Once installed and logged in, we were prompted with the package-creation interface, which allows a user to add files to a secure package and define who will have access to the secure package. This interface is similar to adding files to a Zip file.
Once files are defined, the user clicks the Create Package button and is asked what type of package to create. Users can select e-mail attachment, if a supported e-mail client is installed; a standalone encrypted file; CD/DVD with encrypted data; or a regular CD/DVD. The difference between an e-mail attachment and a standalone file is simply that Switch attaches the file to an e-mail for the user, which saves some time.
Once we selected the type of package to create, the necessary steps are performed and we have our new access-controlled, encrypted package. All packages use a unique Advanced Encryption Standard 256 key, and information about the package, and your account, is transmitted via Secure Sockets Layer between the Switch client and Switch servers.
At the other end of the trail, opening secure packages requires:
Double click the package, enter your account information, and once authenticated, the files can be accessed inside the encrypted package. Once a secure package is opened, the access is logged on the Egress servers for review later. This feature alone could provide value to an organization's compliance program since it tracks access to sensitive data no matter where or when it is accessed.
Unfortunately, like other secure packaging and file encryption tools, once a package has been opened, there's no way to track where the files go or who accesses them.
A single-user version of Switch is free, but does not allow the user to share packages with other users and does not provide tracking of package accesses. The free version might be a good choice for users who need to create secure packages for one-time usage or storage and have no other encryption system.
Organizations will have to weigh Switch's monthly fee scheme against the one-time payment for options such as PGP or even the widely deployed WinZip, which is not marketed as a security product but can achieve similar results. Both PGP and WinZip also use AES-256 for encryption, although neither tracks or restricts who can access the package if the user has the password or encryption keys.
Clearly, Switch's biggest benefits are the ability to track who has accessed the secure package and to restrict access to a predefined, or later modified, list of users, as well as the ability to remove access without redistributing the secure package.
Because Switch focuses on a different problem than traditional security tools such as PGP, we believe it has a place as an added level of security in the toolsets of many IT departments.
Adam Ely is senior manager of technology at a Fortune 100 company and a frequent contributor to InformationWeek.