Hard disk autoloader a tape killer?

Automated backup with Iomega's REV Loader 560 takes the worry out of being lazy

If the words "peace of mind" seem like an oxymoron since you automated your business it might be time to look at Iomega's REV Loader 560. It's a comprehensive automated backup system based on disk cartridge technology that takes the worry out of being lazy ... well, maybe.

Having no backup regimen for your files is courting disaster, but the two most popular approaches, hard drives and tape drives, do have their drawbacks. Hard drives, no matter how large, still have a finite capacity. Add another drive and you end up paying to duplicate much of the drive hardware you've already purchased. Tape, while the more popular solution -- and near infinite in capacity because of its cartridge approach, is a comparatively fragile medium that's prone to failure from handling and because the tape medium will degrade over time.

Iomega's approach with its REV Loader 560 is to duplicate the portability of tape while adding the durability of a hard drive. It's not new in concept. Years ago, Iomega produced the Bernoulli box and ZipDisk systems -- both removable cartridge devices, both successful, but neither with the strength to gain the same dominance in the backup field that tape systems enjoy. It's latest endeavour, the REV Loader 560, is a multi-cartridge disk backup system that may finally buck the trend once the kinks are worked out.

Decoding the name

The REV Loader 560 relies on Iomega's REV cartridge system developed a few years ago. The concept is simple: Put the sensitive drive electronics in a small (7 x 5.5 x 10 inches HWD), stationary box with, in this incarnation, eight slots into which you can install up to eight 70GB cartridges. (The derivation of the "560" part of the name is from the or 560GB of storage that results.) The REV Loader 560 is also compatible with Iomega's earlier 35GB cartridges but it will work more slowly, or so the company claims.

The more durable part, the hard disk, is in the cartridge, which is sized similarly to a tape cartridge at 2.95 x 3.03 x 0.39 inches, and tips the scales at less than 3 ounces. (If you're into trying such things, Iomega claims that the cartridge alone will survive a 4-foot drop onto commercial grade carpet and a 5-foot drop if it hits a hard floor while still in its plastic case. It also claims the cartridge has a 30-year shelf life.)

Inside the loader is a cartridge transport system on an elevator. When a particular cartridge is needed, the transport jogs up or down behind the stack, stops at the correct cartridge, and sucks it in. Only one cartridge can be loaded at a time.

Working the beast

While the REV Loader isn't rocket science, it did take a few tries before things were working smoothly. The first Loader that arrived had a front panel button jammed under the bezel. Even after it was set free by applying a pointy stick to the problem area, the device proudly refused to work. Iomega over-nighted a second drive, which powered up flawlessly -- but that put us face to face with the software.

Computer Associates' ARCserve backup software is on tap here for backup tasks. It offers the usual options -- full and incremental backups, password protection, accidental file deletion protection, and immediate or scheduled backups. It also works with any drive you have installed in or directly attached to your PC, so you're not limited to the REV Loader as your only target drive. (It will not recognize networked devices. For that, you'll need to buy a separate version of ARCserve.)

If you work in that nebulous arena called the "IT Cloud" you already know that CA software, in general, is outrageously comprehensive. Unfortunately, that can translate into unnecessarily complex software in the small-to-medium sized business (SMB) environment where Doctor Bob is simply trying to meet his Sarbanes-Oxley obligations.

For example, you should be able to reasonably expect that something called the "Backup Wizard" would get you backed up in as automated a fashion as possible. But no, you need to head to the Manager section of the software. There, life will be revealed in a Windows Task Manager type view, compete with a plethora of options and frames within Windows. Thankfully, the first time you do this you'll be greeted by "My First Backup," a series of pre-set options that will walk you through the process. Remember those steps.

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