Editors' note: This blog was originally posted on March 30, 2012, and updated on March 29, 2013, to update the list of devices and add relevant information.
This last Sunday of March is World Backup Day, and you'll see a lot of storage/backup vendors taking this occasion to pitch their products. I am about to do a similar thing, but from a very different point of view: yours.
This is because none of the existing vendors goes as far as guaranteeing the integrity of storage on the products. At most, a vendor would give you a new product to replace the broken one, or in the currently unique case of IoSafe, offer to pay up to a certain amount toward data recovery. I, on the other hand, promise, if not guarantee, that if you follow my advice, your data will be safe.
The truth is that backing up is a personal matter that needs to be taken care of on a regular basis -- even daily, if possible. The key thing is to store copies of data in multiple places and never rely on just one medium for your important, irreplaceable data.
Note that commercial movies, music, and other purchasable digital content are replaceable. It's great that you can back everything up, but most of the time, the personal information that you really need to safeguard takes up very little storage space.
The second thing to note is that even a brand-new hard drive can die at any time, without any warning. You can always lose your portable drive, and your online storage service can go out of business all of sudden. You need to act when everything is in working order -- which can give you a false sense of safety -- because otherwise, it's just too late. And let me say this once more time: never use just one medium to keep your important, irreplaceable data.
Up-to-date backups of your data are like insurance; you need it and at the same time hope to never have to resort to it. There are many ways to keep your data safe and you can learn more about you can learn more about them here.
But the easiest way to make backups is using external hard drives, which are popular, affordable, and, for some, can easily be carried on the go. Even better: you only have to pay for them once. Here are my current top choices, in no particular order, for the external hard drives that are great ways to keep your data safe. If you're not backing up your data yet, you should get at least one of these today.
Seagate Backup Plus
The Backup Plus (available in 500GB, 750GB, and 1TB capacities) is the latest portable hard drive from Seagate, replacing the company's popular GoFlex line, which was first introduced back in 2001 and is known for being extremely flexible. Though the name has changed, the new product family retains the flexibility of the previous design; in fact, new Backup Plus drives work with the old GoFlex adapters. However, they now offer a new, easy backup approach, not just for local storage but also for your social-media personal data. The drive can also be used with Seagate's Universal Storage Module (USM) slot to work as a offsite backup for certain computer or NAS server, such as the Seagate Business Storage NAS.
The Backup Plus drives also come in many colors to fit your tastes. In fact, the color of the backup software's interface actually changes based on the color of the drive. This isn't a huge deal, but it's definitely fun and helps you know which drive you're working with. Read the full review of the Seagate Backup Plus.
Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt
The Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt is the first portable drive on the market that comes with both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0, making it a great backup solution for Mac laptop. The drive offered stellar performance, especially when used with Thunderbolt, and this means your Mac can be backed up in just a matter of minutes or seconds. The drive comes with a USB 3.0 and a Thunderbolt cable that helps make it one of the most affordable Thunderbolt-based portable drive on the market. Read the full review of the Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt.
WD 2TB My Passport
Western Digital's 2TB My Passport is the world's first portable drive that offers 2TB of storage space. This is about as large as you can get from a 2.5-inch-based external hard drive given the current perpendicular recording technology. Despite this top capacity, the drive is very compact and is bus-powered. All you need is the included standard Micro-USB 3.0 cable for it to work. (The drive works with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0.)
The new My Passport offered great performance in my testing and doesn't cost too much, either, at just around $150. It also comes in 1TB, 750GB, and 500GB versions that cost less accordingly. As an alternative to the new My Passport, you can also check out Seagate's GoFlex Portable series.
For backup purposes, the drive is preloaded with WD Backup software that makes backing up data a very easy job for Windows. For Mac, you can just reformat it into HFS+ and use Time Machine with it. Read the full review of the WD 2TB My Passport.
Silicon Power's Armor A80
and Armor A15 drives
This pair of portable drives from Silicon Power take storage security up a notch with their rugged chassis, which can handle shocks and drops from around 4 feet while moving. The Armor A80 is waterproof down to a depth of 3 feet, while the Armor A15 comes with a silica gel chassis to protect the internal drive from vibration. Other than that, both offered superfast performance in my tests and are very similar.
The drives are 2.5-inch-based and offers up to 1TB of storage that cost just $90 each and either will make a great backup drive for people who travel a lot or work in rough environments. Read the full reviews of the Silicon Power Armor A80 and the Armor A15.
G-Technology G-Drive Slim
The G-Technology G-Drive Slim is like a portable drive made specifically for MacBook Air. The drive is superslim, good looking, and offers 500GB, which is a much-needed extra storage space for the Air's limited internal drive. The drive supports USB 3.0 and was very fast in my testing. It also works with USB 2.0. Other than extending the notebook's storage space, it'll also make a great Time Machine-based backup solution. Read the full review of the G-Technology G-Drive Slim.
IoSafe Solo G3
The IoSafe Solo G3 is the ultimate backup drive that can satisfy even people who are worried about their data safety to the point of paranoia. The drive is huge and weighs about 15 pounds. This is because of the multiple layers of protective material that keep the internal hard drive safe from extreme heat (up to 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes). The drive is also able to survive submersion in up to 10 feet of water for three days. The reason it should only be used as a backup drive is that it's a single-volume storage device, therefore, susceptible to hard-drive failure.
The Solo G3 comes with one year of a data recovery plan that covers up to $5,000 worth of damage. Other than the G3, the company also offers an older model, called IoSafe SoloPro and a portable version called IoSafe Rugged Portable that offer similar type of protection. Read the full review of the IoSafe Solo G3.