Disasters are out there waiting to strike your computer system. It could be a virus, a fire or, more likely, a hard-drive crash that leaves you high and dry while clients look elsewhere. With so many low-cost backup systems on the market, a few hundred dollars is all it costs to ensure that when disaster strikes, your system is up and running again as soon as possible.
The options for backing up your computer system are as varied as your individual needs. Among them: removable cartridge drives, tape drives, second hard drives, and CD-recordable (CD-R) and CD-rewriteable (CD-RW) drives.
The removable cartridge drive is now the most popular add-on device for PCs. A drive from Iomega or SyQuest costs about $200 and allows you to store data off-site, archive files, open up disk space on your hard drive and even back up your entire system.
A tape drive offers more backup capacity and allows for unattended backups. Travan quarter-inch cartridges typically hold up to 2GB of uncompressed data and can cost less than a penny per megabyte. If you have a large hard drive with a sizable database or need to back up a small network, a tape-drive system may work best for you. Quarter-inch cartridges start at $200; the biggest, best tape drive, the digital linear, will set you back $2,000 or more but holds more than 20GB--ideal for large databases.
A second hard drive is another inexpensive backup option. You can't store these drives off-site, but capacities are excellent, speeds are fast, and they're relatively easy to install.
CD-R drives are great for permanent archiving and can be read by virtually any PC with CD-ROM capabilities, which means these drives can double as a tool for creating marketing materials or audio CDs. The drawback is that inexpensive CDs ($2) can only be recorded on once. With CD-RW drives, however, disks (about $14) can be re-recorded on up to 1,000 times.
Model: Hewlett-Packard HP Colorado
Phone: (800) 826-4111
Type of backup: tape drive
Warranty: two years
Capacity: 2.5GB, up to 5GB compressed
List price: $189
With a low price, ease of use and simple installation, Hewlett-Packard's HP Colorado tape drive can easily hold the capacity of most PCs on a single data cartridge. Included with the 5GB Colorado is Install Assistant software, which guides you as you install your internal drive. A great timesaver in the event of disaster, Colorado Backup Windows 95 software allows you to fully restore your hard drive without reinstalling Windows 95.
Model: Seagate Tape Stor
Phone: (800) 468-3472
Type of backup: tape drive
Warranty: two years
List price: $269
A high-capacity, multigigabyte system geared for workstations and servers with a moderate amount to back up, Seagate's Tape Stor tape drive is a simple plug-and-play device. The Backup Exec software works with OS/2, Windows 3.1 and later, Windows NT, Netware, and UNIX. The Tape Stor can store a speedy 60MB per minute in compressed mode and has the standard SCSI interface. Tape Stor costs only a few cents per megabyte--not a bad investment.
Model: SyQuest SparQ
Phone: (510) 226-4000
Type of backup: removable cartridge drive
Warranty: one year for drive, five years for cartridges
Capacity: 1GB per cartridge
List price: $199 for drive, $39 per cartridge ($99 for a three-pack)
SyQuest is giving Iomega a run for its money with its SparQ removable cartridge drive. Self-installing drivers and tons of extra software make SparQ a valuable system. It comes with McAffee WebScan, which detects viruses before they're downloaded; Serif's Draw Plus 3.0, with SparQ cartridge label template; WebVCR, an offline browser; and NovaDisk SE, which provides backup and compression utilities. The sky's the limit for the applications for these cartridges: You can back up and archive files; download large Internet files; create personal hard drives; or design animation, audio and video sequences for multimedia presentations.
Model: Iomega Zip
Phone: (800) MY-STUFF
Type of backup: external removable cartridge drive
Warranty: one year for drive, limited lifetime for cartridges
List price: $149.95 for drive, $12.99 for individual cartridges
Zip, Jaz, Ditto, Buz, Clik! One of the best parts of owning an Iomega product is saying the names. The Zip external removable cartridge drive is a lifesaver for PC and Mac users who work with Web files, graphics or anything multimedia.
The cartridges, which hold 70 times as much as a floppy, are a fairly inexpensive backup solution, especially now that there's a cheap ($99) internal drive model on the market. Iomega's Zip has become an optional feature in many desktop and laptop computers. The bundled Zip Tools software helps you initialize, write-protect and format disks as well as test and repair them. Also included is 1-Step Backup software and RecordIt software.
Model: Quantum Fireball EL
Phone: (408) 894-4000
Type of backup: hard drive
Warranty: three years
List price: $199
A great way to back up is by getting more of what you already have. At a 12 percent faster rate than the previous generation, Quantum's Fireball EL hard drive lives up to its name. Its internal data rate is now 162 megabits (Mb) per second, with an added 512 kilobyte (KB) buffer that's twice as large as that of competitive drives. While you don't get the portability of a cartridge-based drive to back up your data off-site, you do get more memory for your buck.
Model: Smart and Friendly CD-RW 426 Deluxe
Phone: (800) 959-7001
Type of backup: internal rewriteable CD-ROM drive
Warranty: one year
Capacity: 650MB per CD
List price: $699
If you're going to go all the way, the Smart and Friendly CD-RW 426 Deluxe is the way to go. Its bundled software includes MediaPath's Media Agent for CDs, so you can access CD-ROM drives across a network; MGI PhotoSuite SE, an image-editing package; Macromedia's Backstage Designer Plus, for multimedia applications; and Adaptec's Direct CD, for copying data to and from CD-Rs and CD-RWs just as you would with a floppy disk. Also included are templates for CorelDraw, Illustrator, Microsoft Publisher and PageMaker. Before plunking down such a hefty chunk of change, however, be sure you need all the extras.