Review: SimpleTough USB 2.0 Portable Drive - Page 2

By Gerry Blackwell
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Backup Software

Like other SimpleTech drive products, SimpleTough comes with two backup solutions: local backup using an Hitachi-branded version of ArcSoft’s TotalMedia Backup software, and online backup – 2GB free – with Hitachi Ultimate Backup.

The Backup Now option first asks you to choose which type of backup you want to do. If you select Local Backup, the SimpleTough automatically installs TotalMedia Backup on your computer. The program doesn’t automatically launch on completion of the install, however.

TotalMedia Backup is a consumer-oriented backup system that lacks one important feature, the ability to back up open files. Otherwise, it’s fine.

In its simplest mode, you choose types of files – photos, videos, music, personal documents – and it finds them wherever they are on the host computer’s drives. You can also choose whether to do a full backup or an incremental backup that only copies new files or those changed since the last backup.

In this simple mode, TotalMedia will automatically select all files of chosen types, including some you don’t necessarily want to keep – photo files included with application programs, for example. The interface does let you view a list of selected files, but it doesn’t let you alter it.

With Advanced mode, however, you can select individual folders and subfolders to back up. By default, it will back up every file in those folders, regardless of type. But the Options menu provides a way to specify file types you want to include, or exclude, by typing in their file extensions – e.g. .doc or .jpg. TotalMedia also lets you schedule either advanced or simple backups.


Our first backup – 96GB – took about 3.5 hours, a transfer rate of about 62 megabits per second (Mpbs). This may sound slow and is certainly a fraction of the theoretical top speed of USB 2.0 connections, 480 Mbps. But it’s quite respectable, especially for a portable drive, which spins its disc more slowly than fixed drives.

Backup programs also encrypt and compress files as they go, which slows transfers. And keep in mind that if you choose incremental backups, after the first run, you will only be backing up new or changed files, which can reduce backup times to seconds or minutes.

Hitachi Ultimate Backup is the same service that SimpleTech offers under the Fabrik name, which we have discussed here in the context of other online backup services, and here in the context of another SimpleTech product, the Re:Drive. It’s a good backup option.

The Rugged Factor

We tested the SimpleTough’s shock resistence last, as it would have been difficult to check other functions if it failed the drop test. We also did not take Hitachi at its word and drop it from a full three meters. However, we did drop it from about six feet on pavement – where it bounced once.

The enclosure was unmarked and the files were intact when we plugged it back into a computer.

SimpleTech provides no elaboration on the SimpleTough’s “spill resistance” so we were similarly conservative in testing, merely dribbling small amounts of tea on the device where it behaved like water off a duck’s back.

Bottom Line

The SimpleTough is a great portable drive – rugged, cool-looking and thoughtfully designed with its integrated cable. That in itself makes it a good backup device because it’s easy and safe to carry offsite for increased security.

But the noted shortcoming in the consumer-grade software – its inability to back up open files – means it’s not an ideal small business backup device – at least not out of the box. You could always use it with more sophisticated software.

Gerry Blackwell is a freelance technology writer based in London, Canada. Read his blog, AfterByte

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This article was originally published on September 22, 2009
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