Seagate Replica (500GB)Follow @infoworld
Seagate's attempts at minimalism fall short in other ways, too. For example, since the Replica is not a standalone hard drive, it doesn't appear in Windows Explorer as a drive letter device. Instead, it shows as its name, simply Seagate Replica. Click on that icon, and you'll see icons representing the volume names of each PC you've backed up. The Replica software's reliance on a system's volume name is annoying, given that users rarely get to change the system's volume name. For example, Replica picked up my netbook's name as "YOUR-DC685EFCD2;" and since Replica has its own software, even though I viewed the name and content through Windows Explorer, I didn't have Windows Explorer niceties like "rename" available to me. Within the system volume, you see the C: drive, plus shortcuts to your content in Desktop, and My Documents. While I appreciate what Seagate was trying to do, this approach could get confusing fast, especially given that it doesn't quite mirror what you might see on your system's Explorer view.
Seagate tries to convey that you're viewing an atypical hard drive by imprinting "Replica" in the Explorer screen; but this tweak is so understated that its meaning is easily lost. And meanwhile, I found I often chafed at the inability to check file properties as I was used to in Windows Explorer-I understand Seagate's desire for simplicity, but the Replica environment is so similar to Explorer that it's hard not to expect such capabilities. One nicety in the Replica Explorer view: Hover over a file, and Replica shows not just the usual info of file size, but also how many versions are backed up and when the last Replica backup occurred. Right-click on a file to open or copy it.
One final annoyance about Replica: The status LED never seemed to go off on my system-even when I wasn't using it and actively creating files I'd have expected to need backup. As annoying as the near incessant flashing was, I was even more perturbed that its ongoing, no-interference necessary backup had no manual pause, which in turn led to issues with disconnecting the Replica (I got messages saying the device was still in use and couldn't be safely ended at that moment).
Conceptually, Seagate is on the right track. PC backups need to get simpler, and more hassle-free. Replica comes close, but it's a bit too simplified to truly be effective. (For more drives that assist with backups, see "Hard Drives With Pizazz.") In other ways, it's like a jewel in the rough, a solid premise waiting to be polished so it can shine. Hopefully, some of my issues will be resolved in future firmware updates; I'll update this review if the situation changes.