Hopefully, Part 1 of this series really got you thinking about the necessity of data backup. Possibly, you have since registered for Carbonite and now have a backup procedure in place. For those seeking a backup solution that does not rely on a separate company, let’s look at a different solution.
Probably the most popular backup solution of the past couple of years is that of the external hard drive. Through the use of traditional internal hard drives nestled in USB enabled enclosures, these devices provide huge storage capacities with relatively fast data transfer rates. Best of all, the cost per gigabyte of storage is cheap (less than $0.50 in many cases).
What has made external hard drives such great backup devices has very little to do with the hardware, though. It is the bundled software that really makes for the backup solution. Without a backup program, it is up to the operator to transfer files to the hard drive. That can be a tedious task and is never continued with the regularity that it should.
External hard drives with bundled backup software make regular data backups effortless. After a simple installation and configuration process, there is no additional work required by the user. Most programs can be configured to backup the entire computer system or select folders. They are also great for incremental backups. This entails a large initial backup, followed by subsequent small backups that cover only new and modified files.
Here are a few external hard drive products that include bundled software for a complete backup solution:
Western Digital My Book Pro – This product has clearly become the most popular external hard drive recently. There are actually 3 different models of the My Book: Essential, Premium and Pro. The Essential has no backup software included and the Premium relies on a Western Digital-branded program. The Pro version worth the extra expense due to the fact that it is bundled with EMC’s Retrospect Express, an industry leader in backup applications. This device has one very unique feature in that it turns itself on and off automatically with the connected computer system. The My Book Pro can connect using USB 2.0, Firewire 400 and mainly for Mac users, blazing fast Firewire 800.
Seagate FreeAgent Pro – Seagate is a late comer to the external hard drive field. Coincidentally, their first product hit the market shortly after they purchased Maxtor (a pioneer in the external hard drive game). Seagate differentiates itself through storage capacity and connectivity. Seagate offers a 750 GB external drive that uses only one hard drive. While other devices using Hitachi’s new 1TB drive are surely on the way, the 750GB is the largest external drive that doesn’t use a RAID configuration. While I use a RAID configuration on my system, I like simplicity when it comes to my backup solution. As for connectivity, the Seagate offers not only the usual USB 2.0 connection, but also incorporates an eSATA port. An eSATA is the same type of port as those already connecting internal hard drives in newer systems. This connects is the very fastest available, but will require an additional PCI card to be installed for most systems as eSATA ports are very uncommon (well worth the extra effort).
Western Digital My Book World – For those with multiple computers to backup, a drive network enabled drive may be for you. The My Book World is virtually the same drive as the My Book Pro, but with a gigabyte Ethernet port. Plug this into a network port, install the EMC Retrospect Express software on each computer and all of your systems are now covered. As an added bonus, the My Book World allows for remote access to files from any Internet connected computer (hence, the name World). Check out this demo for more information on remote access using the Western Digital My Book World.
When purchasing an external drive, buy the largest capacity that you can afford. Most backup software allows for versions of files to be stored. This is a very valuable feature, but it can create backup data bloat. Get a drive with capacity that is larger than your computer’s current storage capacity to allow yourself room to grow.
One last caveat to using an external drive as a backup solution, you will still need to implement some form of offsite backup to protect against fire and theft. I use an external drive for weekly backups and burn data to DVD on a quarterly basis for offsite storage in a safe deposit box. This does add a bit of extra work 4 times a year, but the added protection is worth it.