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Handheld Storage

The amount of data you intend to store will influence your device decision, too. For smaller backups, most laptops and desktop systems include external optical devices that let you burn CD-R/RW or even DVD disks. For the average user, 650 MB of data on a single CD is plenty. This isn't enough capacity for an entire system, however, and makes sense only for individual use. Of the two, a CD-R/RW is more affordable--though DVDs hold up to 4.7 GB of storage, the media is expensive.

Interactive Buyer's Guide

Use our interactive charts to select the right handheld storage options for your needs.

If your need for speed and space is greater than what a CD-R/RW or DVD can offer, an external portable hard disk might be more efficient. Disks of this sort come in a variety of sizes, capacities and costs.

External tape is still an option--but not the best for an individual backup. External tape media is costly, even the smallest tape drive is rather large, and tape is intolerant to dust and dirt.

All of these are mechanical solutions, of course, so you must decide if your users can handle a storage device with moving parts. As for memory-based devices, this market has undergone huge advances. See, for example, our Nov. 25 2003 sneak preview of Forward Solutions' Migo ("Leave Your Laptop at Home,"). USB flash keys, like Sony's MemoryStick technology, are small enough to fit in your pocket. But the media you intend to back up must support the device and have a built-in reader. And if you switch among a laptop, desktop or PDA, you should select a format that is common to your most frequently used devices.

For many external devices, the most common form of connection is the humble USB port. In the small storage realm of USB keys or drives, speed isn't a problem. When you're transferring the entire contents of your hard disk to a backup-attached drive, however, slower Full-Speed USB won't cut the mustard. You need the 480-Mbps goodness of Hi-Speed USB (see "USB by Any Other Name," below).

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