SanDisk Cruzer Titanium Plus with BeInSync Backup
At a Glance
A thumb drive is a great way to take your data with you wherever you go. But if you accidentally delete your files or lose the device itself, you are out of luck--unless you have SanDisk's $50 Cruzer Titanium Plus, a thumb drive that automatically backs up your files online. It's a pretty cool idea for people like me, who tend to lose things.
To install the 4GB Cruzer, you simply connect it to a USB port; it automatically installs drivers onto your PC, with no CD required. It also installs a utility called U3, which you can use to install applications on your thumb drive (the files on your Cruzer aren't much good without the right apps to open them). For users concerned about security, U3 also contains an app that encrypts and password-protects all of the files on your Cruzer.
After installing the Cruzer, I used Windows Explorer to grab photos, videos, music, Word docs, and other files and drag copies over to 'G: Removable Drive'. Transferring files wasn't speedy, but it was easy.
From there, I had to sign up for the online backup service. I was directed to the BeInSync site, where I created a user name and password. Once I verified my account, an icon at the bottom in Windows' task bar told me that the Cruzer was using my broadband connection to upload copies of my files to an Internet-connected backup server. Cruzer owners are allotted 4GB of online storage--enough to hold everything on a completely full Cruzer. BeInSync doesn't own the online storage space it uses; rather, it rents the space from Amazon. Uploading copies of my files to the BeInSync/Amazon servers proceeded a bit sluggishly, even factoring in the speed limitations of my AT&T DSL service.
But when I plugged the Cruzer into my PC at work the next day, all of my files had transferred in one piece onto the Cruzer thumb drive. I was able to pull them off the thumb drive easily and open them on my work PC. To test the online backup service, I deleted some of my files from the thumb drive and then tried grabbing the backup copies of those files from the BeInSync servers. After hitting 'restore' in the Cruzer pop-up menu, I was taken to the BeInSync site, where I logged in, was shown a directory of my files, and saw that the ones I had deleted from my drive now had a line through them but were still available (deleted files are saved on the backup server for 30 days, provided that you have enough capacity left to leave storage room for them). After I selected the ones that I wanted to restore, BeInSync sent them down to my PC in a .zip file. I had to put the files back on the thumb drive myself.
The BeInSync online backup service certainly isn't the most affordable one around, and you do pay for the integration of online backup with your thumb drive. You get six months of the service free when you buy a Titanium Plus, but after that you must pay $30 for one year, $100 for two years, or $150 for a "perpetual" license. A newer service called Sugarsync, by contrast, charges only $25 per year for 10GB of online storage, and Mozy gives away 2GB of storage for free. BeInSync's business rate is $10 per month per user for five users or more; additional storage space is available for 50 cents per month per gigabyte.
Overall, I like the idea of marrying a thumb drive with online storage, and I commend SanDisk and BeInSync for integrating the two technologies in a logical, easy-to-use way. Balancing the competing ideals of data accessibility and data security is a tough trick in this class of devices, and on the whole the Titanium Plus carries it off well.