Making Backups Easy

By Loyd Case  |  Posted 2003-02-12 Print this article Print

Product: Maxtor 5000DV
Web Site:
Pro: Huge capacity, quiet, performs well
Con: Pricey; no "off" switch
Summary:       An excellent secondary backup device for small networks or a small office environment with both USB 2.0 and FireWire connectivity supported.
Price: $399, check prices
Backing up your system seems to get harder every year. Years ago, you had the choice of backing up to floppy or to tape drive. But even a small hard drive took dozens of floppies, and low-cost, PC tape drives were less than reliable. Then, Iomegas Zip drives came on the scene, but just as they became common, hard drive space began to explode. As tape drives became more reliable with continuously increasing capacities, even they couldnt keep pace with the burgeoning size of capacious IDE drives -- at least, not desktop tape units. Then, CD-RW dropped in price, but 650-700MB just doesnt seem to cut it anymore either. As hard drives climbed towards 80GB, DVD recorders appeared on the scene, but media was initially expensive. And even the 4.7GB capacity of a DVD disc seems anemic next to the latest 200GB monster drives. So what do you use to back up a big drive?
Another big hard drive, of course.
Its cost prohibitive for most users to plop in a second large drive into their systems. But an external drive that can support a small workgroup, or a group of neighbors, might be an ideal solution. We wrote about this idea recently in our story on building your own USB external drive a few weeks ago. At that time, we discovered that the Belkin enclosure we used wouldnt support 48-bit LBA (logical block addressing) in its IDE-to-USB bridge chip, which limited the enclosure to drives smaller than 137GB. (Since then, Belkin is looking at updating the bridge chip, but hasnt given any specifics as to when a new version would be announced). Stepping into the gap are several companies with off-the-shelf external drives, including Maxtor. Here, we take a look at the Maxtor 5000DV, which sports a 200GB, 7200RPM drive in an enclosure that supports both USB 2.0 and IEEE1394 (FireWire). This 5000DV uses the same Maxtor DiamondMax 9 we reviewed back in early December – which can be had now for well under $300 (check prices). The drive mechanism includes a full 8MB of cache as well. At roughly $370, the external drives not cheap, but has some premium features that may make it attractive for small office environments. Maxtor includes Dantz Softwares Retrospect backup utility, which mitigates the cost somewhat. This is the "light" version, which only works with the Maxtor drive, but is easy to use. Maxtor adds a button on the front of the drive that makes it easy to backup your system. After installing the included driver, simply pressing that button launches Retrospect and automatically runs a backup script. Its a slick solution to the perennial issue of overcoming your own personal inertia in order to back up your data. Both Retrospect and the custom Maxtor driver support most flavors of Windows and Macintosh operating systems Note that Retrospect defaults to a "file copy" mode that simply replicates the chosen directory structure, with no data compression. Alternatively, you can configure the software to back the data up into one big file, with data compression enabled. That will allow you to store substantially more than 200GB of data on the DV5000. We put the drive through an extensive set of testing. You can evaluate our testbed on the next page, evaluate our test results starting with Winbench 99, or simply jump to our conclusions for our final word on the 5000 DV.

Loyd Case came to computing by way of physical chemistry. He began modestly on a DEC PDP-11 by learning the intricacies of the TROFF text formatter while working on his master's thesis. After a brief, painful stint as an analytical chemist, he took over a laboratory network at Lockheed in the early 80's and never looked back. His first 'real' computer was an HP 1000 RTE-6/VM system.

In 1988, he figured out that building his own PC was vastly more interesting than buying off-the-shelf systems ad he ditched his aging Compaq portable. The Sony 3.5-inch floppy drive from his first homebrew rig is still running today. Since then, he's done some programming, been a systems engineer for Hewlett-Packard, worked in technical marketing in the workstation biz, and even dabbled in 3-D modeling and Web design during the Web's early years.

Loyd was also bitten by the writing bug at a very early age, and even has dim memories of reading his creative efforts to his third grade class. Later, he wrote for various user group magazines, culminating in a near-career ending incident at his employer when a humor-impaired senior manager took exception at one of his more flippant efforts. In 1994, Loyd took on the task of writing the first roundup of PC graphics cards for Computer Gaming World -- the first ever written specifically for computer gamers. A year later, Mike Weksler, then tech editor at Computer Gaming World, twisted his arm and forced him to start writing CGW's tech column. The gaming world -- and Loyd -- has never quite recovered despite repeated efforts to find a normal job. Now he's busy with the whole fatherhood thing, working hard to turn his two daughters into avid gamers. When he doesn't have his head buried inside a PC, he dabbles in downhill skiing, military history and home theater.

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