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Back up your data - External Hard Disks

External Hard Disks

Home users looking for a great storage solution should definitely consider external hard disks. Housed in an external enclosure, you can quickly connect the drive to another computer without any fuss or bother. In many cases it's simply a case of plug and away you go. Furthermore, they have large capacities up to 2TB (2000MB).

There are three main types of interface for connecting an external hard disk to a PC. USB is the most common interface, with USB 2.0 drives offering real transfer rates of approximately 20 to 30 MB per second. Prices are also very competitive, with a 1TB USB 2.0 drive typically costing about £60.

While USB 2.0 has a faster transfer rate than Firewire 400, in some circumstances Firewire tends to be quicker, in part because this type of interface uses fewer CPU cycles when transactions are occuring. Furthermore, Firewire 800 is also available, offering faster transfers.

If you are backing up large amounts of data it is worth considering eSATA hard disks. They enable a backup to be made up to 4 times quicker than USB 2.0. However, eSATA requires its own power connector, and many desktop motherboards don't have an eSATA connector, requiring a PCI card to be installed in the PC.

The newest interface on the block is USB 3.0. This technology has only just been introduced, and will need a USB3 PCI expresss adaptor added to the PC. Linux was the first operating system to include USB 3.0 support (being introduced with the 2.6.31 kernel back in June 2009). The major benefit of USB 3.0 is that data transfers at approximately 120 MB per second, which is quicker than Firewire and eSATA external disks. If you have a lot of data to backup on a regular basis, and top performance is essential then USB 3.0 represents the way forward. But be prepared to pay a premium for the latest technology, as the drives are significantly more expensive than USB 2.0 drives.

We particular like Buffalo Drivestation and Samsung Story Station external disks. The former comes supplied with Memeo AutoBackup software, the latter with Samsung Auto Backup. However, both software applications are not released for Linux. Fortunately, Linux is blessed with great free backup tools. We have covered the backup scene in our popular 21 of the Best Free Linux Backup Tools feature. For painless imaging of a hard disk, we are particularly fond of Clonezilla, a console based partition or disk clone software similar to Symantec Ghost Corporate. Flyback (Applie's Time Machine for Linux) takes a different approach. With this software, if the machine crashes, the user can simply move the external drive to a new machine and copy the latest backup using any file browser.

An external hard disk is a great all round choice for home backup. However, it does not offer protection in the event of a fire, flood or theft.

Read more > >

Jump ahead:

1. Introduction - Optical Discs
2. External Hard Disks (current page)
3. Network Storage (next page)
4. Online Backup Services
5. Tape Drives
6. Solid State Storage

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Last Updated Sunday, December 13 2009 @ 09:37 AM EST

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