When you lose the notebook PC you use for work, your first thought may be about the $800 to $2,000 it will cost to replace it, but that's really the least of your worries. Back in April, The Ponemon Institute released an Intel-sponsored study called The Cost of a Lost Laptop, which analyzed 138 cases of lost laptops at 29 organizations. Figuring in replacement detection and escalation forensics and investigation data breach reporting and mitigation intellectual property loss lost productivity, and other legal or regulatory costs, they found that the real cost of losing a laptop is $49,246. Wow.

As Linda Musthaler recently wrote in Network World:

The study reveals that the cost of a lost laptop varies greatly by industry. The top four industries with the highest average cost of a lost laptop are services, financial services, healthcare and pharmaceutical. The bottom four industries are manufacturing, consumer products, retail and communications. Since the hardware costs don't vary much by industry, it's obvious that the data loss costs are the differential. In the cases covered by this study, the occurrence of a data breach accounted for 80 percent of the total cost.

Interestingly, the speed with which a company discovers the loss and reacts to it matters a lot. "If a company becomes aware of the loss the same day it happens, the average cost is only $8,950. If it takes more than a week to discover the loss, the cost jumps to an average of $115,849," notes Musthaler.

Intel takes an interest in all this because it wants to promote Intel Anti-Theft Technology - PC Protection (Intel-AT), which Musthaler describes as "a set of programmable and interdependent hardware-based triggers and responses to identify unauthorized attempts to access encrypted data or the operating system." And security software companies and computer manufactures also build in or sell their own solutions that can help to render a stolen or lost laptop useless to the person who steals or finds it.

Or maybe get that person arrested. Dell offers System Track, a managed that links with a missing PC the next time it connects to the Internet. As Musthaler says, it's vital for anyone responsible for IT to take this kind of end point security seriously, and it's amazing how many people don't, especially in small and medium-size businesses.

Stay safe out there.

-- Don Willmott