By Nick Stam  |  Posted 2002-11-06 Print this article Print

Originally released in 1999 as a PCMCIA slot-attached external hard drive-based notebook backup solution, the CMS ABS (Automatic Backup System) gained much attention as a Comdex 2001 Best of Show recipient. Disaster recovery features were introduced in the PCMCIA version in mid-2001 permitting the ABS backup drive to fully mirror a notebook drive, becoming a bootable replica. By mid-2002, CMS also offered USB 2.0 and FireWire versions each capable of fully copying a notebooks hard drive and booting. We tested the USB 2.0 and PCMCIA devices and have used the backup products for nearly six months to get a good idea if they would work well over time for mobile users. FireWire and USB 2.0 versions of the ABSplus system are also available for OS X. At a high level, the ABS device looks amazingly simple, being comprised of a mobile hard drive in a hardened enclosure with varied attachment options, and some backup software. But its the tight integration of its backup software and hardware, combined with true ease-of-use (once you learn the basics), that sets the CMS solution apart from other methods for mobile backup. As with any product its not perfect, and well discuss some problems we encountered – but overall were very impressed. CMS Peripherals: For those not familiar with CMS Peripherals, theyve been around since 1983 providing storage solutions. Back in 1989 the company sold products such as the 300MB CMS Express EIDE and CMS Sentry SCSI server upgrade drives which cost approximately $3500 and $4500, respectively (the pricing was in line with competitors at the time). The past four or five years, CMS has targeted mobile storage with some very interesting products.
In 1998, PC Magazine tested CMS EasyMove solution that worked with Windows 98 and enabled painless upgrading of notebook disk drives via a PCMCIA card and cable. With EasyMove, your old notebook drive contents, including OS, applications, and data, could be transferred to a newer higher-capacity drive at the push of a button.
ABSplus: Three models of the current ABSplus system exist for notebooks, including USB 1.x/2.0, PCMCIA (which well call PC Card-attached), and FireWire interfaces. We evaluated the USB and PC Card-attached models, because our test IBM T20 notebook does not natively support FireWire. Sadly, most notebooks today still dont support USB 2.0, but it will be standard in upcoming Banias-based notebooks using Intels Odem and Montara chipsets which also include ICH4-M southbridge. So we didnt take advantage of the higher transfer speeds of USB 2.0, but as youll see in the test results between the USB 1.x and the PC Card version, a faster interface may not make a noticeable difference in some cases. Pricing for all ABSplus systems, regardless of interface, is as follows (these are current as of 11/5/2002):
Pricing For ABS Plus Systems
10GB $279
20GB $299 check prices (PC Card)
30GB $349 check prices (PC Card)
40GB $399
60GB $499 check prices (PC Card)
Compared to desktop drives, these arent cheap, but for mobile drives in a special shock-mounted housing, with backup software, cabling, and disaster recovery features, its a good deal.

Nick Stam Co-Founder, ExtremeTech
Ex-Director, PC Magazine Labs

Nick is a founder of the ExtremeTech website. He worked with co-founder Bill Machrone designing the site, staffing up, and getting initial content developed for ET's formal launch on June 12, 2001. Nick was Senior Technical Director of ET until mid-2003, while concurrently performing duties in PC Magazine Labs.

Nick was a technical director in PC Labs from late 1991 through mid-2002, and was Lab Director from mid-2002 until March 2005. Prior to PC Magazine, Nick was in the computer industry in various development, systems engineering, and management roles since mid-1980, and he received an MS in Computer Science from SUNY Binghamton.

In March 2005, Nick decided it was time to leave Ziff Davis Media (parent of PC Magazine and ExtremeTech) to pursue other opportunities, but wishes all the best to the ET and PC Magazine staff and reader communities!

Nick can be contacted at nickstam@comcast.net


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