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Apple’s Time Capsule:More than just an external hard drive

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More than just an external hard drive

If you’ve seen one external hard drive, you’ve seen them all. Or have you? SEAN BACHER tries out Apple’s Time Capsule to see whether it is different and whether it makes a difference.

Many external hard drives available today serve a single purpose – a place for you to back-up and retrieve your files when needed.

The external hard drives also come with some sort of backup software that lets you manage your backed up data routinely. You may also get software that lets you quickly restore your data in the event of a system crash. Besides this, though, the external hard drive does not serve much more of a purpose. And, with all the cloud computing data management services out there, this service is also somewhat limited. If you get robbed, chances are your external hard drive will disappear with your computer, along with all your data.

Apple has released a backup device called the Time Capsule, a mobile base station that at first glance looks like any other external hard drive. However, on closer inspection, you quickly realise that there is a lot more to this gadget than meets the eye.

We put it through the Gadget 5 Question user test to see just how much better it is than regular external hard drives.

1 Is it ready to use?

In the box you will find the Time Capsule, power cable and installation CD. Sounds like a little, but that is all you will need. Plug the Time Capsule into an electrical outlet, install the drivers on your Mac, activate your AirPort wireless feature and you are ready to start.

This is where you notice the first feature that sets the Time Capsule apart from the rest. It works wirelessly. It incorporates 802.11n wireless technology, which essentially turns your home into a hotspot. Any device, whether it be your cellphone or PC notebook that is wireless, is able to connect to the Time Capsule.

Further, some Wi-Fi devices operate on different wireless bands, with some on 2.4GHz, and others on the 5GHz band. The Time Capsule is able to cater to both at the same time. You will no longer need to throttle the connection speed of faster devices just because you have older devices running at a slower speed.

I battled with the initial setup of the device, as the software included with the Time Capsule was not compatible with my Mac OS. However, after a quick search on the Internet for an updated driver, I was ready to connect.

Once you are connected, it is time to set the Time Capsule up. This can be done by selecting the Time Capsule option under the Preferences section on your Mac or selecting the Time Capsule option under your Start menu on a Windows PC.

2. Is it easy to use?

After setup, I had no problems connecting to the Time Capsule. After a few days, it was as if the Time Capsule existed simply as an additional drive on my computer, not as a physical entity. A few days later, the Time Capsule was buried under papers, phones and other paraphernalia found on the typical desk ‚ to the point that I forgot it was even there. Yet, every time I switch on my PC or Mac, the drive is ready to be accessed.

At the back of the Time Capsule you find four Ethernet ports. The first is to connect your ADSL modem or other broadband connection, and the other three are inputs for computers or other devices that don’t have built-in wireless functionality. Essentially, this means your Time Capsule is not just an external hard drive, but also acts as a wireless router.

At the back you will also find a USB input. This is where you can connect a USB device, such as a printer, which can then be shared between all other devices connecting to the Time Capsule. You can even connect a USB hub to the input, should you want to connect multiple USB devices.

3 Does it deliver on its promise?

The fact that once installed, the Time Capsule was there every time I logged on was testimony to how well it worked. Furthermore, because Apple has not limited the Time Capsule’s connectivity only to Apple products, is a huge advantage.

Copying and restoring files was absolutely seamless. It is much like you are copying to and from a local hard drive. And, because you are connected via the 802.11n wireless protocol, speed didn’t play a role at all. Transferring multiple large files was completed almost in the blink of an eye.

We all know that backing up is a chore. However, with the included software, you instruct it as to what you want backed up, how often you want it backed up. The next time you will have to access the backup software is when you need to restore something or need to make a few changes to what you want backed up.

4 Is it innovative?

Backing up data to an external source is nothing new. Being able to connect wirelessly to a hard drive is also not ground-breaking. However, the way Apple has combined the two services along with other functions, such as printer sharing, makes the Apple Time Capsule a true ally in any office.

5 Is it value for money?

This is where things are not all that peachy for the Time Capsule. It retails at around R3 000 for the 1 Terabyte version. Expensive, considering you can pick up a standard external hard drive of the same size for under R1 000.

Yes, it is more than just an external hard drive with its built-in network functionality, but is that extra R2 000 a justifiable price for the wireless networking? I think not.

In Conclusion

Although I loved using the Time Capsule, its hefty price tag was enough to turn me away. I would rather stick to the ‚old fashioned‚ method of backing up to the cloud – making my data available anywhere, anytime.

– Follow Sean on Twitter on @seanbacher

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