It is tempting to buy an external backup drive on the basis of connectivity and storage capacity for a set price. The pitfall of this approach it is that the drive itself is only half the story in any backup situation – it’s the backup utility that will save you in your hour of need.

Don’t get bedazzled by a sleek-looking backup drive unless that’s all you want. What will prove a backup drive‘s real worth is the software you end up using at the business end.

This particular Buffalo drive gives you a range of storage capacities from 120Gb to 400Gb, which puts it squarely in the workstation backup category if you can tolerate USB 2.0. There is nothing unusual about it except perhaps for the neat power-on feature whereby the drive turns on and off with the PC it is attached to.

It’s also a fanless design, which has the benefit of reducing its bulk a bit and keeping noise to a minimum, and can be put into a power-saving mode on a pre-defined schedule, possibly at night when the drive is not being used.

The Windows backup software supplied is the same basic client utility that ships with most of the company’s backup devices. In addition to scheduling, backups can be ZIP compressed or not (and remain in an accessible format as files), and verification can be turned on for error checking while backups are made. We couldn’t see any way to make an incremental backup, which immediately extends the time factor if you’re backing up a large directory by several times.

A small bonus is that customers can download an encryption utility to safeguard data from the Buffalo website. This works across the entire drive, or just selected files or directories. The software needs to be installed on any PC using the encrypted files, so it's only for standalone use.

All in all, then, the UK version of this product is a bit limited in terms of backup thanks to the cut-down nature of the software. It is a cheap product and plenty of rivals at this price point ship with nothing at all, so it’s perhaps not fair to be too hard on Buffalo for this. But without a decent backup program you’ll either need to have something already or plan to buy it in as an extra.

OUR VERDICT

Buy a decent backup program for workstation backup, preferably one with email alerts, logging, and incremental backup. Some will cover multiple PCs. And don?t use the Windows copy function for more than a handful of files.