PGP Corporation has announced a slimmed-down version of its disk encryption platform which it hopes will appeal to small and medium sized businesses put off the technology by its reputation for expense and complexity.

Named Whole Disk Encryption Workgroup Edition, the product features a client with exactly the same pre and post-boot client features as the enterprise version of PGP's platform, PGP Universal. The important difference is the server, which can now in admin mode be run from any Windows PC, dispensing with the need for a full server install tied to a dedicated database and high levels of encryption management experience.

The software, which comes with a simple deployment tool utilising basic admin features already built into Windows, can be used for either full boot up encryption of hard disks on laptops or PCs, or selective encryption of specific volumes, removable drives such as USB sticks, or just files and folders.

From the admin's point of view, the big difference will be the more selective features of the console, which limits the ability to create sophisticated policies, while still making possible features such as issuing ‘recovery tokens' for users who forget their encryption keys. Admins can also access logs detailing the encryption status of every protected system.

According to PGP, this sort of setup will scale from about 10 to 150 users, which makes it perfect for small organisations or departments in larger companies not already using PGP.

PGP remains convinced that the new software will overcome the reluctance of smaller organisations to take up encryption in its more advanced whole disk form.

"They are being mandated to do it by the people they supply, they are being forced to do this." said PGP's director of European marketing, Jamie Cowper, on the pressure now being felt by some small companies in areas such as accounting and legal.

Hitherto, small companies had tended to adopt encryption piecemeal, which reflected the fact that products featuring central management were aimed at larger companies and larger budgets, he said.

"While small business and workgroups might not have the budget of a large enterprise, they still have compliance and legal requirements to protect sensitive corporate, employee and customer data," concurred PGP CEO, Phillip Dunkelberger, on the same theme.

The company has admitted that it has not trialled the software in the field on any scale and has not announced launch customers. Nevertheless, PGP hopes that the lure of simple, GUI-driven configuration and management and a price of $119 per seat licensing (for 10 seats) will overcome the barrier to adoption that no software vendor has successfully managed to vault.

More information on Whole Disk Encryption Workgroup Edition is available from PGP's website (PDF).