Two Backup Appliances Score Big

Seagate 160-Gbyte External Hard Drive

Seagate's External Hard Drive bundled with easy-to-use backup software is an ideal solution for small businesses. The external hard drive features both USB 2.0 and FireWire inputs and is backward-compatible with USB 1.1. The 160-Gbyte unit costs $250.

Seagate's external hard drive measures only 6 1/2 x 7 1/8 x 2 1/4 inches and weighs less than 3 pounds.

The hard drive was tested on a notebook with USB 2.0 ports and Windows XP and didn't require any drivers to be loaded, as they are loaded automatically when XP sees the drive. Other operating systems will require drivers to be installed from CD.

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But even with Windows XP, the backup software must still be installed from CD. Note that the FireWire cable included with the drive has full-size connectors, while most new notebooks feature a miniature FireWire connector.

Seagate's BounceBack Express software is quite easy to use. When the software is first run, a backup is made of the entire drive, but after that only changed files are backed up. Users simply have to press a button on the drive to run a backup. The software also allows for scheduled backups.

When engineers tested this unit, the software indicated that the initial 11.5-Gbyte backup would take about 40 minutes, but it actually took only 21 minutes. After modifying one file and requesting another backup, the procedure took less than a minute.

Seagate has had a partner program since 1999, and members of the program can earn a rebate of up to $1.50 on certain drives. The external hard drive is currently sold through distributors and prequalified retail outlets. Premier Partners receive full support from Seagate channel sales reps and are listed in Seagate's online Dealer Locator. Other benefits include special offers on select products and rapid replacement of select drives.

All solution providers pay the same price for the product and can set their own retail price. A dedicated solution provider Web site provides online return merchandise authorization, technical support, customizable e-mail communications, sales guides, product information and more.

Western Digital Media Center

Western Digital's Media Center is an external hard drive of 160 Gbytes, 200 Gbytes or 250 Gbytes with both USB 2.0 and FireWire inputs. It also has a built-in USB 2.0 hub, a USB 2.0 port on the front and a media reader that can read multiple types of media. It costs $399.

The Media Center is compatible with Windows 98 SE, ME, 2000 and XP or Mac OS 9.2.2 or later. Western Digital recommends installing the software first and then connecting the drive to the computer.

The Dantz Retrospect Express software bundled with the Media Center includes a setup wizard to schedule automatic backups, but users can also back up data at the touch of a button. As with Seagate, the FireWire cable bundled with the drive has full-size connectors, while most new notebooks feature the miniature FireWire connector.

Engineers tested this unit with the same notebook and data set used with the Seagate drive. The initial backup took about 30 minutes. After modifying a single file and requesting another backup, the procedure took a couple of minutes.

In existence for 10 years, Western Digital's three-tiered channel program is based on reseller type and sales volume. Benefits include partner promotions, rebates and rapid response technical support. An online RMA service is also offered.