The new high-capacity OneTouch external hard drives from Maxtor make for a very simple small business backup solution, and one that won’t break the bank. If you can’t afford network attached storage (NAS), this is the next best thing.
It doesn’t get much simpler. The OneTouch products have a button on the front of their sleek chassis that when pressed activates bundled Retrospect backup software from Dantz Development, automatically backing up your data. Maxtor claims OneTouch is the first push button backup and restore hard drive-based solution in the market.
The company has introduced four OneTouch products. A 120GB (7200RPM) unit which connects via USB 2.0 and lists for $200, a 200GB (7200RPM) model that offers dual USB 2.0/ FireWire connections and lists for $300, a 250GB (7200RPM) USB 2.0/FireWire unit for $350 and a 300GB (5400RPM) USB 2.0/FireWire model for $400.
I wasn’t overwhelmed with enthusiasm for the Express version of the Dantz software that comes with the drive, but it does the job. You don’t have to use it, though. The OneTouch unit can be customized so that pushing the button activates any application you choose.
In fact, there are other possible uses for these products besides backup. Home users might want to turn them into digital jukeboxes, for example. Pushing the button could launch a jukebox program. Even the 120GB unit can store a whole music collection — without compressing to MP3. (About 150 CDs at approximately 700MB per CD by my calculation.)
But it’s as a backup solution that OneTouch will have most appeal to small businesses. Given the large capacities, you can use them not just to back up essential data but to back up complete disk images, including operating system files and application settings — everything needed to recover quickly from a total disk melt down.
In the Lab
We reviewed the 120GB unit. It comes with the hard drive, a plastic stand that lets you set it on its edge (it takes up very little desk real estate this way), a universal serial bus USB 2 cable and a software disk and manual.
The USB 2 connections on the OneTouch units are backward compatible to USB 1.1. So you can plug one of these disks into virtually any Pentium II or higher computer running Windows 98SE or higher, as long as it has a USB 1.1 port.
But you really want a USB 2 connection. It transfers data from your main hard drive to the OneTouch unit much quicker — up to a maximum burst rate of 480 megabits per second (Mbps), versus only about 12 Mbps for USB 1.1.
My first problem — nothing to do with Maxtor — was that my Windows XP test computer (1.6MHz Dell Dimension 4300) didn’t have USB 2 ports. So I installed a $65 peripherial component interconnect (PCI) card inside my PC that added two USB 2 ports. In fact, it added two Firewire (IEEE 1394) ports as well, and replaced an existing Firewire card.
Once I’d sorted out some mysterious network problems, apparently related to installing the USB 2/Firewire card, installing the Maxtor OneTouch unit itself was a breeze.
The only slight hitch — again, no fault to Maxtor — was that I have an itchy mouse finger and great difficulty following instructions. I inadvertently disrupted the software installation process after the drivers for the hard drive were loaded, but before the Retrospect Backup software had a chance to install.
This was no big problem, however. Once I figured out what had happened, I simply launched the process again later and allowed the Retrospect software to install this time.
Once the software drivers for the hard drive were loaded and the disk turned on and plugged in to one of the new USB 2 ports, Windows XP found it and set it up in seconds. It was immediately available in Windows Explorer — unlike some other USB storage devices I’ve tested.
The OneTouch units come from the factory formatted, but the formatting uses the FAT32 (32-bit File Allocation Table) file system, the one required by Windows 98. Windows XP, however, supports a more advanced file system, NTFS (NT File System), which provides several advantages, including support for very large files.
So I reformatted the OneTouch drive, using Windows XP Disk Management Tools (found in Administrative Tools, which is accessible from Control Panel.) This process took only a few minutes.
The Retrospect software is more than adequate for small and home businesses, but the Express version included with the OneTouch unit assumes you want to use the OneTouch mechanism — which means you have to remember that it’s time to back up and press the button.
You can also — or instead — use the program’s script wizard to create a script that will regularly do your back ups automatically. I found the interface slightly confusing, however, and was frustrated by the fact that the program apparently only lets you add complete folders to a backup set. In some cases, I wanted to just add individual files from a folder.
These are quibbles, though. The program works as advertised and does what it’s supposed to do. And there are more advanced versions of Retrospect available to purchase at the Dantz site if you have more advanced needs.
The Bottom Line
I do prefer the Iomega Automatic Backup utility that came with the Iomega NAS unit we reviewed recently, which you can purchase separately ($40 at the Iomega site).
The interface is a little friendlier and it lets you select individual files for inclusion in a backup set, and exclude files with certain extensions even if they appear in folders you’ve selected. It also lets you back up files at the time you create or modify them — in other words, realtime backups.
A OneTouch drive is not a flawless backup solution. If your home office burns down, you still lose all your data. To prevent that kind of disaster, you need off-site storage — which introduces a whole other level of complexity.
And a single OneTouch drive with the Retrospect Express software obviously does not give you the redundancy you get from a NAS unit or a server with multiple disks running under a redundant array of independent disks (RAID) controller.
Still, for most small businesses, certainly home-based businesses, this is a pretty good — and very economical — solution.
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