Tools Of The Trade: You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone

Author: By Stephen Pritchard

The other truth is that most people fail to realise the value of their data until they lose it. Large companies will back up critical documents on their servers, but plenty of smaller firms, home workers and individuals pay little or no attention to this.

Storage manufacturer Maxtor aims to help here with its OneTouch III external hard drive. This comes in capacities up to one terabyte (1,000GB), which is huge even by the standards of today’s memory-intensive storage systems.

The drive (or drives, as the one-terabyte version is actually several smaller disks in one box) is housed in a rugged but compact plastic casing. The box is more portable than Maxtor’s deservedly popular earlier models, and its small size is a benefit on a crowded desk – although the new unit will not stack neatly with the previous OneTouch models.

For anyone who needs a lot of external hard disk space, this probably won’t be too much of a drawback. And Maxtor has sensibly retained the OneTouch button which makes the drives so easy to use.

What sets the Maxtors apart from standard external disk drives is that each comes with back-up software in the box – for Mac and Windows. And the back-ups themselves could not be simpler: install the software, connect the drive and hit the button on the front. The computer handles the rest, copying the files you specify to the external box. The drive can also be locked, and set up to synchronise data between several computers.

This is a real benefit for anyone who works remotely from the office and so can’t back up to the company server. It is also an advantage for mobile workers who want to take copies before they travel, or for those who work with very large documents that are impractical to back up quickly over a network. This could also apply to software developers, designers, video producers and engineers who regularly handle big files.

The one disadvantage of an external hard drive with such a large capacity is performance. As a general rule, the larger the drive, the slower the speed. And external connections such as USB and Firewire are simply not as quick as the connectors to disks inside a computer. The model tested, a 500GB drive, was noticeably slower than smaller hard drives.

Maxtor offers several versions with different combinations of USB, Firewire 400 and Firewire 800 connections. For the one-terabyte drive, buyers have to choose two links.

For anyone who has to back up large quantities of data, a model with the Firewire 800 connection is the one to go for, even though it may cost a little bit more.

RATING: 4 out of 5

PROS: huge capacity, simple to make back-ups

CONS: Firewire 800 interface not available on all drive sizes

PRICE: from £119 for a 100GB drive – to £699 for a one-terabyte model


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