Best storage at CES 2009

Data storage is a necessary part of the digital lifestyle. The good news: the hardware is getting more stylish and the software easier to use.
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor

Data storage is a necessary part of the digital lifestyle. The good news: the hardware is getting more stylish and the software easier to use.

Backup The best news: Windows backup has improved markedly in the last year. Storage Appliance Corporation's Clickfree line of Windows and Mac backup is the simplest and easiest to use Windows backup I've ever seen.

Simply plug in the Clickfree drive or USB cable and the system automatically starts backing up user files: documents, photos, video, whatever. A single drive will back up as many as 10 Windows machines. Even simpler than BackupKey's lower-cost 1-click system!

I tried their Mac support on the CES show floor. Other than having to reformat the drive to a Mac HFS plus file system and typing in the volume name it worked as advertised. Not as easy or elegant as the built in Mac Time machine, but if you need to back up multiple Macs it would be more cost effective.

The problem with backing up user files is that restore can be a lengthy process. Not a problem for casual users but if you rely on your system for business use a full bootable system disk backup will get you online again in minutes rather than hours.

That is easy on a Mac with either Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper!. It hasn't been so easy on a Windows machine.

That's why I was pleased to see CMS products introduced BounceBack Pro. This $70 download creates bootable backups to external USB drives so if your system drive fails you can start up with everything just like it was when you last backed up.

Set it to backup nightly in you will never lose more than a day's work. I hope to have a more complete review when CMS sends me a review copy.

Solid state disks Third-generation SSD random write performance is reaching acceptable levels. I saw a SanDisk SSD doing 350-400 4k random writes per second. While the power and weight savings are insignificant and the durability still uncertain, at least the awful performance of the first two generations of consumer SSDs appears to be receding into the past.

External hard drives Backup will never be sexy, but a cool slim external drive doesn't hurt. Imation was showing several drives with nifty built-in feet so the drive could be used either horizontally or vertically.

Iomega was showing consumer hard drives in attractive colors and with slip on silicon sleeves for better shock resistance. They were all so showing LifeLine software from new corporate parent, the $14 billion EMC, that adds RAID, backup, active directory support, Bluetooth support, browser based management, CIFS, NFS and FTP protocol support, a print server and useful power management.

The biggest surprise is that no one appears to be following Drobo's lead with a truly easy to use prosumer storage device. CEO Geoff Barrall said they shipped over 40,000 units in 2007, their first full year of operation.

Now that they've added FireWire 800 support it is the only external protected storage array I recommend to storage civilians. For most people RAID systems are more trouble than they're worth.

The Storage Bits take As the Digital Age permeates every day life, the problems with digital storage become more acute. While digital storage, access and protection is nowhere near as automatic and seamless as it should be, the industry is making solid progress getting appropriate tools and products in place for consumers.

Comments welcome, of course. I actually saw most of these products at Storage Visions, a consumer storage industry show just prior to CES. Recommended for consumer storage professionals and companies.

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