Portable Storage: Convenience is the Key

Convenience Storage For Mobile Users

"Convenience storage" is a term that does not (yet) exist, but it hits the mark in identifying an upcoming trend : more and more users don’t really care whether they use one drive brand or another, they just want a storage product that can turn inflexible storage devices into truly convenient devices. Our digital lifestyles generate lots of data that not only has to be stored somewhere, it increasingly has to be backed up, synchronized, encrypted or treated in some special way. Clearly, conventional external or portable hard drives simply don’t cut it any longer. We looked at the latest mobile hard drive products from Buffalo, Fujitsu, Maxtor, Simple Tech and Western Digital to see who created the best solution.

Whether you favor the glossy style of a WD Passport drive, Maxtor’s steel brick appearance or the Pininfarina-finished design of SimpleTech’s product, technically, all portable drives are created equal Compare Prices on Portable Hard Drives. They are all based on a USB 2.0 interface, which imposes a 32 MB/s maximum transfer speed, and they all use comparable hard drives. While there are still more hard drive makers in the 2.5" notebook space than in the 3.5" desktop space, the selection consists of Fujitsu, Hitachi, Samsung, Seagate, Toshiba and Western Digital. Every other external hard drive product has to be based on one of these manufacturer’s drives - either that, or on a fast, Flash-based product, which isn’t really an option for relatively slow USB 2.0 storage. As a consequence, all vendors of 2.5" external storage are limited to today’s 320 GB maximum capacities and to the throughput level just mentioned.

Differentiators among products that apparently are similar can be found mainly in their feature set. Usually, drive vendors bundle their products at least with simple management software to format, password protect or reconfigure the drives. Some approaches go further and may include hardware additions, such as built-in hardware encryption, or a backup button to trigger a backup or synchronization process. Only the additions that add noticeable value with maximum convenience will make a really good product. If add-ons entail performance penalties, or if they are too complex or too difficult to use, they’ll typically not be used very much and hence add cost but without the value.

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  • After 6 hours of "copying" the contents of my C drive using the Safety feature - which indicated that it had copied 260+MB successfully, nothing was written to the drive. This is worse than useless because if I had not checked to see how much space was still available I would not have realized I had no backup to recover from. Seagate Technical support confirmed my observations. Drive was fine, software was useless.