Freeagent_Pro Do you have users in your organizations who never logon to the corporate network with their laptops? In such cases, you have to make sure that they backup their laptops at home. I tried one solution with my own laptop and I am quite content with it. I connected the external hard drive Seagate Freeagent Pro via eSATA to my laptop. As backup software for my files, I used Autobackup which comes with Freegent Pro. To backup the whole computer, I used Windows Vista’s Backup and Restore Center.

Freeagent is available in three sizes: 320GB, 500GB and 750GB. I opted for the biggest drive because I like to keep old backups as long as possible. Amazon offers it for less than $200. You can connect the drive through USB or eSATA. For the latter you need an eSATA card adapter. I think, it is worth the extra 30 bucks because it is much faster. USB 2.0 supports up to 480 Mbps and eSATA 3 Gbps. You won’t always reach this speed, though, because there are bottlenecks like drive speed or the performance of your laptop.

AutoBackup Autobackup is a nifty backup tool supporting continuous data protection (CDP). The software detects all changes made to the file system and secures them to your external drive, immediately. You can decide how many different versions of a file you want to keep. To my experience most data losses happen not because of hardware defects, but because of user mistakes. Sometimes one realizes that a file was accidently or deliberately overwritten with wrong data months later. To keep multiple versions of all data files is essential for every backup strategy.

AutoBackup_folder_selections A downside of CDP backup solutions is that they can slow down your computer, significantly if you misconfigured it. Windows and also many applications tend to save data continuously to your hard disk. Usually, it doesn’t make sense to backup this data with a CDP tool. I experimented for some weeks with Autobackup. The best way, I found, is to include your profile path (C:\users\your_profile under Vista and C:\Documents And Settings\your_profile under Windows XP) and then exclude the path used by applications to store their data (C:\user\your_profile\AppData\ under Vista and C:\Dokuments and Settings\your_profile\Application Data under XP).

I recommend keeping an eye on Autobackup in the beginning to see if it secures unnecessary files. If you have Google Desktop installed, you should be very cautious. It crashed my Vista machine every time I logged on because Autobackup tried to backup the index where Google Desktop added data, continuously . If UAC gets on your nerves whenever the Freeagent software launches, I suggest disabling the UAC prompts.

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Backup_and_Restore Center I wouldn’t use Autobackup to backup your system drive. It will not only strain your computer, constantly, I think, it will also be difficult to make use of this backup if your system drive ever fails. If you have Vista on your laptop, I would use the backup tool that comes with the operating system. It can create a complete image of your whole computer. If your system drive fails, you will be able to restore your laptop, easily. Since the image is created while the operating system is online, I would make sure that all applications are closed and I wouldn’t use the computer while the backup is running. In theory, the backup utility should be smart enough to cope with changes made to the hard disk during the backup process. XP also has a Backup Utility that supports backup to hard drives. It is not as smart as Vista’s counterpart, though. Keep your hands off the computer while the backup is running!

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