The Conundrum of Big

By Loyd Case  |  Posted 2003-01-16 Print this article Print

Storage"> My system has 240GB on it -- two 120GB physical drives. I say that, not to brag -- I know quite a few people with even more storage -- but because having that much storage creates a major headache: backups. Backing up to CD-RW or even DVD rewritables isnt really an option, except for spot backups of critical documents. Multiple PCs – which more and more homes now have -- create even more problems.. And if youre deep into digital media, youll find that moving high-quality video and audio files from computer to computer can also clog up your network. Sure, you can always backup or transfer files over a network, but these file transfers can clog the net at inconvenient times. If you have a high capacity, portable drive, then you can perform multiple backups. Its the return of the sneaker-net! The potential downside of using a hard disk for backup purposes is drive reliability. As we noted in our roundup of big drives, warranties for standard ATA drives – used by most USB enclosures -- have been reduced to one year, while the "special edition" drives are still at three years.
However, since were talking about using an external drive as a backup system or secondary storage, its unlikely to be up and running as much as the primary drive inside your PC. If youre really worried, Maxtor manufactures a line of ATA drives specifically for secondary storage -- these drives come with a MTTF (mean time to failure) in excess of one million hours.
This article is broken up into three sections. In the first section, we review external drive options, and discuss why we opted for USB 2.0. In the second, we review our selected drive enclosure, the Belkin Hi-Speed USB 2.0 External Drive Enclosure Kit (FSU209), focusing on drive installation, system setup and performance. Finally we wrap up this story with some conclusions and final thoughts on external drives. Read it sequentially for all the details, or skip around, using either the table of contents below or the in-place links above, to get right to the information you need.

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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