In the world of data encryption, you have several types of options available these days. I wanted to walk through an explanation of encryption and the different options you have when data deciding what you need. Encryption could be defined as a process that takes information and uses a mathematic algorithm to transcribe data into a different form. It then requires a special “key” to read the encrypted data and translate it back to a useable form. The two most common types of data encryption are:
Software Based Encryption – This type of encryption will typically consist of a standard storage device (Hard Drive, Flash Drive, Digital Media Card, etc.) and a software program to facilitate the encryptions. For example, the standard DiskGO Secure drive comes with a program called CryptArchiver. This software allows the user to create an encrypted “Vault” on the drive, with all files stored in the Vault area to be encrypted in either 256-bit AES or 448-bit Blowfish algorithms. The drawback to this type is encryption is that your system hardware (CPU, RAM) is responsible for all the encryption tasks done during a file transfer. This is compounded by the fact that USB itself relies on your system hardware (CPU, RAM, and hard drive speeds) to maintain reliable speeds. Because of this, you trade security for performance. Data transfers made using this encryption method can cause dramatically reduced speeds for file transfers. For example, let’s say a flash drive can be copied to at an average minimum of 4MB/s. If you added software encryption to the mix, your transfer speeds could drop to as low as 1MB/s for certain types of files.
Hardware Based Encryption – The only significant difference with Hardware Based Encryption is that all data intensive encryption tasks are done onboard the storage device, rather than relying on system resources to do the work. With this method of encryption, file transfer speeds will remain more stable during the encryption process. Also, most hardware encrypted drives are built with more robust materials and are typically highly resistant to physical damage and are likely to be water resistant. The drawback to this type of encryption is higher costs to manufacture, which means higher costs for consumers. Hardware based encryption of flash drives can sometimes be 2-3 times as expensive as software based options.
Finding out exactly what type of encryption will work for you can be a challenge, but with a little time and research, you can easily find something to suit your personal or business needs.