For business owners who take much of their work on the road, Panasonic has added three new laptops to its Toughbook line -- all designed to withstand falls and spills.

Wireless-ready and intended for work in the field, the T5, W5, and Y5 were introduced on Tuesday and will be available this October. The notebooks are engineered to withstand a drop from two and a half feet without damaging the shock-mounted, removable hard drives. Their hard magnesium alloy exterior is supposedly 20 times stronger than the plastic used in most laptops.

The computers also feature dust- and moisture-resistant keyboards and touch pads, and an LCD screen designed to maximize visibility in sunlight. 

Unlike previous models, the W5 and T5 have longer battery life (Eight and 10 hours, respectively), more hard drive space (60 GB) and, at $1,899, they are $250 less expensive than the W4 and T4. 

The new Y5 model ($2,199) offers more speed (1.66 GHz) than any other model in the series, and a larger, 14.1-inch screen.

Store More

If you're more interested in storage space than how far you can throw your computer, Fantom Drives on Tuesday introduced G Force MegaDisks, a new line of external hard drives.

The largest MegaDisk is available for $999 and has a capacity of 1.5 terabytes. That's enough room for more than a quarter of a million songs from iTunes (or roughly 2,100 CDs of business data). 

The drive supports FireWire 400 and 800, as well as USB 2.0, leaving plenty of options for fast data transfer. It also features complete operating system independence, which means no software installation is required for Mac OS X or Windows XP.

Encased by a sleek aluminum shell, it weighs less than 6 pounds and takes up about as much room as a toaster.

With storage space costing about 67 cents a gigabyte, the MegaDisk isn't exactly cheap, but there aren't too many external hard drives that house 1.5 terabytes to choose from.  The MegaDisk is also available with 500 GB ($269.95), 800 GB ($499.95) and 1 TB ($579.95) capacities. 

Protection from Identity Theft

Following recent high-profile cases of identity theft, American International Group is offering a new type of insurance for small businesses that want to take extra steps to protect customer information.

Designed for companies with revenues up to $100 million or holding up to 1 million identities, AIG Corporate Identity Protection insurance provides coverage if the personal data of a company's employees or customers is compromised. Policy limits range from $100,000 to $5 million.

Media attention following an incident last May -- where a hard drive containing millions of veterans' names, Social Security numbers, and birth dates was stolen -- focused largely on the risk of identity theft to individuals. But small businesses storing personal data are also in danger. Should identity theft occur, businesses may be left with huge legal fees, notification and crisis management costs, as well as damaged consumer trust.

Published on: Sep 13, 2006