An affordable backup solution for SOHOs

With the emergence of the multicomputer home and the advent of large IDE drives, the need to back up 20MB to 50MB of data on a home network has become common. Yet, a tape backup device that offers 50MB capacity can cost more than $1000. The small office/home office (SOHO) owner has a hard time justifying this cost. After I explained this problem in "Client Backup Strategies," May 1999, dozens of readers suggested I check out products from OnStream. At that time, the company had just released the OnStream SC50 Internal SCSI drive for server and power-workstation backups.

Installing the SC50 was no different from installing any other internal SCSI device. I checked to make sure that the default internal SCSI drive, which I use in my server for low-speed peripherals, was free on the narrow SCSI chain. Then, I stuck the SC50 in a free half-height drive bay, connected the SCSI cable and the power cable, and put the case back together.

Next, I installed the OnStream Echo backup software, which OnStream provides with its drives. Although OnStream Echo isn't network backup software, I wanted to see how it would work. To test how well this software could back up a lot of data from various places on the network, I mapped local drives to network shares, then configured OnStream Echo to back up the local drives and the network shares. The software performed the backup at close to its speed rating of 7.2MBps. The software produced an error log after the backup's completion that showed a successful backup with the exception of open files on the local machine and the network systems.

Restoring files was quite fast because OnStream Echo keeps its file catalogs locally on the hard disk. I restored files to the hard disks and the remote systems without any problems. The longest restoration, which took less than 10 minutes, required finding a 110MB video file in the 37MB of backup material and writing that file back to the remote system. The file played correctly after the restoration. Searches and restorations of smaller files were faster.

I encountered a problem when I tried to run VERITAS Backup Exec for Windows NT. After I installed Backup Exec on the server, I couldn't get the software to recognize the media that I had used with the OnStream Echo software. I called the OnStream technical support line (which is 24 * 7 and free), and the representative told me that the VERITAS software has no facility for overwriting the OnStream Echo format. The representative suggested I use the usual NT backup utility (i.e., NT Backup) to reformat the media. The support representative believed that Backup Exec would understand the NT format and work correctly. I attempted to use NT Backup to reformat the media, but the utility also failed to recognize the formatted media. After I switched to a fresh 50MB cartridge, I encountered no problems using Backup Exec with the OnStream drive.

At $699 for a 50GB drive and $129.95 for a three-pack of 50GB Advanced Digital Recording (ADR) cartridges, the SC50 is a reasonably priced alternative to other tape devices in this capacity range. You can also buy a 30GB cartridge for $30 or a 50GB cartridge for $50. Given the inexpensive cost of the tape drive and the media, you would have difficulty finding a better tape backup system for a standalone server, power workstation, or SOHO.

The company also offers the 30GB OnStream SC30 Internal SCSI drive for $499 and the 30GB OnStream DP30 External Enhanced Parallel Port drive for $399. To ease migration to larger-capacity drives, all OnStream tape devices can read tapes that smaller-capacity OnStream drives created. The OnStream backup drives provide a fast, efficient, and cost-effective backup solution for small networks and large-capacity standalone systems.

OnStream SC50 Internal SCSI
Contact: OnStream * 303-772-9000
Web: http://www.onstream.com
Price: $699 for tape drive; $39.99 for 30GB Advanced Digital Recording cartridge; $50 for 50GB Advanced Digital Recording cartridge; $129.95 for three-pack of 50GB Advanced Digital Recording cartridges
System Configuration:
50GB internal SCSI tape drive, 30GB and 50GB Advanced Digital Recording cartridges, VERITAS Backup Exec for Windows NT, CD-ROM with OnStream Echo software and documentation