Backups – Introduction
Backups – Data Backups vs. Drive Images
Backups – External Hard Drives
Backups – Software for Data Backups
Backups – Online Backups
Backups – Image-Based Backups
Backups – Windows Home Server
Backups – Small Business Server
Backups – Recommendations

There was an announcement today of a new backup product that caught my eye. Seagate is introducing an external hard drive with specialized software for backups that looks very attractive.

seagatereplicaSeagate Replica is intended to be as simple as possible, literally requiring nothing more than plugging it into a USB port and clicking OK on a license agreement. A bit of software is installed, a new icon appears by the clock, and the drive begins backing up your computer – no fuss, no decisions.

Replica begins by creating an image of your computer’s hard drive, then starts backing up changed files continuously, every time a file is changed. If the drive is disconnected for a while, it does an incremental backup when it’s reconnected.

There is a file browser intended to be similar to Apple’s Time Machine; Replica keeps multiple versions of files so you can pick and choose from earlier versions of files to restore. (Vista Business already has a similar capability but Microsoft did nothing to make it visible or easy to use, letting Apple take all the credit for Time Machine. If you’re running Vista Business or Ultimate, open up your Documents folder and right-click a document or folder, then click on Properties. Take a look at the Previous Versions tab. You might be surprised. It ought to be one of the most powerful features of Vista but it’s completely hidden.) The Seagate Replica software runs on any version of Windows XP or Vista.

And like other image-based backup software, you can replace a crashed hard drive on your computer with a new one, boot from the Replica CD, and restore your computer from the image within a few minutes. (There’s no indication that it can do a hardware independent restore to a different PC; my guess is that it cannot. That’s a hard thing to do.)

Replica is scheduled to ship in May. A 250Gb drive will be $129; a 500Gb drive will be $199. The larger drive can be used with more than one PC but backups don’t happen across the network – using it with multiple computers requires carrying the drive around and plugging in the USB cable at each one. The drive does backups, nothing else – you can’t copy files manually onto the drive.

The prices seem fair – quite a bit more expensive than a comparable drive would be without the special software, but worthwhile if the software performs as advertised and backups get done that otherwise might not happen. Really, that’s worth any price!

This is a kind of post that I normally shy away from – rewriting a press release before anyone has any hands-on experience with a new device. There’s always the possibility that Replica will have bugs or problems that aren’t apparent yet. I’m optimistic – a few people have been using it in the real world and seem happy, and the technology behind it is nothing new. Seagate has really just written a nice front-end to the same volume shadow copy service that has been around for years. I thought Microsoft would have done this before now, to be honest.

This looks good! I’d encourage you to look at the comments on the usual online shopping sites next month after it’s released and consider buying it for your individual PCs if no crippling problems emerge.

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