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    Simplicity of Clickfree data backup makes it a good bet for small businesses

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2008 First published in Business in Vancouver October 28-November 3, 2008; issue 992

    High Tech Office column:

    The best protection we can have from computer disaster – whether from theft, virus infection, hard drive crash or more – is an up-to-date backup.

    But Harris Research reports that only 4% of consumers regularly back up their data. Small businesses probably do. But even if you work for an organization with an IT department performing regular backups across the network, is the data on your laptop or home computer backed up?

    Toronto-based Storage Appliance Corp. has a series of products that it claims are the easiest-to-use backup systems available. Its Clickfree portable hard drives and recordable DVD discs have backup software built-in that automatically starts up as soon as the drive is plugged in or the disc is inserted into a computer’s DVD drive.

    I tried out a Clickfree HD801 160 gigabyte external hard drive ($160 – – there’s also a $130 HD701 120 gigabyte model). About the size of a pack of cigarettes, it’s powered right from the computer’s USB port – no AC adapter needed.

    As promised, an easy-to-use backup program starts up a few seconds after plugging it in – there’s no need to first install software onto your computer. A single click is all that’s needed to start backing up, though it may be worthwhile to first click on the options button. That shows the default settings to scan your computer for photos, music, e-mail, office-type files (text, spreadsheets, presentations), graphics files, videos, website favourites and more. You can customize the defaults and manually add or subtract files or folders to back up or add custom file types.

    Like other backup options, the first time it runs, it takes a while. I left it running overnight, so I don’t know how long it took, but when I got back to work, it reported that it had backed up 6,351 items totalling 12,344 megabytes. Subsequently, it was much faster, as it backs up only new or changed files. Backed up files are stored in their original format, so you can access files manually or use the Clickfree software to restore backed up files.

    The Clickfree software restores data files to a new location on your hard drive. You will need to manually put them back into their default locations and import e-mail back into Outlook or other e-mail software.

    Space permitting, a single external drive could be used to back up multiple computers, making this a potentially useful option for a small business or workgroup. It could also be a relatively pain-free way to move user-created files from an old computer to a new one.

    Clickfree DVD discs come with ready-to-run software to back up your choice of photos, music or office files. They’re also sold singly or in three-, five- or 10-disc packs. The Clickfree software works only with Windows XP and Vista. Mac versions are promised.

    In its effort to make backup simple, the Clickfree software lacks options common to more sophisticated backup software. For instance, it can’t be set to run on a schedule; if you want daily backups, you need to plug the drive in once a day. And it won’t store multiple copies of frequently changed files.

    If you delete a file from your computer, however, the copy of the deleted file will remain on your Clickfree drive until you manually delete it, making it possible to restore accidentally deleted files.

    These limitations are deliberate. Storage Appliance CEO Bryan MacLeod noted, “Backing up your PC content just got easier than using your toaster or microwave. Along the way we’ve essentially eliminated the risk forever of losing digital content that in many cases is irreplaceable.”

    By creating a product that’s simple enough that busy people may actually use it, Clickfree could just be a backup solution for the people who know they ought to back up their data, but somehow never get around to it. •

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan
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