Clickfree The Effortless Backup Solution

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1 Reprint from May 2009 Clickfree The Effortless Backup Solution By Joel P. Bruckenstein One of the fundamental rules of computing is: Back up your data. To that fundamental rule we, at T3 add a few more: Back up often, and back up to multiple media. How well are readers following these rules? The evidence suggests that, overall, advisors are doing a much better job of backing up their data than they did just a few short years ago. Part of the impetus for improved backup has been the numerous man-made and natural disasters that have befallen our nation over the last decade. In addition, regulatory requirements have made backups essential, at least with regard to our business records. That doesn t mean that all financial advisors have perfected the backup process. We still hear regular reports of firms that have lost data. If backups existed, they were either out of date, or they did not function properly. In some cases, functional backups existed, but there were gaps in the data, so the recovery process was incomplete. Beyond the desktop and server in your office, there is often other data you d like to protect, but perhaps you re more lax in doing so. This might include data on your laptop, data on home computers, and data on computers in vacation homes. For those of you who have individual laptop computers or individual computers in the office or elsewhere, using an automated online backup provider is a good strategy, and one that we certainly recommend. We ve reviewed online providers of backup solutions in the past, and we plan to update that work at some point in the future. A single backup solution, however, is insufficient. We think everyone should have at least two sets of backups, and that they should be backing up to two different media. For individual computers, be they desktops or laptops for business or home use, an external hard drive is an excellent alternative backup. There is a wide variety of external drives out there for backing up today, with a wide range of features. In the coming months, I hope to examine a number of different solutions, but for this month, I decided to concentrate on what, after hard drive integrity, may be the single most important hard drive variable: convenience. Why convenience? Because many surveys show that computer users, when asked why they do not back up more often, cite inconvenience as their excuse. If you happen to be one of those computer users who

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3 3 does not back up regularly because it is inconvenient, then one of the two products from Storage Appliance Corp. that we re about to discuss, the Clickfree Transformer or the Clickfree Backup Drive may be perfect for you. Clickfree Transformer The Clickfree Transformer, which lists for $59.99, is a small technological wonder. It makes backing up your PC as easy as plugging a USB cable into your computer. That s right; the Clickfree Transformer is a cable that measures about nine inches. At one end is a standard USB connector, which you plug into your computer. At the other end is a receptacle that resembles some USB keys I ve seen. Here, you can connect just about any external hard drive to create an automated backup machine that is compatible with Windows VISTA, Windows XP and Windows 2000 operating systems (if you have a 64-bit version of Windows VISTA, you may be prompted to download an update to the original Clickfree software). Once the Transformer cable is attached to your PC and the hard drive is attached to the cable, the Clickfree backup process should start within a minute or so. The first step (see graphic below) simply informs you that the process is about to start. If you are satisfied trying the default settings first, there is nothing at all to do here. Since the Clickfree software is capable of identifying and backing up over 400 common file types from common locations, many users will be OK with the default settings. If you are an advanced user, have file types that you are afraid the software may not recognize, or have files stored in nonstandard locations, you can click on the options button. This takes you to the options screen. There you can, among other things, specify file extensions that you want the software to back up (see graphic on next page). Other options allow you to reset the backup device, download software upgrades and perform some other maintenance tasks.

4 4 Once you have established the files that you want to back up or accepted the default choices, the Clickfree software will automatically scan the specified locations for all default file types plus others that you have instructed it to back up. As it locates the files, it creates a list of files that are to be backed up. This Step 2 screen is illustrated below.

5 5 The first time Clickfree performs a backup, it performs a full backup. After this initial backup has taken place, Clickfree will identify those files that have been added or edited and it will only back up the changes. Please note that this is an unsynchronized, incremental backup, so if you delete a file from your computer, it will not automatically be deleted from the Clickfree backup. Once Clickfree has identified all files that meet the parameters you (or the default settings) have established, it begins the backup (Step 3). Once the backup has been completed, a summary screen displays the results (see graphic below). That s all there is to it! Although Clickfree is as simple as can be, in order for it to be effective you have to remember to plug it in regularly. To help remind you, Clickfree offers to install a little reminder widget after the initial backup. This widget shows when you last backed up, so you ll know when you need to update your backup files. The advantage of the Clickfree Transformer should be readily apparent. First, it is about the easiest backup system I ve ever seen. Assuming that the default settings work for you, there is really nothing to do except plug the cable into your PC and then plug an external hard drive into the Transformer cable. The other really nice aspect of the Transformer cable is that it allows you to repurpose an older external hard drive that may be operating with obsolete or less userfriendly software. In addition, this device allows you to back up multiple computers to a single hard drive provided that the hard drive has enough free disk space. Restoring files is nearly as simple as backing them up. We ll go over this in our discussion of Clickfree s other product line.

