Sunday, October 18, 2009

Portable Backup - Part 3

In this last part of this series I will cover a few other Portable Backup options. We have covered using Laptops, Net Books, various Multimedia Storage Devices including what I believe to be the best Multimedia Storage Device, the Sanho HyperDrive ColorSpace UDMA 500 GB. Here will we look at three other options, Portable CD/DVD backup units, your iPod Classic or iPod Video, and Off-Line or Web Based Backup.

Once again though I would like to take this last opportunity to stress the importance of backing up your images when you are on the road. In future articles I will be talking about good home or business based backup solutions and things to look for with a few tips or things to watch out for.


These types of portable units became popular years ago when a portable large capacity solution was required for portable digital backups of data, images and video. Sony and other manufacturers made similar units for this “Photography" or “Video” solution but many no longer make them as the small, high capacity and relatively cheap portable hard drive solutions like the Sanho HyperDrive ColorSpace UDMA 500 GB. Some companies still offer them a portable CD/DVD solutions for computers and where DVD compatibility is required for playing Video in standard DVD players. These types of units are making a bit of a comeback with Netbooks as most Netbooks do not have CD/DVD players or recorders built in. Something to think about if you are looking at purchasing a Netbook.

EZDigiMagic DM220-08 Portable DVD Recorder


The EZDigiMagic unit will copy various memory card formats (CF, CF UDMA, MicroDrive, MMC, SD, SDHC, MemoryStick and MemoryStick Pro) to a CD or DVD all with the push of one button. The unit will automatically span onto several disks if the Memory Card is larger than the CD or DVD can accommodate.

The unit is small and portable and can be powered by batteries or with the included AC adapter. The menu system is easy to use on the backlit LCD display. There is also a Ultra-Verify Mode for verifying that all your data or images are copied over properly.

The speed of the unit will vary depending on the speed of the memory card and the media type used but generally 1 Gig of information can be copied in approximately seven minutes (using real world tests). A 4 Gig memory card takes about 26 minutes. This unit works well and if you use 4 Gig memory cards with Standard DVDs, it is perfect. Using larger capacity cards requires the use of Spanning onto multiple disks as this unit does not support the higher capacity Double Layered disks.

All in all this unit worked well but found that traveling with the unit was not as effective as using smaller and faster hard drive based solution. Having to carry a bunch of 4.7 Gig blank DVDs also proved to be more cumbersome. Even with a small capacity hard drive solution of say 120 Gigs, it would take 26 blank DVDs to store the same amount of photos.

Power is another issue for the portable user. Whereas the San Ho unit is capable of backup over 200+ Gigs of images on a single charge, the EZDigiMagic is not capable of doing even one quarter of that on a set of NiMh Rechargeable or the more expensive Lithium Ion batteries.

If you require an external CD/DVD burner for a Netbook, this is a good option. On the plus side also is the fact that multiple copies can be made and thus copies can be given out. You could technically give out copies of photos to a bride at a wedding minutes after the event is over. In my opinion however, for a good portable Photography Backup solution, the portable Hard Drive/Card Reader is much better.

Check out the new DM220 Plus here: EZDigiMagic DM220PLUS Portable Digital Photo & Video Backup DVD Burner & Viewer


Several attempts were made to create CF/SD card readers for iPods starting way back in the days of the first iPod Video. The new iPod OS allowed for Photos and Videos to be displayed. Several devices came out promising Compact Flash memory card reading capabilities but the two units I tried back then never actually worked and were quickly discontinued. Apple had its own Dock unit with a built in CF Reader but it was also quickly discontinued.

Since those days several more companies including Belkin have come up with solutions, again with mixed results. Apple also has a USB Camera Connector that allows an iPod to be attached to a Camera via a USB Cable. There are issues with this also and it could possibly be the “slowest” backup method ever created next to Off-Line Backup. For the money the Camera Connector could be worth a try if you own a newer generation iPod Classic or iPod Video. Note that your Camera will act the the card reader and will not be able to take photos while backing up a memory card: Apple Camera Connector for iPod 5G, 5.5G (White) Note that this kind of setup will quickly drain your iPod’s battery as well as your Camera’s battery.

