Backup Solutions

Backup Solutions


Every computer user who has lost data knows how important it is to always have a backup. Losing the operating system due to worms and viruses is not uncommon these days, if you need to redo it all you have the necessary tools, like the operating system disk, software supplied by the vendor for DVD drives, monitor, and other peripherals that you may have added to your computer system. The gripe here is that it is at times a very painful exercise, but, it is possible. It's only DATA that you need to look after and constantly back it up so that you can use the system to get by. If DATA is lost and no backup is available, the user is left high and dry.

When I upgraded my laptop I also decided that I will do away with the main desktop in the office and use the laptop as a desktop replacement. What prompted me to make a decision like that was because by having both I have to continue to look after two machines at the same time which means, backup, updates, software installations and the list goes on and on. By having only one machine I could save a lot of time and concentrate on just one machine. Having made the decision and also having bought the right laptop, now I was confronted with the problem of safe backup of my data.

The laptop provides a solution to backup the data in a safe area of the hard drive and the bundled software can also restore the data if it is due to the operating system crashing or the system is infected with a virus which one is unable to deal with. However, the possibility of the hard drive failure cannot be totally ruled out. I personally had experienced it in my previous laptop. If it happens, you have no data to recover. I bet it is not a very comforting feeling for anyone.

The Choices

There are many choices that one has today, CD Writers (providing up to 700MB of backup), Zip Drives with 1GB or more, DVD Writers (up to 4.7 GB) and soon we will also have dual layer DVD Writers capable of 8.5 GB of backup. All of these backup solutions require not just the hardware but also media to backup your data to. We have heard of people having problems with certain media as they are not compatible with certain drives. We also hear horror stories of disks becoming unreadable all of a sudden and the data is lost.

The 'Once write' method is a bit costly if you have a habit of backing up your data regularly, say twice a week or even on a daily basis, also you need to constantly discard older copies. The rewritable disks also have a life and can go bad while in use although the manufacturer claims data can be written as many as 1000 times. After all we are humans and we do make mistakes and one bad scratch mark on a disk means the user probably will never be able to retrieve the data from the particular disk.

The Solution

One product that really caught my attention was a mobile drive! Small, lightweight, good data capacity, fast, compatible, easy to install, no media to deal with, bootable with an operating system, choice of connectivity and above all affordable! Sounds too good to be true! But, it is there for anyone to consider instead of a DVD or CD Writer for backing up the data. I opted for the Lacie USB Mobile Drive. This drive is not a replacement for either a DVD Writer or a CD Writer which you may also use to copy software disks, write DVD Video, audio CD's and MP3's to. This is for backing up of large amount of data which otherwise may not fit onto disks or may require many disks. The process can be very time consuming and painful.

Lacie Mobile Drive comes in two flavours, USB 2.0 (480 Mbits/s) and Firewire (400 Mbits/s). The drive does not require any adaptors and can be powered up with the supplied USB cable. Some laptops provide the adequate power through USB, but, some do not. For those which cannot provide the power, another cable is bundled with the drive which you can use to provide power through a USB link. There is yet another way in case enough USB ports are not available, the PS2 connector cable. In any case, you will have ample choices to connect this drive to your desktop or laptop with the cables bundled. The drive also comes with a CD containing a manual in PDF format and USB drivers for Windows 98SE and Windows ME if you are not using the newer operating systems like Windows 2000 or Windows XP. It also works with Mac OS 9.x or Mac OS X or greater.

The weight of the unit is just 200 grams or 7.05 oz and is small enough to be carried in one's pocket. The capacities available are 20, 40 and 80 GB and one can choose between USB 2.0 or Firewire based on ones existing system capabilities and needs.

There are many other similar mobile drives being offered by other manufacturers, but, I liked it due to its simple design and sober looks – grey aluminium top, side and bottom with brushed stainless steel fascia and a single led which flickers when data is written to or read from. Unlike other offerings in funny colour combinations, however, this is a matter of personal preference.


The Lacie unit that I have has a Toshiba hard drive, with a capacity of 40 GB, spinning at 4,500 RPM, seek time of less than 12 ms, 2 MB buffer and has USB 2.0 connectivity.

I transferred 650 MB of data comprising of a single folder having 25 files of different sizes from the Lacie drive to my laptop in about 33.64 seconds, at the rate of 19.32 MB/s. This is what one would refer to as the reading capability of the mobile drive. I copied the same file back onto the Lacie, this time wanting to know its write capability; it turned out to be slightly slower at 36.35 seconds at the rate of 17.88 MB/s. That I would consider as fast! I also tried another transfer of about the same size but this time having few hundred folders and the total number of files in excess of 13,000. The entire exercise took about 2 minutes and 50 seconds. Even though the data was same size (650 MB) the time difference was due to the fact that each file was being accessed every time the transfer was taking place from the laptop to the Lacie mobile drive. I still consider this to be very, very fast. If I have to back up even on a daily basis I may need only a few seconds a day to replace the files which have either changed or have been created during the day.

The transfer was performed back and forth using the IBM T41 laptop having a Pentium M processor rated at 1.4 GHz, 512 MB CL 2.5 DDR Ram and a 40 GB 5,400 RPM Hard Drive


There are many advantages in having a drive like this. This is by far one of the most compatible hardware itemsI have come across. This drive can be connected to any computer having either Windows 2000 or Windows XP and it is recognised immediately and powered up. No drivers are required and no installation of any software is needed, a perfect media to share with anyone and any computer. As much as 80 GB of data can be transferred back and forth very quickly.

Every product that is on the market has negative and positive points; even this drive has a major negative point which is – possible hardware failure! Yes, the hard drive inside this unit can stop working and may become unrecoverable, but, remember this is just a backup so your original is still safe and you should take immediate measures to arrange for backing up the original, whether it is in your laptop or desktop.

A computer is one of the most unreliable piece of equipment invented, therefore anything and everything related could also prove to be unreliable. We must face this fact. That is why we have backups!

If you need quick backups which are larger than what a disk could hold, say a video file, your office data which is in multiples of GB or simply you need to archive MP3's or other music files, this drive could be a worthwhile investment.
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