Backing up data is something we all know that must be done, but very seldom get onto actually doing it. Taking a real life situation, this is something that happened to a very close colleague of mine. It was Sunday night and he was finalizing his presentation to win a million dollar project for his company. Things were going smoothly and when he was about to print everything his PC crashed with no reason at all. (Windows normally doesn't need any reason to crash now does it? ) Thinking it's a normal software glitch he rebooted the system, only to find out the FAT32 partition of his hard drive completely corrupted. I know as a fact that there are countless number of people who have gone through this nightmare at some point.So what's the most simple thing we all forget to do? Backup of course. Having the right hardware and backing up your data is something we all must take very seriously and do it at every instance possible.Since most average hard drive size today range from 20GB - 80GB it's no longer feasible to have a mere 250MB backup tape drive. This is where Onstream Data come into the picture. Incorporated in 1998 Onstream data's product lineup is no doubt one of the most successful backup tape drive products in the market. So far we have looked at two of their highly sort after drives, the ADR2 60GB Digital Tape Drive and the ECHO 30 USB Storage Drive. The great highlight of Onstream Data's products is that they're able to provide highly reliable and effective back-up devices at a far less price than its competition.Today we look at one of their newest additions, the ADR2 60GB USB External Tape Drive, which will no doubt prove to be a great hit in the server as well as home user markets. Firstly let us take a look at the specifications of the drive.
All information and specifications are subject to change at anytime without notice. The capacity, backup speed and transfer rate will vary with file and system configuration. * ADR cartridges sold separately
Opening up the box, you're offered the following components;
Summary of Drive's features
This is a copy from ADR2 60ide drive we compiled a few months ago."Advanced Digital Recording (ADR) is an all-new, variable speed, digital tape storage solution. Initially developed by Philips Electronics and protected by 61 patents (including pending), ADR is based on revolutionary 8-channel array technology that allows the solid-state design to read and write eight tracks of data simultaneously.This technological breakthrough delivers exceptional transfer rates and data reliability while maximizing media life and minimizing audible noise.An advanced embedded servo system contributes to high data reliability in two ways. First, it communicates with the head to assure media integrity as it writes data. This is an innovative way to avoid media defects and assure original data is written correctly. Secondly, the servo system prevents the tape from wandering off track, which could make the data unreadable in the future.OnStream's unique ability to read or write all eight tracks of data simultaneously provides the opportunity to spatially distribute error correction code - both horizontally and vertically.
ADR eight channel read/write head
This greatly enhances the chances for data recovery versus other technologies that use only horizontal methods. The result is a reliability specification of only one unreadable bit in every 1019 bits recorded. That's 10,000 times better than the PC's primary data storage device, the hard drive.
ADR drives employ continuously variable speeds between .5 and 2 MB/sec (with software controlled data compression up to 5MB/sec), making them capable of adjusting to the constantly changing data rate of the system. This feature, acting like a dimmer switch as it accepts data, also helps to decrease wear and noise"
If you're new to tape drives you should be aware of how they access data. Tape drives are unable to access data randomly as it does with hard drives. Tape drives are only able to access data sequentially, making them considerably slower to normal drives, and furthermore tape drives have to constantly rewind and fast forward the tape to find the appropriate position to write data. ( it's exactly like the operation of a conventional VHS cassette).Nevertheless the ADR2 60USB tape drive is supposed to have a native data transfer rate of around 2.5MB/sec which goes up to 5MB/sec with software compression. (performance analysis will be done next) Even though tape drives are slower can conventional hard drives, they provide far better reliability. As in ADR2 60USB it has a bit error rate of 1 in 10 to the power 19. This is far superior to a PC's hard drive without doubt.Another feature to be aware of is that, when the ADR2 60USB drive is in idle for more than 5 minutes, you'll notice the drive bay of the tape drive opening slightly. When asked from Onstream, the reason they gave is as follows;"the cartridge door is slightly opened after a few minutes of no use with a cartridge loaded in the mechanism. The drive's firmware puts the mechanism in a "pause" position in case of no use. The reason for that is to avoid the drive roller being constantly in contact and the magnetic media is constantly tighten around the head. These measures are taken as a further improvement of the system. The ADR2.60ide behaves in the same way, due to the fact that the movement is not sensor controlled a slight difference in movement can be observed between the drives."The ADR2 60USB has been designed to also support the new USB 2.0 standard for even faster transfer rates. Onstream does not provide the data cartridge with the purchase of the ADR2 60USB drive, and it has to be purchased separately. The 60GB cartridges are priced at around US$70 which works out to be US$1.17 = 1GB. (The 60GB capacity is obtained assuming a 2:1 compression ratio). The cheapest price I found for the cartridge was US$62 or US$175 for a pack of three, which is without doubt one of the cheapest storage mediums, and it's certainly nice to see Onstream keeping the price of these cartridges very reasonable.
Every Onstream ADR2 60USB drive comes with Yosemite Technology's "TapeWare XE" backup software. The package also includes Disaster Recovery for Windows providing you with a total backup solution. The total software package is of US$720 value and is provided free of charge with every purchase of one of these drives.TapeWare XE is extremely user friendly and very complicated tasks can be done simply by a click of a button. It uses a common windows interface and gives you the option to either backup your whole machine or back up specific files.
On the initial browsing of the TapeWare XE software most of you might consider it to be quite a basic software package. However hidden behind this simple interface lies a very powerful software waiting for the right person to harness its full raw power. If you're just a home user wanting this drive, most of these advanced features will interest you, and won't prove to be worthwhile anyway. However for a network environment, these features are invaluable.Unfortunately we cannot go into detail on this much, however one of the main advanced features I use is the schedule. Here's a picture of the process.
This provides you automatic scheduled backups and also allows you to choose the type of backup that needs to be performed daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. This feature is something any user of this software really make use of. It seems as if both the ADR2 60USB drive and the TapeWare XE software are working in perfect unison to each other. It's so very impressive. If you're interested in learning all the advanced features TapeWare XE offers, the CD also comes with a 340 page .pdf file which details out all these features in great detail.The additionally included disaster recovery feature is impressive as well, and I would recommend everyone to use it so that in the event something drastic goes wrong, you have an available copy of your machine. It's pretty much the same as Norton ghost, but with a different interface and layout.
There are a range of security features as well which are essential for network environments. Setting up user permission levels, setting grace logon periods and various other authentication features are available.
The TapeWare XE provides a graphical view of the operating speed of the drive. Once you turn on the ADR2 60USB drive, it takes around 10-15 seconds to initialize. Thereafter you're ready for action. In some instances if you have specified to format the cartridge it'll take a bit longer before the actual data backing up process starts. The following table shows the tests we carried out and the time taken.
Below is a screen capture of another test where we were backing up some program files. As you can see, in both instances the drive performs close to 2MB/sec or over.
Performance of the drive is without doubt very impressive indeed. Most tape drives out there hardly go beyond the 1MB/sec mark and if you want to go higher, the cost is heartbreaking. I do not know how Onstream does it, but the price they offer these tape drives are simply amazing. Most other tape drives with similar functionality are priced well over US$1000, so these drives are unquestionably a great bargain.
With data compression we were able to get the speed up to around 4.1MB/sec but in all of the tests we did, we weren't able to reach 5MB/sec. Nevertheless it's still extremely impressive.