Belkin Media Reader with Dock Connector for iPod


Belkin’s solution is small and portable. The unit connects to your iPod using FireWire technology and then using the iPods screen and menu system you can copy files from CF and SD cards onto your iPod. I stated FireWire technology but the Belkin device is not capable of using the full speed of the FireWire connection resulting in extremely slow backup speeds. A 1 Gig CF card takes about 21 minutes to do a full backup. A 4 Gig card would take about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Wow, compared to the 26 minutes above for copying to a DVD or even faster using the San Ho HyperDrive UDMA unit, this is very slow.

Another issue is battery life. Although the unit uses 4 AA batteries for the Card Reader, the process of moving and copying photos onto the iPod also quickly drain the iPod batteries.

All in all this is a small portable solution that would work if you only had smaller memory cards or did not take many photos. I could not see myself copying 2 or 3 - 8 Gig memory cards every day on this unit.

There are several other similar products out there but this is the best one if this interests you. Do your homework as some of the others who’s names I will not mentioned are absolutely awful products. If you find a good one, let me know. For now, check out the Belkin unit here: Belkin Media Reader with Dock Connector for iPod (White)


Where ever I go now I keep hearing that Off-Line Backup is the way to go. I completely disagree with that statement, specially for a portable photography solution. Off-Line Backup is also not a very good solution for your Home Base for Photography Backup although there are a few good upsides. I will discuss this issue when I cover Home/Work Photo Backup options in a future article but for now, here are some reasons why it’s not a very good option for mobile use.

The single biggest reason is the need for a laptop or Netbook. If you have a laptop or Netbook you can simply use that for your backup. If you are going to erase your memory cards and require a second backup bring along a small USB based Hard Drive like the Western Digital Passport Hard Drives. Small and Cheap.

Another reason for not using Off-Line Backup is the speed of the backup. Yes, in this day of ultra high-speed Internet access you would think backing up 4 Gigs of memory would be quick, but remember that doing a backup this way requires a fast UPLOAD speed which is almost always much slower that the fast DOWNLOAD speed of standard High-Speed Internet connections. This can made common slow connections found in many Hotels and Smaller Cities very slow. A 4 Gig memory card could take several hours to upload completely.

Other that the very slow connection is the possibility of NO connection. Very often when traveling abroad, you get to locations that do not have Internet access at all or sometimes in large hotels where 15 minutes of access can cost you $10.00 or even $20.00 dollars. If you are out in the field, on the best photo shoot ever, how will you backup a card so you can format it so you can keep shooting with no Internet Access?

Another issues with costs even for home or work is that many Internet Service Providers have Bandwidth Limits with a Maximum Data Upload/Download. If you exceed these limits which is easy to do when doing photography specially with new 10, 12 or more Mega Pixel cameras, you could find yourself paying a ton of extra cash per month.

Anyways, there is a time and place for Off-Line Backup but for a portable solution it is not the way to go. If you are wanting to check this option out I would recommend looking at iDrive, Mozy and Carbonite. Some are free with limits on how much can be backed up and some offer packages with more backup storage space for a monthly fee. Carbonite is $54.00 per year as of October 2009 with un-limited data.

One word of warning with Off-Line Backup Companies, make sure you read all the fine print! Some companies will retain the rights to your files, documents and artwork should you leave, quit, cancel services or die. Again, do your homework. Also, there have already been several Off-Line Backup Companies including a Large Photography Specific Company in the Eastern U.S. that shut down leaving owners of Photos scrambling to get their images back. Some have shut their doors never to be heard from again and leaving photographers without ANY images. Make sure you have your own backup if you use an Off-Line solution.


It becomes obvious that backup is essential but the question is how When travelling, size, weight and ease of use are extremely important and must be considered. After trying out many of the options discussed in the three “Portable Backup” articles, I have found that the Sanho HyperDrive ColorSpace UDMA 500 GB meets all the requirements.

Check it out at: Sanho HyperDrive ColorSpace UDMA 500 GB.

I will be updating this article with an update soon as I am trying out yet another device . . .

Portable Backup - Part 1

© 2009 Fran├žois Cleroux

(Version 1.01 - October 2009)

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I value thoughtful comments and suggestions. If you like or dislike this post, please let me know. If you have any ideas or suggestion, comments or corrections (I do make mistakes) please also let me know. Thanks.

- Francois Cleroux