Some external hard disk enclosures have gone high style over the past couple of years as vendors add curves, colors and textures. While these designs are pleasing to the eye, what customers really need are enclosures that incorporate features that enhance functionality and usability.
One example of this creative thinking can be seen in Maxtors OneTouch line of external hard drives. The company this week announced the second generation of the series, which offer higher capacities and swaps the previous plastic enclosure with an anodized aluminum skin. (For more information, see Maxtor Updates OneTouch Drive Line.)
The most interesting feature of these drives is the button itself; Maxtor recognized this fact by shifting the lines name from Personal Storage to OneTouch. But echoing the question posed to me by a product manager working for a competing vendor: "Whats the big deal about a button?"
Sure, the button looks like an ordinary button—meaning that it should control an electronic switch, such as the familiar on-off button—but instead its a physical interface to a software action. When the user presses the button, it invokes a backup script that can perform a systemwide, progressive backup, or any other flavor of backup supported by the Dantz Development software that comes with the drive.
Of course, users could always run a software script from their computers. But do they? Not often enough, if ever.
The button improves on the use of the software (and the hard drive in the process) by understanding the psychology of the customer. It acts as both a physical reminder of the backup process as well as a means to perform the backup. Maxtor improved on this psychology in the new models by adding a blue LED that flickers during a read-write. This gives the user more confidence that something has taken place after the button is pushed.
According to Anna Jen, Maxtor senior director of retail marketing, the company will take aim at some new segments with the drive, particularly the backup of small to mid-size business (SMB) servers. (Perhaps another reason to shift the branding away from the "personal.") She said that a number of VARs had requested a server version and expected that the SMB customers would use the drive as an adjunct to tape backup as well as a replacement.
"Some of the small businesses would still use tape for the long-term archive backup but would use OneTouch as an intermediate backup that would allow for quick and easy recovery of files accidentally deleted," Jen said. "Their perception is that trying to recover files from tape would be a difficult and time consuming process."
"The VARs said their clients dont feel comfortable with the tape-backup solution since they may have to swap tapes in and out and to keep track of the tapes," Jen said. "As a result of how complicated this process appears, many [customers] arent backing up. The VARs liked the idea of just telling their clients to push the button on the way out of the office each evening to backup their servers data. Of course, the VARs would set up an automated, scheduled backup to the OneTouch drive for their clients but the push-the-button message just gives extra reassurance."
However, the version of Dantzs Retrospect Express that currently ships with the drive supports only a desktop OS and doesnt support Windows Server 2000 or 2003. Jen said both Maxtor and Dantz will provide a upgrade patch shortly that will support both the new OneTouch models as well as the older Personal Storage 5000 versions.
Whether or not SMB customers pick up on Maxtors marketing, I appreciate the extra effort in extending the functionality of the storage enclosure and the blending of form and function in the button. And anything that gets even one more backup to take place is a good thing.
Are there other additional ways vendors could improve the functionality of storage enclosures? Let me know what you think!
David Morgenstern is a longtime reporter of the storage industry as well as a veteran of the dotcom boom in the storage-rich fields of professional content creation and digital video.
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