There are some software products you can put on your laptop that may assist if it gets stolen. One such software is Prey. It will phone home and tell you which programs are running on the stolen laptop. It also takes and sends you screen shots. Network information is collected and transmitted. Finally Prey can take some web cam shots of the thief and send them to you.
An open source alternative for this type of software is Adeona. The main benefit of this software is that it does not rely on a central server. The owner can track a thief with their computer. The Mac version of this software also snaps pictures of the perpetrator using the web cam.
These software solutions are not fool proof. However they can give you some details of the person who ripped off your laptop. There are other techniques to combat laptop theft. An example is Foo Zoo Lockdown which is a Mac anti theft software package.
My company and our client both have software on their laptops to combat theft. However the main goal in the corporate setting is to prevent the loss of the crucial data on the laptop. It is not as high a priority to locate the thief to retrieve the hardware. I have both my laptops set up with such software. They essentially encrypt the entire contents of the hard disk.
Work Smarter not Harder - We have large data sets in my current project. Every year tons more data is loaded into the system. So we only keep the majority of data for 4 years. After...