You can never be too rich or have too much digital storage space.
Iomega Corp., a name synonymous to technophiles with portable data management, exploits the latter desire with a new line of portable hard drives that weigh little and fit handily in a suit-coat pocket.
At 10 or 20 gigabytes, a single Peerless cartridge will easily absorb every last bit of data on most people's computers. So you can take it with you. Every last bit.
Be careful, though, which drive you buy.
The USB Universal Serial Bus version is a tortoise. If your computer supports the FireWire (IEEE1394) high-speed communications standard, by all means get that version instead. It's phenomenally fast.
Iomega has always been among my preferred providers for backing up and transporting data among computers. I swear by Zip drives and Jaz drives, but the most they hold is 2 gigabytes in a Jaz cartridge and 250 megabytes in a Zip disk.
And while the Jaz encompasses more than enough to back up my crucial files, I can think of nothing as convenient as making an entire backup of one computer on a single portable disk. Or having the means to transport the entire contents of an old PC to a new one.
FireWire wins favor
The sleek silver-and-black Peerless, which went on sale this week, was thoughtfully designed to separate the mechanics of the hard drive from the electronics, which are wired into the base.
The 20GB version is priced at $399, its 10GB sibling at $359. A 20GB cartridge that's about 20 hours of digital video at current compression rates alone costs $199.
You can choose either a USB or a FireWire base.
Iomega's general manager for the Peerless, David Hubbard, said the FireWire version would not be available until mid-June.
Meanwhile, a visit to Iomega's direct sales Web site proved confusing. It said Iomega was out of stock of every Peerless right now except the 10GB USB variety.
That's not for me and here's why: My Sony Digital Studio PC, engineered for video editing, is FireWire capable. It also has a Jaz 2GB drive that I use for backing up data.
(You said you don't back up your data? Complacency will cost you. Talk to my colleague who lost his entire family digital photo album when a hard drive crashed.)
The literature accompanying the USB Peerless said a cartridge could survive a 3-foot drop. So after backing up some files, I dropped the cartridge onto a rug I didn't have the heart to try pavement. No data loss was incurred.
Next I transferred the first six songs of Neil Young's "Silver and Gold" album 22 minutes playing time from my CD-ROM drive to the Peerless. The process took more than 29 minutes. Heck, that's slower than duplicating an audio cassette. (Remember those?)
At the same data density of 128 kilobits per second, it took a little more than a 10th of that time to transfer the same six tracks to my Jaz drive, which uses an UltraSCSI transport.
So get the FireWire Peerless, which Iomega says is 15 times faster than USB, or don't bother.
If your PC doesn't support FireWire you can always buy a PCI card for about $60 that adds the capability. Given the demand for speed and the dropping price of most FireWire peripherals, the card is a good deal.
The Peerless ships with the base station, USB or FireWire cable, power supply, drive cartridge and CD-ROMs with software that includes MGI Videowave and PhotoSuite, Altiris Transplant Pro, MusicMatch Jukebox and Iomega QuickSync.