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It has happened to most of us. You leave a phone on the table and turn your head for a second and … it’s disappeared. Losing the device is often not as much of a problem as the sensitive information that has been lost or fallen into someone else’s hands. iPhone users have long had applications that address this issue. SEAN BACHER finds the BlackBerry answer, and puts it through the Gadget 5 Question User Test.
Users of iPhones have many things to boast about on their devices. Not least is the ability to trace a lost or stolen phone, and to lock or wipe the data remotely. Finally, I have found the equivalent application in the BlackBerry App World. It’s called BlackBerry Protect and it’s a free download.

The application description says that it is designed to keep your data secure should your phone go missing. It allows you to wipe or erase all phone data remotely, and it automatically backs up all your data to a secure server at predetermined intervals – daily, weekly or monthly. The application also allows you to find your phone by instructing it to ring loudly – in my case the most useful feature, as I am continually misplacing my phone and using another to phone it to find it.

So let’s see how the BlackBerry Protect application performs in the Gadget 5 Question User Test.

1. Is it ready to use?

Like most applications, the BlackBerry Protect needs to be configured after it is downloaded and installed. The configuration is, however, painless. All you need to do is enter your BlackBerry account ID and password, instruct the application how often you want your data backed up, and tell it what data you want backed up.  Your choices are contacts, calendar entries, tasks, memos, browser bookmarks and text messages – almost all you need to get up and running should your phone grow legs. Your e-mail can be re-sent to your new device when you use BlackBerry’s “change device” wizard, and your applications can be re-installed by restoring your phone from your computer’s backup.

2. Is it easy to use?

Once installed and configured, I forgot about the application. However, when I did remember to check if it was working, my backups were running exactly as I had initially set them up.

Accessing the BlackBerry Protect features from the site is also painless. All you need to do is go to the BlackBerry web site, locate the BlackBerry Protect tab under the services menu, and log in using your BlackBerry credentials.

Once in, you will be presented with various options, including being able to view the current location of the device, making the phone ring loudly, or displaying a message on the screen.

Under the Protect your Data section, you have the option to lock the device or wipe it.

The BlackBerry protect page which allows you to remotely administer your device.

3. Does it operate as advertised?

Finding my device was really efficient. Once I clicked on the ‘Find my device’ option, I was presented with a map and the location of my device. Admittedly, it was accurate only to 684 meters, but considering my phone was indoors at the time and the software uses GPS technology, I thought it was quite good.

The ‘Loud Ring’ option did just that. Seconds after I clicked on the option on the web site, my phone started screaming like a banshee.

The ‘Display a Message’ also worked very well. You are limited to 120 characters but the message is displayed in a big red box, which you have to dismiss before you can carry on using the phone.

Locking the device lets you input a password of between four and 32 characters. Once you have input a password and hit the lock device option, you are presented with a box asking for the password before you can carry on using the phone. There is no way to get around it – not even removing the battery. When it boots up again, you still have to put in the password.

I didn’t test the ‘Wipe Device’ option for obvious reasons, but judging from how well the other features work, I am certain that the phone will be rendered useless if I activate the option.

4. Is it innovative?

The application as such is not innovative. Apple has a similar application for the iPhone and I am sure you will be able to find equivalents for the Android and other operating systems.

5. Is it value for money?

It is free, and it is functional. I have stumbled across many free and paid for applications that are useless and just sit on my phone taking up valuable memory. BlackBerry Protect gets a huge thumbs-up in this department.

In conclusion

If you own a BlackBerry, the BlackBerry Protect application is a must. In fact, companies that permit their employees to carry sensitive company data on their BlackBerry should make it mandatory to install the application – much like you would never find a company computer without some kind of anti-virus protection on it.

It will save you endless hours searching for your misplaced device. It will keep all your data secure and is especially well suited for environments where an unattended phone will disappear quicker than you can say BlackBerry Protect.

* Follow Sean on Twitter on @seanbacher

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