As hard disk capacities increase exponentially so they are being promoted as ideal candidates for backup with ever greater fervour. As a long time player in this market, CMS Products has traditionally offered a comprehensive range of hard disk-based backup solutions for the Macintosh and Windows market. The latest to join this family is the Velocity Series.

Based around Serial ATA drives, CMS claims these offer a threefold increase in performance over the latest USB and FireWire products. To complete the backup picture the drive is bundled with CMS’s BounceBack Professional software which provides a good range of backup and disaster recovery tools. The Velocity Series of internal drives comprises three members with storage capacities ranging from the 80GB of the review system up to 200GB. The Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 drive is fitted in a sturdy metal sled mounted in a 5.25in. cage which proves a single power status LED at the front.

We installed the Velocity drive and BounceBack combo on a dual Xeon 1.7GHz system. To ensure the best performance possible we used an Escalade 8500-4 SATA RAID controller with the drive connected as a single disk JBOD. BounceBack isn’t aimed at server backup so don’t try installing this software on Windows Server 2003, as we found that as soon as it loaded its own I/O driver the system came to a grinding halt. The only way out was to boot into safe mode and uninstall the software. We continued testing under Windows 2000 Professional and encountered no further problems.

In theory the performance claims for the Velocity Series sound good but in practice we found it is no faster than USB 2.0. On first time startup BounceBack scans the system looking for backup drives. After selecting the SATA drive as the destination, a full backup of your C: drive can be taken immediately and the Express option causes the destination drive to be automatically formatted and all data copied across so it is an exact duplicate. The wait is worthwhile as this process creates a bootable drive which can then be used for disaster recovery. On our test system we found the entire format, backup and verify process for one 5GB partition with 2.5GB of data initially took around 45 minutes. Disabling the Norton AntiVirus Auto-Protect on the test system made a huge difference as without this sniffing around each file the same backup was completed in a mere 17 minutes.

Check out CMS’s USB/Firewire backup products if you want to be able to remove your drive without closing the system down. Performance is just as good as we ran a full disaster recovery backup to a USB 2.0 Maxtor external hard disk which was completed in a shade under twenty minutes. The only drawback is for disaster recovery you’ll need a boot floppy that’ll load USB drivers – with SATA you can simply select the drive as a boot option from the BIOS.

Once your first backup has been completed, subsequent runs will be much faster as the software runs a comparison and only copies across new or changed files. Each time a scheduled job is due to run it launches the backup utility and checks the drives for changes which on our test system only took a couple of minutes. Automatic backup is handled by an integral scheduler and a small background utility keeps a close on eye on the proceedings.

BounceBack provides plenty of useful backup tools and the QuickRestore feature makes light work of retrieving files. It’s worth noting that all files are copied in native format so you can view the contents of the backup drive and copy files using Windows Explorer. The revisioning feature could prove useful as it as it allows you to keep different versions of files on the backup drive and you can also run bi-directional folder synchronization to automatically update your home and work systems.

Hard disks have a big cost advantage over tape drives making them a tempting alternative for backup. Portability is not one of their strengths but if you take care when handling your backup drives then the Velocity Series is a slick solution that is well worth considering.

OUR VERDICT

Hard disks are undoubtedly a more cost-effective backup alternative to tape but you must take sensible handling precautions if you’re using them for off-site storage, as they are far less robust than tape. That said, this solution makes light work of backing up a single system and does provide very good disaster recovery tools.