Data Management


SimpleTech Lends a Dash of Class to Portable Storage

Portable hard disk drives aren’t the sexiest computer peripherals in the world. They’re pretty much a small box with an LED or two on them.

Most disk makers have been content staying inside that box when they design their drives, but not SimpleTech.

The company, which was purchased in February by Fabrik, a San Mateo, Calif., provider of online storage services, hired an Italian design firm, Pininfarina, of Ferrari fame, to design its new line of SimpleDrivePS drives.

The result is a handsome and elegant storage vehicle. Pinnifarina curved the lines of the drive just enough to make it interesting to the eye without disturbing its function.

Defies Convention

Eminently portable at a lightweight 5.9 ounces and compact at 4.91 by 3.13 by 0.8 inches, the drive defies convention by coming in a variety of colors — silver, charcoal, pearl and red.

Five capacities of the unit are available from 60 GB to 250 GB, which, according to the price list at the SimpleTech Web site, sell from US$99 to $229.99. A quick peek at Best Buy’s site revealed the 250 GB model selling for $99, a real steal while it lasts.

SimpleTech touts the drive as a plug-and-play device, and there’s no hype in that claim. I simply connected my review unit to a USB port on my PC and the drive was ready to go.

USB Powered

Although the product has a socket for an AC adapter, it’s designed to draw its power from the USB port of a computer.

The USB cable included with the device has two connectors. If the unit can’t get enough power from its prime connector, which may occur with some notebook computers, you can plug in the second connector. Between the two of them, you should be able to slake the drive’s thirst for juice.

No AC adapter is included with the unit.

Mac Modifications

The device works with both Macs and PCs, but some customization is necessary to get it to work with an Apple machine.

At the factory, the drive is formatted as an NTFS volume, which works fine with a PC, but not so well with a Mac, which can read NTFS volumes, but can’t write to them.

To enable the drive to work with both platforms, you need to reformat it in an older format, FAT.

If you’re just using the drive with a Mac, you may want reformat the drive as a Mac OS Standard or Mac OS Extended volume. If you do that, though, you won’t be able to use the drive with computers operating under Microsoft Windows.

The drive supports both USB 2.0 and 1.1. The transfer rate for USB 2.0 is 480 megabits per second and for 1.1, 12 megabits per second.

Good Backup Software

Along with the drive, SimpleTech includes its storage software, StorageSync.

The application is simple and intuitive to use. You can customize its settings.

For example, you can choose to compress your backup into multiple archive files or eschew compression.

I avoid compression when I can. I hate looking at a backup and seeing archive files that have names that are pure gibberish. Without compression, files in the backup mirror the structure and names they had on their source drive.

If you do compress your backup, you can control the degree of compression, from low to high.

Style and Economy

You can also store multiple revisions of files you backup and encrypt your backup. Three degrees of encryption are offered by the program: AES 128, 192 and 256.

Other custom settings let you choose how files are restored — replace all files or just old ones — and set reminders for backups.

In addition to backing up and restoring files, the software has a synchronization feature, too. It allows you to sync folders between drives.

With its good looks, portability and price, the SimpleDrivePS is not only a stylish way to protect your data, but an affordable one, too.

John Mello is a freelance business and technology writer who can be reached at [email protected].

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