In most IT staff offices, you'll find large piles of CD-ROMs and DVDs sitting on desks. Every application, utility, and software update adds another CD-ROM or DVD to the ever-growing number of disks. And if your organization has a subscription to the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN), the problem is magnified tenfold.

Because much of the data on these disks is in regular use, many IT organizations copy the necessary information to network shares. Although using network shares lets the IT staff easily access the data, it also adds quite a maintenance headache because keeping these shares updated is crucial.

To control the proliferation of optical media with as little impact as possible on my company's IT staff, I checked out PowerFile's C200 Read-Only Library, an optical storage library. The C200 is an entry-level, 200-disk optical changer. Equipped with a pair of DVD-ROM drives, the optical changer can read just about every DVD format and all common CD-ROM formats. With DVD storage, the C200 can add almost a terabyte of easily manageable network storage per library.

You can rack mount the C200 in a standard 19" rack, so the C200 fits easily into existing data centers. You make the connection to your Windows server through a FireWire (IEEE 1394) interface, so you need to add a FireWire adapter if you don't already have one. The IEEE 1394 standard lets you connect as many as 63 devices in a single device chain; you can daisy chain as many as five C200 units, making 1000 disks available to network users.

Because my Windows 2000 Server machine already had a FireWire adapter installed, setting up the C200 hardware was quick and easy. When you install the C200 drivers, you need to disable the native Removable Storage Manager (RSM) service that's included with Windows. After you've installed the drivers, the device becomes immediately available to the OS.

PowerFile offers several software bundles that make managing and using the C200's optical changer simple. For this review, PowerFile provided its Developer Tools bundle—a special offer for software developers and MSDN subscribers. The bundle includes the C200 hardware and Pegasus Disk Technologies' InveStore storage-management software. InveStore supports not only the C200 but also its big brothers, which include recordable and rewriteable DVD technologies. Many of the software's features control these technologies, so using InveStore with the C200 is a bit of overkill. But the price of the Developer Tools bundle makes it the best deal on the market today: You get the optical storage library and software for $1999 rather than the $4592 that both products would cost if you purchased them separately.

InveStore manages and configures the C200 and its contents by organizing the disks you install in the optical changer into mountable volumes, which you can then share across your network. You can assign any number of available drive letters to the optical changer, but you really need to assign only one drive letter to access all the optical changer's contents.

After I installed InveStore, I used the software's volume-mount functionality to add a mix of CD-ROMs and DVDs to the optical changer. I created multiple volume sets and two libraries. A nice feature of the software is that it lets you rename disks in the library. Although the data-storage disks I created already had descriptive names, some of the vendor CD-ROMs I included displayed cryptic numerical identifications that would be of little use to users trying to find specific information.

After I configured the library and software, the disks became available to any network user who had access permissions to the server. Each disk appears as a directory on one network share. The descriptive names made finding specific information among the disks' contents easy.

Adding an optical storage library might not be a viable solution for every IT shop that has a problem with proliferating optical media. But for the cutting-edge IT shop, PowerFile makes using an optical storage library simple and cost-effective.



C200 Read-Only Library
Contact: PowerFile * 408-969-7101 or 866-838-3669
Web: http://www.powerfile.com
Price: $1999 for the Developer Tools bundle
Decision Summary
Pros: Easy to install and configure. * Lets you rename disks.
Cons: FireWire adapter required. * Doesn't use many of InveStore's features.