External Storage: Little Big Drives

By Bill Machrone  |  Posted 2004-09-08 Print this article Print

We review 15 standalone devices for small-business and personal use. One of them has your name on it. PC Magazine

Backup has gotten personal: Small drives that match your lifestyle have changed the face of storage and backup. Add-in drives are out of the question now that notebooks are steadily replacing desktops. Fast interfaces such as USB 2.0 and FireWire have made plug-and-play external drives practical, and skyrocketing capacity and plummeting costs have made them affordable.

The files youre storing have changed, too. Youre more likely to need room for your digital photos, gigabytes of music, Web site backup, or video-editing projects. IDE drives have become orders of magnitude more reliable in recent years, so the emphasis in backup has moved from generational data sets and disaster recovery to a clean working copy of your hard drive.

Well-organized IT departments and scrupulous network administrators still practice the traditional rituals of backup—multigenerational data sets, monthly snapshots, compressed tape formats, off-site storage, and strict separation of data and programs. These remain the best ways to recover from any disaster, including virus attacks.

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Bill Machrone is vice president of technology at Ziff Davis Publishing and editorial director of the Interactive Media and Development Group. He joined Ziff Davis in May 1983 as technical editor of PC Magazine, became editor-in-chief in September of that year, and held that position for the next eight years, while adding the titles of publisher and publishing director. During his tenure, Machrone created the tough, labs-based comparison reviews that propelled PC Magazine to the forefront of the industry and made it the seventh-largest magazine in the United States. He pioneered numerous other innovations that have become standards in computer journalism, such as Service and Reliability Surveys, free utility software, benchmark tests, Suitability to Task ratings, and price/performance charts. Machrone also founded PC Magazine Labs and created the online service PC MagNet, which later expanded into ZDNet. In 1991, when Machrone was appointed vice president of technology, he founded ZD Labs in Foster City, California. He also worked on the launch team for Corporate Computing magazine, was the founding editor of Yahoo! Internet Life, and is working on several other development projects in conventional publishing and electronic media. Machrone has been a columnist for PC Magazine since 1983 and became a columnist for PC Week in 1993.

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