Jackson Armor Card v10.5 Review

Admin - 2007-03-06 05:44:20 in Gadgets
Category: Gadgets
Reviewed by: Admin   
Reviewed on: March 17, 2006
Jackson Backup
Jackson Backup
Price: $80 USD
Introduction
Today we will be looking at something a bit different from our usual hardware, the subject being the Jackson Armor Card v10.5. This less known company came up with an original solution to prevent PC downtime from crashes and data loss: the outcome being a tiny PCI card that records changes made to the hard drive, and prevents unwanted actions. It can also be used to back up BIOS settings. Before we get into the product itself, let me introduce you to the company; Jackson Backup specializes in data loss prevention among other things, such as PC repair and secure file management. They have been in the business for over 10 years, and have come up with some rather unique solutions for data backup.

For something so small, it's hard to believe how versatile it can be: its uses can range from public computers, all the way to the home or work environment. The Armor Card stores an image of the user's data, and reverts back to the original state if any changes have been made upon reboot. Since the data protection is hardware-based, it makes it extremely safe and secure, because it doesn't need to depend on software. Imagine getting a virus, or completely deleting something by accident. Normally, this would be a total disaster; with the Jackson Armor card, it would only take a simple reboot to recover the lost data.


Closer Look
Upon arrival, the package came in a standard bubble-wrap type envelope. When I opened it, two things greeted me: a DVD case containing the Armor Card, and some instructions, features and specifications. I was glad to see nothing was damaged during shipping.

  

  


When the DVD case was opened, I saw the installation CD as well as the PCI card itself.


 
Installation
The included installation instructions were decently detailed, but at the same time they had room for improvement. The hardware part of this installation simply requires powering off the PC, inserting the Armor Card into an empty PCI slot, and then powering the PC back on. Hard, isn't it? The next step was to change the boot device priority via BIOS options and set the 'Network Card' as the 1st device.

  

I rebooted the PC, and before loading Windows, I heard 3 short beeps, and an administration screen appeared. I selected 'cancel', to boot into the operating system and install the drivers on the CD. Once the installation disk was inserted, the Armor Card driver window appeared:

They also included a 'Defrag' option, as well as 'Disk Cleanup' to ensure than everything is running smoothly before the card takes an image of the hard drive. I selected 'Install Drivers', and a few seconds later it was all ready to go. The computer was rebooted. The card's administration screen once again appeared. There was a 'Quick Installation' option, making the entire 'C:' drive protected and using default configuration, but I selected 'Custom Installation'.

Installation
The next window showed 4 options: 'General Settings', 'Advanced Settings', 'Network Clone' and 'About Us'.

General Settings

This allows you to select the partition you want to protect with the Armor Card, and the method preferred. 'Recovery Mode' reverts all changes done to the partition upon reboot, or at an interval of up to 99 days. Zero days being default, this recovers the data on every reboot. With 'Keep Mode' selected, the data is restored when the user presses Ctrl+R at the Armor Card administration screen (this requires a password). 'Open Mode' does not recover the data unless this is changed to one of the other two options. There is also an 'Uninstall' option located here.

Advanced Settings

This menu allows you to change the administrator password, display or hide a startup picture indicating that you have a set number of seconds (default is set to 3 seconds) to make any changes to the card's parameters before loading the operating system. An option to back up CMOS data is also included. Enthusiasts might find this quite useful, backing up their BIOS tweaks after getting their system completely stable.

Network Clon

The network clone functions (with the non-networking 10.5 card) require the Armor Networking Card v6 as the admin card for this to work. This feature is useful for copying the sender's hard drive image data to all of its network clone receivers. This could be very welcome in an office environment or for public networks such as an Internet caf'. Maintenance is made a lot easier through this.

About Us

This provides the manufacturer's web site and email address, as well as indicates the amount of free space on the card's 8GB buffer. After every reboot, the Armor Card's prompt appeared for 3 seconds, which could be paused via space bar, or using the hotkeys to change settings.

Features & Specifications
These are the card's features, as supplied by Jackson Backup:


The specifications as provided by Jackson Backup are the following:
Operation System Support 98 / ME / NT / 2000 / XP / Linux/ FreeBSD
Expansion Slot PCI 32 bit
Hard Drive Support IDE / EIDE / ATA100 / SATA / SCSI
Computer Base IBM PC compatible / 80386 and above with a color monitor
Auto Restore CMOS Data Yes
Plug and Play Yes
Support BIOS Type Yes, Supports All Known BIOS
Armor Card Size 75mm X 39mm
LT-CACHE Technology Yes (True 32 bits kernel technology. Support UDMA 66/100)
ST-DATA Technology Yes (Smart detection of the backup zone)
Backup Mode Selections Auto Restore/Manual Restore/ Base Image
Numbers Of Boot Partitions Up to 40 partitions
Protection of system bios Yes
Boot Screen Delay Selection Yes (1~99sec)
Hard Drive Size Up to 256 GB
Scheduled Auto Restore Yes, up to 99 days
Custom Boot Screen Picture 800*600, 24bit
System Resource occupation 5% of HD space, no IRQ interrupt
DSC buffer space 8 GB


The system requirements fit almost every single PC out there:
Testing
With Jackson's guaranteed satisfaction and all of the fancy specifications, it comes down to how it actually performs. Let's find out:

To test if the card would actually protect from any changes made, I decided to back my important files up, just in case, then start deleting and uninstalling random software. I erased all my important files, emptied the Recycle Bin, uninstalled my favorite games, and installed some new programs. Being satisfied with the total mess I have made, I proceeded to reboot. After windows finished loading, everything was untouched and was as good as new! I found this quite amazing, since it only takes such a small card to do all of this.

I even gave f-disk a shot in a final attempt to find a weakness in the card, but it just wouldn't give in. This is the ultimate solution for anybody who wants to keep a freshly formatted feel to their PC at all times.

The next step was to test if the card didn't actually slow the PC down as specified. The Windows XP boot up time seemed about the same, but I wanted to be completely sure. I chose the PCMark04 HDD test suite for this. I benched the computer without the armor card, and with it installed. The hard drive this was tested on was a SATA Western Digital 80GB. A few minutes later the results were in:







It was a bit disappointing that in fact it did slow the PC down a bit, but it's nothing major; the average user would not notice these speed differences just by everyday use.

The only real downside to this card I found that could get quite annoying is making software changes on a protected partition. Most home users always alter things, and the card would revert all those changes to the set image, unless it was used in 'Open Mode'. However, with multiple partitions, this isn't much of a problem since the Armor Card would protect the operating system or selected partitions, allowing the changes to be done to the unprotected partitions.

Conclusion
For something so small, it's quite spectacular how useful the Jackson Armor Card (v10.5) can prove to be. It passed all the tests I threw at it in terms of data backup. A downside was that it slowed the PC down a tiny bit according to the benchmarks, but I did not notice a speed decline during regular use. I think that overall, Jackson Backup has lived up to their promises. They came up with a truly unique solution that could signal the end of spy ware, viruses, and unwanted operations. I would recommend this product to anyone ranging from the average home user, all the way to public libraries and school networks.

Pros

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