Managing your Documents: Working from a laptop

Laptops are more vulnerable to loss, theft, or damage than desktop computers.  Here are guidelines for how to keep your important documents accessible and secure.

 This page is part of a series intended to help you work productively in a variety of situations.


When you're in the office, use a wired PennNet connection
A wired connection is faster and more reliable than wireless; it also allows you to connect directly to the SAS file servers.  Check with your LSP to make sure you have your network settings correctly configured for a wired connection. 


When working away from the office, use secure systems to access and protect your documents

  1. Use remote desktop connections when possible
    If you have a desktop computer in your office, you may be able to log into it from your laptop.  You can even operate a Windows desktop computer from a Mac laptop.   Ask your LSP about setting up Remote Desktop service for your Windows office computer, or get suggestions about how you can make remote connections to a Mac desktop.
  2. Use  to access documents stored on SAS file servers
    You can access your folders on the SAS file servers in two ways: provides quick access through a web browser. establishes a secure network connection between your computer and the SAS file servers.
  3. Backup or synchronize documents to the SAS file servers
    There may be times when you need to work off-line and can only get connected to the internet periodically.  You can use the SuperFlexible File Synchronizer for scheduled or ad-hoc backups to the server.
  4. Store documents on a public "cloud" service
    There are many convenient options for storing and managing documents through commercial online providers.  Some of these options are free, and some require fees; DropBox is a very popular choice.   They are not suitable for documents containing confidential information or important University data.
  5. Backup to an external disk
    While traveling, doing field work, or handling large data sets it may not be practical to backup to the SAS servers or other network resource.  In these cases, it makes sense to backup to an external disk.  Consider using an external disk with encryption if your documents include any confidential information.

General tips about laptop security

  1. Use a strong password
    Use at least 8 characters, and include special characters  (e.g. $, %, &, etc.).  See SAS Computings guidelines for Selecting a Good Password.
  2. Enable a password-protected screen saver
    Have the screen saver engage after short periods of inactivity.  10 minutes is a good rule of thumb.
  3. Disable unused accounts
    Many Windows computers include a Guest account by default.  Most users should disable this or any other accounts that are not actively being used.  Check with your LSP for help.
  4. Use encryption to secure your entire computer
    Your LSP can configure your laptop with PGP whole-disk encryption. PGP provides a high level of protection to data stored on your computer's internal disk. SAS Computing recommends PGP as the only encryption system for University-provided computers since it includes a special feature which will let you access your data even if you forget your encryption password.  It's especially important to keep backup copies of any files stored on an encrypted computer, since it's impossible to recover data in the event of a disk failure.
  5. Avoid carrying sensitive or important information on laptops 
    Be judicious about what documents you store on the hard drive, and whenever possible keep your documents on the SAS file servers.   Use Identity Finder to periodically scan your computer for sensitive information such as credit card numbers, passwords, or Social Security numbers.
  6. Never carry documents that include Social Security numbers (SSNs)
    Penn has very clear policies about use and storage of SSNs.  If your job requires access to documents with SSNs, check with your supervisor or LSP about appropriate procedures.

Laptops are typically:

  • Used primarily by one person
  • Used for both work and personal purposes 
  • Used both on AirPennNet and a variety of other wireless networks
  • Used offline while traveling
  • Vulnerable to loss, theft, or damage