Backup moves forward

GCN Lab Review | Bounceback software offers a good reason to reconsider large USB drives

UABS Portable USB Drive With BounceBack Professional

Performance: A

Features: A+

Ease of Use: A

Value: A-

Price: $349

Reviewer's comments:

A large-capacity USB drive in a small package is already a great tool. But adding some easy-to-use, intelligent backup software makes it an even more useful addition to your computing setup.

Contact:

CMS Products

(714) 424-5520

www.cmsproducts.com

Some things just naturally go together, like peanut butter and jelly or fish and chips. And if you are not reading this review just before lunch ' when you have other priorities ' you might add external portable hard drives and intelligent backup software to that list.

We have looked at portable drives from CMS Products in the past. When small external hard drives were just beginning to become popular, CMS was at the forefront.

The addition of USB 2.0 really helped this market because the faster transfer times meant that external drives could perform nearly as fast as internal drives, at least the older ones. This meant you could not only store files on the drives but also run some programs on them.

Portable hard drives lost their momentum, though, when key drives were introduced. At first, key drives could only handle small amounts of data, about 64M. But now that 2G and even larger key drives are widely available, external hard drives that are at least three times as bulky and more than twice as heavy have lost a bit of their luster.

Of course, external hard drives have much larger capacity than any key drive. The UABS model we tested could store 160G, giving it more capacity than the internal hard drives on quite a few PCs. Nevertheless, size seems to matter, at least to some people. On an older system in our lab, we have an external USB drive that we use just like a normal internal drive ' but on newer systems, we simply install a new, 400G internal Serial Advanced Technology Attachment drive if things get too filled up.

What the external-drive market needed was a killer application to give the products back their mass appeal. And they found it with backup software.
The UABS 160G drive comes with Bounceback Professional backup software. The complete kit sells for $349, and there is a 5 percent discount for government customers. It makes sense to add this easily portable drive that can back up your system in case of an emergency or random crash.

The Bounceback software is easy to use. You simply pop the CD into your computer and enter the serial code. Once installed, it will run Your First Backup, and you set up the program for future automatic backups.

You choose the device you want to write the backup information onto ' typically your CMS drive, but it doesn't have to be.

You have three methods of backup to choose from. The first is a full system backup. This option creates a bootable backup of your entire system on the CMS drive. Should your computer ever give up the ghost ' because of a power failure during the read and write process, for example ' you can boot the system from your backup drive without data loss. If you choose this option, the backup device would be completely formatted, so using your new CMS drive is probably a smart move.
Second, you can choose to have just the contents of the My Documents folder saved on a regular basis. This would protect files made by programs such as Word and Excel, plus digital pictures and even music files that are automatically stored in there.

Finally, you can select certain folders to back up manually. This is exactly like the My Documents option, but if you have programs that use their own file systems and folders, you can protect them, too.

Once you have chosen your backup method, the software will scan the system and backup drive, then give you an estimate of how long a backup process will take. If you are using the UABS drive with a USB 2.0 port, it probably won't take long. A full backup of a system with a 120G internal drive took just 1 minute, 12 seconds. For smaller file transfers, it's almost instantaneous, or at least as fast as an internal drive. Transferring a 100M file to the external drive took just 3.5 seconds. After that, you can choose how often you need to maintain your backup copy.

And for users of Apple computers, the CMS drive and the Bounceback software both work on OS X.

Installation is only slightly different, mostly because of the differences between the PC and Mac operating systems. Performance rates on our tests were identical on both system types.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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