Speed up access to CD-ROM information in your network

As programs and support files get larger, software manufacturers are modifying their programs to retrieve data from a CD-ROM. This modification is causing a problem in large network environments in which dozens of users may require access to a single CD-ROM. One solution is to put the CD-ROM on a CD-ROM server. But, unlike disk drives, CD-ROM drives have only one surface, so sharing a CD-ROM on a network CD server can cause significant network delays as users contend for access to the CD-ROM. The solution is Southern Technology Group's CD-Accelerator for Windows NT.

CD-Accelerator creates a mirror image of a CD-ROM on your hard disk and lets you share the mirrored image as if it were a regular network share on your system. You can configure the shares so that the data appears as if it were originating from the original CD-ROM drive. However, CD-Accelerator's performance is up to 10 times faster than the performance you would get from a CD-ROM drive. The software works transparently, and you don't need any special software. Simply mount the appropriate share from the NT server.

CD-Accelerator offers many useful features for network administrators. One such feature, license metering, limits access to a specific CD-ROM. For instance, if your company has a dozen Bookshelf licenses, you can use CD-Accelerator to make a central Bookshelf CD-ROM image and then limit access to 12 users. You can use NT's built-in security features to further restrict users' or groups' access.

Installing the software is not difficult--you run the software's setup program and answer a few questions about the product. After installation is complete, you must reboot your server before running the software.

Creating Accelerated CD images (CD-As) is easy using the software's GUI-based administration program. Screen 1 shows CD-Accelerator's administration program. Creating CD-As is a multistep process. First, you need to mount or copy an image of the CD-ROM onto your hard disk. You will need disk space equal to the size of the CD-ROM image. After the CD-A is mounted, you make it available to users by attaching it to a volume span. A volume span is a mount point for users to access the CD-ROM. In some instances, you will want to create a volume span for each CD-A, while in other instances, you can group several CD-As onto one volume span for easy access.

I installed CD-Accelerator on my home-built Micronics-based dual-Pentium II processor NT 4.0 Server. Using the software, I made a CD-A of geographic information system (GIS) data that I use to create detailed street maps for sales analysis and shared the CD-A via NT. On other Windows NT and Windows 95 machines, I mounted the CD-A as a share and accessed the share as if it were a CD-ROM.

I found only one problem with CD-Accelerator: In many instances, when you install software, the software stores a Registry key to indicate where the CD-ROM resides so the software can find its data files later by referring to this key. Because it is common to map shares to drive letters not used by local devices, sometimes software packages were not able to find their data files. I had to make manual adjustments to Registry keys or INI files to tell the software where to look.

The list price for CD-Accelerator varies according to the amount of CD-ROM storage you want to migrate to a hard disk for distribution. A version that supports up to 1.5GB (two CD-ROMs) is available at no charge from Southern Technology Group's Web site.

I have mixed feelings about CD-Accelerator. On one hand, the software performed admirably and greatly increased access to my mapping data. On the other hand, the product achieves this speed by consuming huge chunks of disk space that I might otherwise allot to my user community--and with 32x CD-ROM drives common today, speed from stock CD-ROM drives is certainly acceptable. You can buy a large number of 32x CD-ROM drives with the amount of money it would take to purchase a good 4GB SCSI disk drive plus CD-Accelerator.

CD-Accelerator for Windows NT
Contact: Southern Technology Group * 256-532-1991
Web: http://www.stgp.com
Price: starts at $795
System Requirements: CD-ROM drive