While many external drives now come with a physical push-button backup option, a new genre of backup devices is emerging: one-touch USB flash drives that combine the convenience of small size with relatively sophisticated backup applications for data protection.
The latest to arrive is the SanDisk Ultra Backup USB Flash Drive, which combines push-button backups with SanDisk's U3 smart-drive technology that allows a user to store Windows PC user preferences, profiles and settings as well as download and launch a limited number of applications from the flash drive.
The Ultra Backup USB Flash Drive comes in 8GB, 16GB, 32GB and 64GB capacities. We tested the 32GB version and found its handy backup features quick and easy to set up. Like other SanDisk USB flash drives, this one has no cap and uses a retractable USB connector that can be drawn back into the body of the drive with the push of the thumb. We love this feature because you no longer have to worry about losing a cap and getting pocket lint in the USB connector.
We are less impressed with the flimsy feel of the SanDisk Ultra Backup drive. We couldn't figure out whether SanDisk used ultra-thin plastic for the case on purpose or if it just got a better deal from the plastic fabricator, but we were taken aback by how light this little device is. We could literally push the side of it in with finger pressure. We also didn't like that the USB connector slide was slippery to the touch and a little difficult to operate.
But beyond the physical aspects of the SanDisk Ultra Backup, we did like its ease of use and backup functions.
The SanDisk Ultra Backup flash drive's U3 chip, manufactured by U3, is compatible with Skype for VoIP, Trillian for instant messaging and Mozilla's Firefox Internet browser - meaning that all three can be launched directly from drive itself. (SanDisk rival Lexar offers a similar application launch technology in USB drives that use its PowerToGo firmware.)
The SanDisk Ultra Backup also offers custom applications with the U3 technology for download, including YouSendIt, which allows users to send files as large as 100MB over a secure connection from any computer to any email address without installing anything. If there's a network interruption, the YouSendIt U3 Application restarts a file upload where it left off once connectivity is re-established.
Set up is easy and takes under a minute. After okaying the licence agreement, you click "Next" to get to an options screen that allows you to select the files you want to back up. You can select "All files" or individual ones. By clicking on "Advanced Settings" you can select specific folders to back up by clicking on the Files tab. The Settings tab allows you to configure back-ups based on frequency (from every day to every 30 days), by date or by file size. You can back up as many as 10 versions of a file.
Under the U3 menu screen you'll find a list of any U3-enabled programs that you've downloaded as well as several management menu items, including add/delete programs, drive settings, help/support options, and the security setup menu for enabling encryption and setting up your password. You'll also find the SanDisk Backup application, which enables the "one-touch" back-up feature on the drive.
Each time it's pressed, the one-touch button backs up all your pre-selected files and folders.
While the back-up settings are self-explanatory, we liked the help screen; it's automatically populated with information about backup settings as you mouse over the icons. If you're not familiar with backup options, this will be a handy tool.