Hardware Backup Solutions
Now that we've checked out the online solutions, let's take a closer look at some of the offline hardware backup solutions which are available. We'll start with the most simple (cheap) of devices and work out way up to the Freedom9 freeStor 4020 NAS.
In the years past, storage technology wasn't as advanced as it is today. You had removable storage backup options such as backing up to tape drives or CD / DVD but these days the amount of storage space available from these types of products is just not enough. I have never been a fan of backing up to CD or DVD as the transfer is not that fast and there is always the chance that the media will get scratched (or lost) and therefore useless. If you've got big bucks to spend, you could invest in a HD-DVD or Blu-ray burner and backup around 50GB per disk but make sure you look after the media in a safe place.
Depending on your backup needs, you might get away with just a pure and simple USB pen drive. Corsair recently announced their 16GB Flash Voyager pen drives, which is one of the biggest capacities from any company that we have seen, so far. This is very portable storage which is safe and secure since you can take it with you but even though 16GB is massive for a pen drive, it might not be enough for everyone. Pen drives use flash (solid state) memory which is very reliable as there are no moving parts and as technology proceeds we will see solid state storage capacities gradually increase and replace the traditional hard drive but for now if you want large amounts of storage space, the good old hard disk drive is your only option.
If you want to backup all of your data or a fair portion of it anyway, you might want to look at an external caddie. There are a lot of these products on the market and each basically performs the same function but just looks different. Buy an extra hard drive and put it inside the caddie and connect by either USB or Firewire and even e.SATA now. While they don't typically offer any forms of automatic backup, they are good if you want to move particular files or folders to the caddie. Once connected to your computer, it will appear in Windows as another drive as if connected internally, so copying to and from it is simple.
Hard drives worst enemy is heat so when you're buying one of these caddies, don't just buy the cheapest one you can find - try and buy one that is made of aluminum and better still, has cooling fans! Thermaltake has their MAX4 e.SATA and USB 2.0 N0003US combo caddie which looks quite good and even allows you to use faster SATA hard drives but just make sure your motherboard has a spare SATA port for it. This thing will cost you around $45 USD, which is quite reasonable, but remember you still need to buy a separate SATA hard drive and it doesn't come with any included automated backup software.
Stepping it up a notch and quite a few more dollars is the Pushbutton Backup external hard drive from Seagate. You can buy these devices from Seagate in capacities from 200GB all the way up to 750GB and are connected to your system by either USB 2.0 or Firewire. Seagate has a similar e.SATA version although it seems to lack the BounceBack Express backup software but you could always buy that separately, I guess.
Once you've installed the included BounceBack Express software by CMS you can use the advanced backup software to create all sorts of backups of your data. You can even backup your complete system and if your system crashed or hard drive dies, you still have a copy of your operating system and settings as the software will back all that up too. You can even synchronize data between multiple computers and hard drives to make sure you always have the most current backup of your data. Being the most advanced backup solution we've checked out so far, it will end up costing you around $350 USD for the 750GB version but that does include the hard drive and the software, so it's not such a bad deal at all.
Now we've finished looking at some of the hardware backup solutions, we're going to take a close look at the star of the show, the freeStor 4020 NAS, which was sent to us from Freedom9. It has all the features of the Seagate Pushbutton Backup but expands on it quite a lot.