Redefining ‘Simple BackUp’

There are plenty of backup solutions that claim to be easy to use, but we would argue that BackupKey, from Turnkey Technology Solutions takes the crown as the easiest. Even self-proclaimed “one-touch” solutions require you to install software and hardware on each PC before you can use them. Not BackupKey. Available in 80GB ($200) and 120GB ($250) capacities, it has the required software preloaded on the drive itself, so there’s nothing to install.

About the size of a large PDA, this external hard drive is easy to transport. And it’s bus-powered, so there isn’t even a transformer brick or power cord to worry about (just a detachable USB cable). This makes it easy to carry off-site each evening, should disaster (theft, fire, flood or other Biblical calamity) befall your office and its equipment.

Best of all, you can use a single BackupKey to back up multiple PCs (figure anywhere from eight to 10, depending on the number and types of files stored on each), making it the ideal solution for a small office, or for use with your work and home PCs.

Plug and Play Backup
By default, BackupKey transcribes files stored in standard Windows locations, such as My Documents (including the My Photos, My Videos, My Music, and iTunes subdirectories), the Windows Desktop (Internet Explorer Favorites, Firefox bookmarks, and so on), Shared Documents, and Outlook and Outlook Express files.

The Options menu choice lets you add or remove particular files or folders from a given PC’s backup set. This is helpful if you keep important files in directories not included by default by BackupKey’s software, or if you want to exclude folders you don’t care about to save time and disk space. BackupKey is so simple that most people will only need to read the three-step instruction sticker on the box. There is also a small leaflet inside, in case you crave a little more direction.) To get started, connect the included USB cable to the drive and to two USB ports on your powered-on PC. When the Windows dialog box appears asking you what action you prefer to take, hit Enter to select “Back up this computer.” That’s it. The BackupKey software will scan your PC’s hard drives for the proper folders and copy them.

 BackupKey interface screen shot
The easy-to-use software resides on the drive itself, eliminating the need to install any applications or drivers on PCs you want to back up
(Click for larger image)

The user interface has a large “Backup in Progress” button in the center, with a progress bar below and a message above showing the size of the current backup set and the space left on the BackupKey drive. The context-sensitive Help center occupies the right pane and displays FAQs and clear explanations of the interface elements. The left pane of the interface is a Control Panel, where you can see the status of backups and view and restore files or directories.

When the backup is done, move to the next PC, connect the BackupKey and hit Enter. The device automatically recognizes this as a new PC and backs up its contents to a separate directory.

The BackupKey is also speedy, provided your PC has a USB 2.0 interface. In our tests, backing up 5GB of files took just over seven minutes. For older PCs with the much-slower USB 1.1 connectors, it’s best to start the backup and go do something else: We timed a 5.7GB backup at a little over two hours via USB 1.1. Of course, subsequent backups are much faster, as BackupKey only grabs changed or new files.

Easy to Navigate
When the BackupKey is connected to a PC it has previously backed up, that computer’s folders and files are displayed in a Windows Explorer-like list when you click on View and Restore. You can then select the files to restore (and undo a restore command), delete selected files from the backup, or choose which files to archive. When you archive a file, a newer version of that file in a subsequent backup won’t overwrite the older file. If you don’t archive a file, then that older version will be overwritten with the newer file in subsequent backups.

The BackupKey is one of the smallest portable hard drives on the market, which makes it easy to shuttle between home and office.

And if you want to use the drive to shuttle files from one PC to another (or to migrate them to a new PC), simply launch Windows Explorer. BackupKey appears in the list as an external drive; just navigate to the stored folders you need to copy over.

While BackupKey indeed delivers on its promises, it isn’t the ideal solution for all backup needs. BackupKey works under Windows 2000 and XP (and Vista, when it launches) only; we would love to see Mac support added. More importantly, the drive handles file backup chores, not full system backup. So in the event of a hard drive failure or other catastrophe, you’ll need to reinstall the OS and applications, then use Backup Key to restore the data files.

Still, having a copy of your critical data and mail files is better than having nothing at all, and more complex solutions wind up not getting used as often as they should. BackupKey is simple enough that there’s no excuse for not having a current backup for each PC in your office.

Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology writer and editor with nearly 14 years of experience covering the latest hardware, software and Internet products and services.

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