Storage on tape making comeback

Backup: Durable VXA cassettes offer plenty of room in case your hard drive fails.

March 06, 2000|By Craig Crossman | Craig Crossman,Knight Ridder/Tribune

Any computer guru will tell you that it's not if your hard drive will fail, but when. And in preparation for that inevitability, you should back up your hard drive.

A few years ago, affordable hard drive capacities maxed out in the megabyte range. Most of us were reluctant to back up because floppy disk capacities were small and tape drives were expensive and slow. The tape cassettes were serial in design and needed to wind or rewind to access data.

When larger-capacity disks such as Iomega's Zip and Jaz drives appeared, tape for the most part fell out of favor.

But tape is coming back. Multigigabyte hard-disk drives have become affordable, yet the aforementioned larger-capacity disks haven't gotten much bigger. Zips are up to 250 megabytes, Jaz and Orbs are about 2 gigabytes -- not big enough for hard drives that start at 3 gigabytes and go up to 20 gigabytes and beyond. Trying to use Zips to back up a multigigabyte drive is reminiscent of using floppies to back up the older hard drives.

Considering that one of the newer single-tape cassettes can hold up to 66 gigabytes, tape is looking better and better.

The VXA-1 from Ecrix is a high-speed tape drive that connects to your PC or Macintosh via an SCSI connection and can transfer data at up to 6 megabytes per second.

The VXA-1 drive is reliable. According to Ecrix, built-in hardware sends the data in packets and does a complete check of the data to ensure that the duplication is 100 percent accurate. Compression that doubles cassettes' capacity is done via the drive's hardware, taking any computational load away from your computer and making the drive operate even quicker.

Another desirable quality of VXA tapes is durability. To demonstrate their cassettes' reliability, Ecrix boiled a tape for several minutes. After drying, the data remained in perfect condition. The next test was to dunk the tape in water and then freeze it for several days. Upon thawing, all of the data were retrievable. The tapes operated better after freezing, according to the company's president.

The VXA-1 is compatible with major backup applications and operating systems such as Windows, Linux and Mac OS. The drive comes with a three-year warranty and free phone support during the warranty period. The internal drive retails for $899, the external version for $1,049.

Ecrix makes two tape cartridge capacities, 24 gigabytes ($29.95) or 66 gigabytes ($79.95). External models come in black, white and a Macintosh G4 charcoal.

Information: or 303-402-9262.

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