flying off when their users turn their backs. But since that’s a really bad time to try to figure out what has happened, let’s see what we can do to put together the basics of an SOP for when a laptop goes MIA.
Stolen, lost, or just catastrophically damaged, unplanned lack of laptop is the number one cause of executive overspending, so we want to have a plan in place. Here’s how to begin.
Before you begin…
These are the things you need to have in place before a laptop goes MIA or is KIA. Thinking about this after the fact is too late, so get ahead of the problem now!
Make sure all your computers use full disk encryption. Whether you use an enterprise version of Microsoft Windows and Bitlocker or a third party disk encryption that is either software or hardware based, enforcing full encryption on every single workstation means that you don’t have as much to worry about with the data that was on the missing laptop.
Use cloud or server backup that is automatic
Make sure that the core data for all your users is stored with corporate versions of cloud storage, like One Drive for Business, Dropbox, Box, or other solutions. The missing hardware is only half the problem…it’s the sales proposals and presentations and contact lists that are what the user will need most. Making sure that they save by default to something that is automatically backed up helps to ensure they are not without their data for long. It will also make it easier for them to get it back once they have a working machine again. That cloud store is accessible to your user through a web browser, so they can get to the critical presentation from another device if they need it right away. Just remember, they have to store it locally where it will get synced, and that might mean you need to train them or configure their machines so that’s the default and not the exception.
If you don’t want to use the cloud, take a look at Microsoft Work Folders at https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn265974.aspx. Not only can they sync data automatically, you can revoke access by device, so that if a laptop is stolen, as soon as it gets Internet access the locally stored data will be wiped!
Keep a hardware inventory
Lost or stolen, you want to be sure you have a full hardware inventory so you can insurance claims, and if the device is lost a claim with the airline/hotel/conference center/restaurant in case it is ever found, or if stolen, a police report. Odds are good the hardware will show up at some point, maybe on eBay, and if you have all the details you can prove it’s yours.
Have emergency hardware at the ready
Unless you support BYOD or have a myriad of different hardware platforms on hand, it’s advisable to have at least one current laptop on hand and ready to courier out for next morning delivery in case the user is on the road. If you don’t, you will find that someone with enough juice and a corporate card will just run down to the local PC store and buy the most expensive, and least likely to be even remotely to your standards, laptop they can find, and then spend the rest of the trip trying to get you to make it work remotely. If they have a mobile phone and access to email, you can probably put them off until the next day, and getting them a laptop with the corporate image and of the corporate standards will mean you don’t have an oddball to support long term. Of course, if they are in the office, it’s much easier to just hand them a new laptop, get them logged on, and be done. Maybe it’s not the latest and greatest, but if it is one of the make/model you are already supporting, then they can either keep it, or return it when their replacement arrives, but it’s still going to have your image and your apps in place when they get it. Just make sure that it is fully patched and the battery is charged, so check it once a month to be sure.
Have printed instructions, with pictures, of what to do ready to go.
For users whose laptop goes missing while on the road, odds are pretty good that once your remote user receives their “care package” they will want to get up and running ASAP, and that means unless you are sitting by the phone ready to go, they may not be able to talk to you for a walk through. Have a simple “quick start” document ready to go. If you’ve ever seen an Ikea assembly instruction, use that as your template. You want them functional so that they can be productive.
Consider tracking software
This can be expensive, and to a point, invasive, but there is software out there that can be installed on machines which will “phone home” so that, if it goes walkabout but gets onto a network, you can run it to ground. It’s not cheap, and your users may not like the idea of being tracked, but if you have a chronic problem with hardware going missing, it may be worth it.
Once things have hit the fan
With the above in place before someone loses something, you’ll be in good shape to get them up and running quickly. Here’s what needs to happen next.
Be ready to get them ready
For travelers, once they receive the overnight shipment, they need to understand that they will need to work with you to get themselves fully functional ASAP. Make sure they understand that they sign for the package, open it up, and then call you! That way, you can talk them through logging on to the new machine, starting the sync of their email and data, and getting themselves to the point where they can be productive again ASAP. Of course, the above printed instructions are probably what they will use first, and then get to you at the end of their day (which will be approximately 30 seconds before the end of your day!)
File a report
Use the hardware inventory to file the insurance claim, update any asset tracking you have for hardware or leasing, and if appropriate the police report. Remember, serial numbers can prove a piece of hardware is yours…make and model alone cannot.
Active remote wipe
That just sounds cool! If you are using Work Folders, or similar technology, go ahead and remotely wipe the missing device or revoke its access to the data. That way, whether it was stolen or simply lands in the hands of someone who decides finders’ keepers, if it gets network access you can wipe it so no privileged data falls into the wrong hands.
Track it down
If you did deploy tracking software, use it to see if you can find the device. There’s at least a chance that the lost laptop is in the back of an Uber, or in the first class lounge at an airport, or even at the employee’s house.
Getting back to normal
Once a user gets back from their trip, you may want to swap out your loaner for a replacement laptop of the current version, or just make sure they have everything up and running the way it needs to be. You might have had them log on with a local account so you will want to switch them to domain, or maybe they had the base apps but need something specific to their job or department. If they are in the office, you still may have loaned them an older system so you want to swap them out for current once it arrives. Whatever the case, once you can touch the machine with your user in the same room with you, wrap things up so they are back to 100%. If you are getting back the loaner, reimage it so there’s nothing left from user A when user B needs it. You don’t want HR data stored locally on a machine you then loan to a salesperson. Finally update your hardware inventory so you are ready for the next time.
If you have a plan, what could be a disaster can be reduced to just a minor inconvenience, and what could be a security worry, won’t be. Just make sure you update your plan (and the image/patch level on the loaners) on a regular basis so that everything is current.