A. I've used two of OnStream's 30GB Echo drives: the USB30 external USB drive and the DI30 internal IDE drive. Both products were useful as tape backups but lacking as standalone drives.

OnStream's Echo drives appear to your system as removable drives, similar to an Iomega Zip drive. You can easily copy files to and from an Echo drive. However, keep in mind that this is a tape drive, so performance suffers during direct copy or retrieval actions. The Echo drives come with the vendor's Echo backup software, which provides good backup capability and lets you allocate system memory for cache on the drives. Using the Echo software, you can also change the delay-write and cache-flush intervals, which can improve the drives' performance during file copy or backup procedures. However, the Echo software isn't compatible with Windows 2000 Server or Windows NT Server 4.0 , and you need Echo 3.2 to use the Echo drives with Win2K Professional or Windows Me. (You can find a list of alternative backup software solutions that work with Echo drives at the OnStream software Web site.) In fact, the USB30 drive won't work with NT Server 4.0 regardless of software. (OnStream does offer SCSI units that will work with NT Server 4.0 and alternative backup software.)

Installing the OnStream USB30 drive is a hassle. But as backup units, OnStream's 30GB drives give you a good money-to-megabyte ratio and set you back only about $45 per tape. (The drives cost about $290.) Performance is surprisingly good for such inexpensive media.