Last week we talked about backing up corporate laptops. This week we’ll check in with my father’s wife, Pam.
Dad and Pam have been married for almost 15 years. Pam is the only one of my family members who subscribes to my newsletter. Not surprisingly, she was the first person to respond to my post-vacation e-mail asking about backups.
When I asked my kinfolk about backups, I also asked whether any of them had ever suffered serious data loss due to a computer crash or other problem. Pam’s answer to this was “When I had my old Aptiva computer the motherboard failed and I lost all of the information on my hard drive, but that was in the days of floppies and my critical work product was backed up on those floppies so it was not a catastrophic event.”
Pam has both a desktop computer in her office at the Cleveland house and a laptop which she takes with her when she joins Dad in Chicago. Unlike Dad’s laptop, hers is her personal property and not supplied by an employer, so she is responsible for backing it up herself.
Because of her frequent travel between Chicago and Cleveland, Pam was initially hoping to find a backup solution which would create a bootable duplicate of her drive so she could plug it into Dad’s computer, reboot, and run all of her own software as well as having access to her files.
Alas, it doesn’t work that way, though the language in which CMS advertises their external laptop drives sure makes it sound as if it does. There’s a difference between being able to take a drive out of its case, stick it into your computer, format it, and then boot from it and being able to plug your USB drive in and boot from that into an exact duplicate of your installed system. (Though, interestingly, I have a client whose RAID-1 machine always tries to boot from the USB external drive if it’s plugged in, so after backing up he has to remember to unplug the XHD.)
I know there are thumb drives from which you can run certain specialized programs, so the day is probably not too far off when ordinary end-users can in fact carry drives instead of laptops, but we’re not quite there yet.
Even after I gave her the bad news, though, Pam decided to go with the CMS 40 GB ABS Plus drive for laptops, which comes with BounceBack Professional. This is a USB 2 external drive, so she’s also getting a Hi Speed USB 2.0 Cardbus Adapter. “I was hoping to have this up and running before vacation but ran out of time,” she wrote. “So I will let you know how this works.” I’ve never used BounceBack, professional or otherwise, so I’m curious. The ABS series of drives from CMS have gotten good reviews in the Mac mags (or they had at the time I was shopping for 2.5” external drives), but they seemed to cost more per megabyte than drives which didn’t come with proprietary software, and the bare 80 GB Toshiba drive and separate drive housing which I ended up buying cost between 1/2 and 2/3 of what I would have paid for the ABS Plus.
However, not everyone wants to fumble with teeny weeny screws and ribbon cables while they assemble their own external drive, never mind figuring out how to format it. (I admit, knowing where I had to right-click in the “Computer Management” pane stumped me for a while.) And the ABS comes with some handy features for people who prefer their backup in set-it-and-forget-it mode, like FastSync, Scheduler, and Power Down. Plus it comes in some nice bright colors. But at $200 for 40 MB, it’s definitely one of the more expensive drives of its kind.
As I mentioned above, Pam also has a desktop computer at home, and she’s been backing this up on CD using Adaptec Easy CD Creator 4. She’s planning to move the hard drive backups onto the ABS Plus as well, because it will be faster and easier. (I might have recommended a larger drive for backing up two computers, but it depends on the size of the hard drives on the computers being backed up, and on the amount of data being stored there.)
I’ve asked Pam to post a comment here on the Backup Blog when she has the drive set up, so we can all find out how well the ABS Plus lives up to its billing.
Pam teaches classes for paralegals at Myers University, but she doesn’t know how Myers backs up its computers. My guess is that their system is pretty similar to that used at Dad’s corporation or at the universities where I studied and later taught: network storage and backup of those servers onto tape. The Myers IT department has lots of nice pictures of new-looking computers and listings of business-related computing courses, but no specs on the campus’ overall computing facilities, support staff, or policies and procedures, and no direct contact information. So either I’ll have to pick up the phone (not that!) and try to find the right person to ask, or my curiosity will just have to go unsatisfied.
Now that I’m coming to the end of my family, I’d like to invite readers to write in and tell us how you back up your computers. I’ve already had one or two people do so. I think real-life stories are better than abstract product reviews and announcements, though I plan to continue with those, particularly on the blog in midweek.
And remember: backup systems only work if you use them!