6 6 If you are relatively tech savvy and you are totally comfortable with your backup procedures, the Clickfree Transformer will probably not appeal to you; however, if you already have an external hard drive and you d like to simplify the backup process, or if you d like to give someone the gift of truly effortless backups, the Clickfree Transformer is just what you need. Clickfree Portable Backup Drive If you are in the market for an external hard drive, you may want to consider the Clickfree Backup drive or the Clickfree Portable Backup Drive. The portable backup drives are available in the following sizes: 120GB, 160GB, 250GB, 320GB, and 500GB. All portable drives are compatible with Windows VISTA, Windows XP and Windows All new 250GB, 320GB and 500GB portable drives are compatible with the Apple Mac O/S X 10.5 or later, as well. I recently tested the 250GB Clickfree portable drive, pictured below. This model sells for $ on the Clickfree website, but you can purchase it for $89.99 at Amazon.com. The device measures 4.52" x 0.67" x 2.9 and it weighs about 12 ounces, so it is convenient to carry around with you. The Clickfree portable hard drive functions in much the same way that a hard drive connected to the Clickfree transformer does. You plug it in and it automatically identifies files, which it then backs up. The device is designed to work solely off the power supplied through the USB cable, so in many cases, a single USB connection is sufficient to run the device. If the USB port does not put out sufficient power, the cable supplied with the device offers a second USB plug, so you can plug the cable into two USB ports for additional power. If that arrangement does not work, or if you do not have two USB ports available, you can plug a DC 5V jack into the drive. The product does not include a DC 5V cable, but you should be able to purchase one for a reasonable price if you need one. When used as a consumer backup device, the odds are that the drive will automatically identify and back up all the files that a user will want it to. When used by financial advisors, it may be necessary to specify some locations and file types for backup that the default setting misses, but this is easily done through the intuitive user interface. Restoring data with the Clickfree drive, or with the Transformer, is almost as easy as backing data up: You just plug in the drive and hit the Restore button. When Clickfree restore runs without you changing any options, it restores all of the content that was backed up and puts it in the same folders on your computer that it was backed up from. If you have files on the computer with the same name as the files being restored, the restored files replace files of the same name in the same location, but only after asking your permission. Of course, you can click the options button, which allows you to select other restore options. For example, you can choose to have the files restored to another location on your computer s hard drive. In this case, your existing files will not be overwritten assuming the location you specified does not already contain files with identical names. If there is a file on the computer with the same name, you have to option to keep both files, do nothing (keep the original on the computer you are restoring to), or replace the file on the computer with the one on

7 7 the external hard drive. You can also choose to manually select the file or files you want restored and instruct the device where you want the restored files to go. When you restore files to their original location, the final screen you see is the Restore Complete screen. Here, before you leave the screen, you are given an option to undo the restore in case you suddenly realize that you have mistakenly overwritten files. Once you leave this screen, the option to automatically undo is no longer available to you, so it is a good idea to browse through your hard drive and make sure everything is in order before you exit from the final screen. Just to repeat, the undo restore option is only available when you restore files to their original location. If you save them to another location there is no automatic undo option. If you restore files to a location other than their original location, Clickfree puts an icon on your desktop so that you can easily find the restored content. Since Clickfree offers sufficient restore flexibility, it can be used to transport files from an old computer to a new one, provide that you purchase a hard drive with sufficient capacity to back up all of your data files. It should be noted that you will have to install your programs on the new computer because Clickfree only backs up the data files, but if your old system is more than a couple of years old, you probably would not want to do it any other way, so this is an additional benefit of owning a Clickfree drive. In addition to backing up and restoring files, the Clickfree system includes utilities that make it convenient to view files you ve backed up, search through them, files or photos, and even post pictures to some popular social networking sites. The drive can be password-protected to prevent unauthorized us. Password protection is sufficient to stop the casual snoop from accessing your files, and if you use a strong password, you can make it difficult for a thief. But even a strong password is not as secure as encrypting your hard drive. If you do use a strong password, and you subsequently forget it, there is no way to recover it. You will not be able to access your backed up data. Your only option will be to reset the hard drive. Doing so will allow you to continue using the drive, but it will erase all of the contents of the drive. Overall, my experience with the Clickfree Transformer and the Clickfree Portable Backup Drive could not have been more pleasant. The products are just about idiotproof and they are a pleasure to use. These drives are great for home use and small business use, particularly if you value ease of use above all else. For tech savvy users who want the highest level of security and the maximum amount of control over how and where files get backed up, there are probably better choices, but I still see instances regularly of folks who don t back up as often as they should, as well as folks who think they are backing up all of their files when in fact they are not. If you, or someone you know is backup challenged, the Clickfree Transformer or a Clickfree Hard Drive are excellent investments.

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