Small server backup options

By Steve Antonoff, |  Storage

In a centralized IT department, backup isn't a question, it's a requirement.

But what about the remote location that has a Windows NT Server with 10 to 30 people
using it for file storage and print services? Who's backing up that box? If you've got
a big enough pipe on your virtual private network (VPN), the backup can still be the
responsibility of the central IT department. But what if the VPN connection is slow, or
doesn't exist at all?

Magnetic tape is still the most cost-effective solution to remote location backup.
But what format, and what speed tape? Go top-notch with a DLT? Go slow and inexpensive
with a DAT? Or a QIC or TRAVAN drive? All will work. Recently, however, I was given the
opportunity to try a new tape drive that has some interesting technology.

OnStream, a Longmont, Colo. company, has been quietly -- almost too
quietly! -- building a product line that offers speed, capacity and cost-effectiveness.
The technology involved has something old and something new.

The old aspect of the drive is its use of an eight-bit wide read/write head. Older
so-called nine track drives did this for years. There's nothing really interesting
about this point, except that most PC and PC server tape drives don't work like this
anymore -- they use a helical scan technology that makes the effective head-to-tape
speed much higher than the actual tape motion, and use a single-bit read/write head.

The new aspect is the fact that the drive uses (1) a servo track recorded on the
tape to ensure that the head is precisely positioned over the tracks and (2) a variable-
speed motor that adjusts the speed of the tape to the speed of the system delivering
data. This is decidedly different from other tapes; the speed of those is usually
fixed, and the tape must stop, rewind, and restart if the computer can't feed data
quickly enough.

I contacted OnStream to get an evaluation unit. My goal was to compare the OnStream
SC30e to a Quantum DLT 4000. Since I already had a Quantum with a fast, narrow SCSI
interface, I selected the OnStream that most closely matched the specs of the DLT.

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