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Full Disk Encryption isn't FDE anymore

Given the slew of privacy regulations and publicly disclosed breaches, laptop encryption is now a must-have.

A few years ago, encryption was a topic discussed at the NSA or MIT, not in the corporate boardroom. Times have changed!

Given the slew of privacy regulations and publicly disclosed breaches, laptop encryption has become a must-have.

As companies buy encryption software to cover this requirement, however, another pattern is emerging. Don't let that $150 per user licensing fool you--FDE has become a commodity. The federal government negotiated a deal to pay around $15 per seat for FDE, and I've seen big deals as low as $5 per seat. To their credit, the FDE software vendors anticipated this inevitable trend and are now wrapping additional functionality around their FDE contracts to sweeten the deals and provide customers with more security. McAfee/SafeBoot bundles in Data Leakage Prevention (DLP); PointSec adds port blocking, etc.

The bottom line is that FDE alone isn't cutting it anymore; large organizations want and are willing to pay for more. This moves the FDE market in two diverse directions. On the one hand, big endpoint security vendors like McAfee, Symantec, and Trend Micro can simply make FDE a feature in their suites for cost-conscious customers and charge a few extra bucks for the favor. This makes FDE easy for the masses. On the other hand, FDE will be offered as part of much bigger and focused data security offerings. BitArmor and PGP come to mind here.

Ultimately, FDE fades into the infrastructure, embedded in Intel chips, Microsoft operating systems, and Seagate Technology hard drives. In the meantime, the remaining FDE crowd is scrambling to remain relevant. FDE as a feature in a greater data security suite is a good plan for the long term. FDE as a business opportunity is all but gone.

Jon Oltsik is a senior analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group.