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August 2001, Week 2 -- Watch Your Backup

 

 

 

   You would think about enough words had been spent on backups, but we've got a few more.

   Among the often cited choices -- tape, Zip disks, CDs, DVDs, the one  most often overlooked, and maybe the easiest, is the hard drive itself. Hard disk drives, the heart of any computer's storage, have become so cheap and reliable that it makes sense to use them as backups. The process is surprisingly simple.

   For around $80 you can buy a docking frame and a holder that fits almost any 3.5-inch hard drive (the most common size). Install the docking frame in your computer and the holder can slide in and out, taking a new hard drive with it each time. Several companies make such systems but the one we looked at is made by "DataPort" and sold in many configurations. You can do a search on the web to find local vendors, but all the large discount shops seem to sell it.

  Drive Image 4.0

   But what about the hard drives themselves? Well that's the best news of all. A 41-gigabyte drive from Maxtor sells for $150, 20GB drives are less than $90. Prices from other makers are comparable. Either one of those drives is a huge amount of backup storage, and if you fill it up, buy another.

   Software or extra hardware will take care of the rest of the solution. Programs like "Drive Image" ($70) and "Drive Copy" ($50), from PowerQuest www.powerquest.com  can take care of copying your main disk drive to the backup drive. A dozen or more programs, including ones built into Windows, can handle the problem of backing up or transferring files to a backup drive.

 

   For a business dependent on the content of their hard drives -- and most businesses are these days, it's probably best to use a mirror system. This simply sends everything you write to your main drive out to a second drive as well; the two drives carry identical information but one of them is a backup. DupliDisk, from Arco www.arcoide.com, is one of the easiest to install and costs only $250. Seems like a small price to keep your business going if your hard drive crashes.

 

Downloads and caution

 

   You can download some nice utilities and other nifty programs from open databases like zdnet.com and tucows.com, but sometimes there are problems. The problems aren't with the web sites but the programs themselves.

 

   Some programs in the freeware and shareware categories are not well behaved. That means simply that they can and sometimes do interfere with the operation of other programs. Sometimes they interfere with the operating system itself. This doesn't happen a lot but if you download enough programs it's going to happen eventually. If it does, delete the offending program and/or use a program like "Go Back," available from roxio.com for $50; there's a 30-day free trial. Go Back can return the system to an earlier state, anywhere from a few days or weeks ago to just an hour or two ago. In any event, the point is to return it to a state before the offending program or programs were loaded.

 

   "IncrediMail" adds color and animation to your e-mail messages. This was fun, easy and caused no problems other than a slightly slower download for the mail.

 

   "Universal Explorer," is a replacement for Windows Explorer. You can move, copy, paste or delete files directly from within the program and also view and edit most files without having to open the parent program. In other words you can view and edit a Word document without opening Word, something you certainly cannot do in Windows Explorer. You can also use it to do a search of all files and it can both open and create compressed files. A lot of stuff here, free if you are willing to take it with advertising, $50 without.

 

    "DigitalWizard" is free from www.digitalwizard.com. It's made by InstallShield, the company that makes the installation routines for almost every program you ever ran on a PC. "Wizard" solves a problem that annoys many people (including myself) when they download programs, pictures, documents, etc., from the Internet. The problem is finding the downloads. DigitalWizard is a one-click pony: it starts the download and stores all of them in one place. It also keeps a record of when you got them and where they came from. The program can be used as a file manager as well.

 

Internuts

 

-- www.dogsofthedow.com  The thing to sign up for here is the "chart of the day." The "dogs of the Dow" is an investment thesis but you need pay no heed to that, what's interesting is the daily display of charts that illustrate key statistics about the economy. Some are trivial and some are fascinating and revealing. Service is free.

 

-- www.promo.net/pg  The "pg" in the address stand for "Project Gutenberg," one of the most ambitious undertakings ever to start on the Internet. Their object is to have every public domain work in many languages. Tens of thousands of titles are already available.

-- www.unitedhealthalliance.com  Provides forms that can be filled out by your doctor and faxed to a Canadian pharmacy. Object is buying drugs at less than U.S. prices. Click on "Medicine Assist."

-- www.asktooltalk.com  Articles about home improvement and woodworking, reviews of new tools, news of home and garden shows. They provide tips and answer questions.

NOTE: Readers can search more than four years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@oncomp.com or bobschwab@aol.com.

 

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