Our previous reviews of external hard drive enclosures have revolved around enclosures that fully encapsulate the installed hard drive. These drives are excellent in terms of drive protection, but, if you have several spare SATA drives which you want to be able to access, purchasing individual enclosures for each can become expensive and this is where hot swap capable systems are useful. The idea of hot swapping of devices is brought from their use in a RAID array, where hard drives can be swapped out whilst the system is in use, rather than having to turn off the system to swap drives.
Sandberg have recently released an external hard drive enclosure which utilises this function: the Sandberg SATA Docking Station USB+eSATA. The difference between this and other enclosures is the open design that allows for direct swapping of hard drives. The docking station (as the name suggests) allows connection of installed drives through either a USB or eSATA interface, and an eSATA adaptor packet is included if an eSATA port isn't available. The docking station allows connection of both 3.5" and also 2.5" drives though the use of a plastic blank that reduces the size of the docking site.
Installation is simply a case of slotting a drive into the docking station and then the drive is directly accessible. The fastest speeds are acheivable through the eSATA interface, providing transfer speeds as fast as internal drives, however the USB interface is available for older computers that don't have an eSATA. Since the enclosure supports hot swapping, drives can be swapped over whilst the docking station is attached to the computer. As regards cooling the majority of the drive isn't enclosed and therefore there is no risk of over heating although it is possible that it may be susceptible to dust build up over time.
Also included is Sandberg PCClone EX Lite backup software which allows the use of the one touch backup facility. Using the software is very simply a case of selecting the files or folders that you want to be backed up and pushing the button on the front of the docking station to backup those files whenever you feel the need.
We would highly recommend the Sandberg SATA Docking Station USB+eSATA to anyone that needs a hard drive enclosure especially if you have multiple drives that you would like to access. The docking station is very simple to use and the backup software is nice and simple to use. It comes with a 5 year warranty and as with all Sandberg products a dedicated support helpline is available should you need some advice, although the included manual is comprehensive. The Sandberg SATA Docking Station USB+eSATA is currently available from Amazon for the price of £49.62.
Amazon: Sandberg SATA Docking Station USB+eSATA
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