The rapid and lasting increase in remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted how certain technologies are used in the workplace. Businesses now have the need for systems that enable secure communication, data access, and file sharing and storage for employees working in the office, at home, or a combination of the two.
As the need for these technologies grows, so does cybersecurity concerns. Remote work environments blur the line between workers’ personal and professional lives.
This can introduce cybersecurity vulnerabilities, such as using personal devices to access work applications, connecting to corporate networks with insecure devices, and letting unauthorized individuals (e.g., family members) use employee work devices.
File transfers are often the weakest security point for cyberattacks. It is therefore vital for companies to share files securely. One method of file sharing and storage is ISO files, which are disk image formats based on the ISO 9660 standard.
ISO 9660 is a generic file system that supports operating systems such as Windows and Mac OS. It was created by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which is an international entity that creates technical, industrial, and commercial regulations.
In this article, you’ll learn what an ISO file is, how it can be used to store business data, and how to compress ISO files and extract their content.
What are ISO files?
An ISO file contains not just the files and folders of a CD or DVD (e.g., the disk’s images or songs) but also all of the disk’s file system information, such as directories and file attributes. ISO files archive all of this information into a single file while keeping the same folder and file hierarchy as the original content.
ISO files store raw data in a binary format (a numeric system using ones and zeros). They do not have a file system that will instruct the computer on how to access the files and folders stored on the ISO file. This means that, in order for a computer to read an ISO file, the file must first be mounted by the operating system or a disk utility program.
Mounting is the software process that makes the ISO’s folders and files readable by a computer by treating the ISO file as if it were a physical disk.
How are ISO files used in business?
To understand today’s uses of ISO files, it is important to understand the relationship between ISO files and optical disks such as CDs.
Originally, CDs were often used to store audio data or to distribute software data. Users who purchased Microsoft Office, for example, would purchase a physical CD that contained the information needed to download the software onto their computer’s hardware.
This decline coincided with technology and design-related reasons for phasing out optical drives from laptops. Devices can be smaller, lighter, and more affordable if they’re built without optical drives. Optical drives also require a lot of power to operate. This affects device battery life.
Optical drives can also create limits to computer performance. In order to accommodate an optical drive, the device’s motherboard must be smaller. The smaller the motherboard, the more limited the device’s performance.
As a result, modern computers don’t have optical drives. Instead, companies can turn to ISO files to distribute data that once lived on optical disks.
Organizations can use ISO follows to accomplish the following:
- Distribute large file sets. With an ISO file, you can transfer a large file set, such as an entire software program or operating system. For example, Microsoft Office and the Windows operating system are available as ISO files. These files can be emailed or shared via cloud services, enabling companies to distribute large software files rather than use physical disks that can be lost or damaged.
- Replicate optical disks. Creating an ISO file of a disk results in a digital backup copy of that disk and all of its information. This makes it easier to install software on computers and other devices that do not have an optical disk drive.
- Store data in a functional way. Creating virtual backups of optical disk data helps maintain the 3-2-1 strategy of data storage. This strategy involves creating one primary backup and two copies of the data. When using ISO files, these copies may include more optical disks and an ISO image.
- Share data safely. To safely transfer files, businesses turn to secure file compression with encryption, which protects data confidentiality by translating data into another form (a code). Encryption can occur at a system or device-wide level or at a file level. Encrypting data at a file level ensures ISO files are shared securely.
Advantages of compressing ISO files
Since ISO files are uncompressed, they can take up a significant amount of storage space on your computer or your organization’s cloud storage system. They may also take longer to share or download.
Compressing the files can help speed up transfer time. In addition, if you compress files while also safely encrypting their data through programs such as WinZip Enterprise, you can protect your files against data corruption and loss.
A compressed file is an archive that contains one or more files that have been reduced in size, which makes them easier to transfer or store. Files are compressed in one of two ways: lossless compression or lossy compression.
- Lossless compression involves compressing data by reducing file sizes without removing content or information. Lossless compression works by removing redundancies (the same data pieces held in multiple places within the storage environment, such as your computer or an optical disk).
- Lossy compression involves data compression that loses some information. In most cases, this may not be noticeable at first.
However, if the same file is compressed again and again, the loss of quality could become noticeable. Although lossy compression allows for a higher rate of data compression, data cannot be recovered or reconstructed in the exact format as before compression.
Extracting and zipping ISO Files using WinZip Enterprise
Since ISO files can be fairly large, it may be in your business’s best interest to zip them before storing or sharing them. This will increase transfer speeds and decrease storage used.
Zipping an ISO file with WinZip Enterprise
To zip an ISO file using WinZip Enterprise, follow these steps:
- Right-click on the ISO file.
- Click “Send to” and choose “Compressed (zipped) folder.”
- Open the Start menu. On the right-hand side of the window, click “Computer.”
- Locate the ISO file you wish to zip.
- Right-click on this ISO file, then click “Send to.”
- Choose “Compressed (zipped) folder.” Note: since ISO files are often several hundred megabytes, this process may take a few minutes.
- Once the zipped ISO file has been compressed, enter a name for the file.
Extracting an ISO File with WinZip Enterprise
WinZip Enterprise extracts the ISO content and places it on the user’s hard drive. It enables you to extract ISO files on Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10.
The ISO extraction process will create copies of all the installation files in a folder on your hard drive. You can then browse through these files just as you would any other folder located on your computer.
To extract an ISO file using WinZip Enterprise, follow these steps:
- Locate the ISO file you want to extract. Download this file to your computer, and then locate it in your “Downloads” folder (or wherever else you store downloaded files on your computer).
- Launch WinZip Enterprise. To open the compressed file, you must first launch WinZip, and then click on “File > Open.”
- Select files. WinZip Enterprise allows you to select the files or directories you wish to extract, or select all files. To select specific files or directories, hold down the Control key, then click on the files you wish to extract.
- Extract ISO files. From the drop-down list, select a destination folder to place your unpacked files.
From storing and zipping to extracting ISO files, WinZip Enterprise provides the tools needed to utilize ISO files for secure data sharing and storage.