This incarnation of Maxtor’s popular OneTouch family is a standard external USB drive that has been adapted through its software bundle to work as a powerful backup device for small businesses using Windows Small Business Server 2003.

It can also be used for backing up other versions of Windows Server, including 2000, Windows Server 2000, Advanced Server 2000, and Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition, but it is for SME server niche that it is best suited.

We dragged the poor suffering animal out of its box with some trepidation. Just as the review was starting, the company announced that it was going to be taken over by its once bitter rival Seagate. There is, then, no guarantee that what is reviewed here will survive in its current form, though we’d say that it deserves to mainly because there is no obvious equivalent on the market at its keen price point.

Seagate has its own range of external backup drives, but it is at least possible that the OneTouch II Small Business Edition will live on in some form once the Maxtor brand name has been consigned to history (assuming that’s what transpires). As far as we can discover, Seagate doesn’t sell a rival product for this market.

The review unit featured an entry-level 200GB capacity (300Gb after compression), and a 7,200rpm hard disk spin speed. Other than the USB 2.0 interface, the ON/OFF button, and a small fan, the only other distinguishing mark on its all-aluminium body is the “OneTouch” button on the front which can, among other tasks, be used to start the backup procedure manually.

The drive comes with EMC/Dantz Retrospect Express HD Server backup software, the core of its cleverness. The can create rolling restore points, snapshots of data at set points in time. It carries on creating these backups on an unattended or remotely initiated schedule until it runs out of space, at which point it will start overwriting the oldest ones as it starts the cycle anew. Alternatively, it can be set up to overwrite previous backups, as long as the procedure is initiated manually.

One of the more advanced features of Dantz is that is can save “open” files, so everything happening at the moment the backup is made is being copied, and not just “saved” files. Files can be backed up in Retrospect's special compressed format or in a duplicate mode which makes the accessible in their native form.

Client software is supplied to monitor the success of server backups, including receiving emails every time one is carried out, or if a failure occurs for some reason. The drive itself can be password protected using Maxtor's DriveLock.

What you can't do with this package is backup Windows clients – the client software is only for monitoring the server backup and no more – and it's not designed to create bootable disk images for disaster recovery. Both of these will require separate products.

As a way of backing up a Windows server without fuss, this is a well thought-out system. Maxtor has even proposed it as a replacement for tape or DVD backup, because the drive is portable enough to be taken off site for safe-keeping. It would be perfect for a small office where backing up a central server is critical on at least a daily basis. Does it matter that Seagate will soon be calling the shots on Maxtor's products? Probably not. Get one while you can.

OUR VERDICT

The trick is to buy only the backup features you need, and no more - enterprise backup software can be pricey. Getting a cut-down but niche backup system like this is one way to pull it off to your own benefit. Look for good integration between the drive and its supplied software (no bolt-ons thank you), a and simple configuration process. You shouldn't need to load several utilities to manage backups.