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Backing Up is Not All That Hard to Do

By Rob Kay

Human nature being what it is, many of us ignore backing up the data in our computers simply because we are lazy or don't know any better. Be forewarned: Not backing up your hard drive is a form of Russian roulette. The odds are at some point you will lose your data. When this occurs, you are in very deep kim chee. If your hard drives goes down you could lose business records, correspondence, proposals and all your applications. Re-installing the programs without a backup program could take hours or days. Much of your data would have be re-entered by hand and some might be irreplaceable.

The Tape Backup is Your Friend

So the bad news is that data is easily lost forever. The good news is that it's easy to back up your hard drive with a tape backup. Many companies make this technology but we decided to take the plunge and road test the latest systems available. We started by doing some homework. We went on the Internet and checked the archives of PC Magazine to look at what they had to say about tape backup units on the market.



Road Test

We wanted to test a system that had large capacity, was easy to use and preferably, fast. We decided to test Hewlett-Packard's SureStore T4 internal and external tape back up systems on our 200Mhz PC clone office computer. Why H-P and why the T4? Hewlett-Packard's systems got very high marks from the computer magazines. They work across a wide range of operating systems and with many computers switching over to Microsoft Windows NT, we wanted something that could handle the latest technology. H-P also has a deserved reputation for dependability. The SureStore T4 is H-P's top of the line in PC backup systems. It can store up to 8 gigabytes of compressed data in one cigarette pack-sized tape called the Travan TR-4. We wanted to look at something that could store a mirror image of our hard drive on one tape and know that what we purchased will have enough capacity for a few years down the road.

Installing the system took longer than it should have. We called on our technician friend Earl Ford of Pacific Interactive Systems to help us solve a few problems. The main issue was that at first Windows 95 did not recognize our new tape drive. That was soon settled after consulting with H-P technical whizzes informed us that we needed to download newer software from the Internet to get the drive to work. After downloading the proper software the tape backup units performed flawlessly. It took about 1.6 hours to properly back up my entire system (about 1.3 gigabytes of data) which is not super fast but if it's done when you are out of the office, speed is not really an issue. The main thing is back up your data daily and keep a mirror image of all your data.

The T4 is pretty much the Cadillac of tape backup technology but for a user with a stand alone computer (as opposed to an office with a network) it's overkill. The H-P systems we tested were the $389 T4i internal unit and the $489 T4 external system. (The advantage of the external unit is that you uncouple it and use it to back up other computers or even your laptop). By the way, these prices do not include an extra adapter (SCSI) card that you have to add to your machine to as well for the T4 series. That cost us another $200

Bottom Line: If you have a stand alone machine, I would strongly suggest you purchase H-P's less expensive AT3000" system that can store up to 5 gigabytes of compressed data on one tape and sells for about $200. According to what we've read it's just as fast and efficient as the more expensive systems. (If you have a network to back up then go for the T4 series). Think of the money spent as an insurance policy. Remember your data is your business.

Alternatives to the tape drive are the Jaz or Zip drives manufactured by Iomega or, the SparQ drive from SyQuest. These are portable storage units that hook up to your PC and range in price from $150 to around $400. Instead of using tapes to back up your data they store data in proprietary diskette-like items and range in capacity from 100 megabytes to 1 gigabyte. They don't store as much as data as tapes but they are handy for backing selected data such as love letters, invoices, presentations, etc. rather than your entire system. If you're going to go this route we suggest seriously looking at the $200 SparQ drive which has diskettes rated at 1 gigabyte. According to our reports the unit installed easily and worked quite well. That said, it's our feeling that the best insurance policy is to back up everything on your computer (both data and programs). That's why we like the tape storage medium.

Pacific Business News - Monday May 18, 1998

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