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6/96 Reviews HW: Tape Backup Drives

Complete listing of June 1996 reviews

Head to Head:

Two Tapes Dispense With Backup Woes

By James E. Powell

I used to put off backing up my system because it was just too much trouble. No more. Iomega and Tandberg offer two easy-to-install, easy-to-run solutions that shoot holes-big ones-through all my excuses.

The Iomega Ditto Easy 3200 drive plugs into your parallel port (with pass-through for your printer). It uses Travan 3 cartridges to store 1.6GB of data uncompressed and can achieve up to 3.2GB compressed. In my tests, a mix of application and data files, the Ditto Easy 3200 achieved a 1: 1.8 compression ratio.

Installation is incredibly simple: Plug the unit into your parallel port, run the two-diskette installation program and you're ready to go. In Windows 95, after you reboot you'll see a "1 Step Backup" button added to your taskbar. Click on it to back up everything on your system. The backup software-a custom version of Seagate Software's Arcada Backup-can also be run interactively. You select which files you want, and when you press Start the program asks if you want to also back up the Registry. The software then provides several status indicators so you can gauge how much longer your backup has to run. I particularly liked the fact that the indicator showed how much tape had been used. Since the tape can hold so many files and my hard disk had just 1.2GB worth of files, it was helpful to know if I could use the existing tape for another backup session.

In my tests the unit averaged a respectable 8.6MB per minute. The drive has a power light and another light indicating read/write action. Unfortunately, it lacks a power switch, an incredibly annoying omission shared by Iomega's Zip drives.

The unit is fairly quiet and light enough to be portable. Considering the easy installation procedure, it's a snap to back up files on just about any machine. The system can read and write QIC 3020 (Travan 3) or QIC 3020 (regular and wide) tapes, and can read QIC 3010 (Travan 2), QIC 80 (Travan 1, wide, XL and regular), QIC 3010 (regular and wide), and Irwin 40 and 80 tapes.

The package includes the drive, cable and software, plus a 3M Travan 3 tape. The well-illustrated installation directions made it hard to go wrong. Okay, I had difficulty at first when things didn't seem to go right, but only because I hadn't fully plugged in the cable to the Ditto drive.

Tandberg PantherMini 4600

If the Ditto drive isn't nimble enough for you, or you need greater capacity, then consider the Tandberg

PantherMini 4600. As its model number implies, the Panther can back up 2.3GB worth of uncompressed data or 4.6GB compressed. The PantherMini achieved a 1: 1.9 compression ratio. The Tandberg uses a SCSI-2 connection. The package documentation talks at great length about setting the Adaptec SCSI adapters that have been tested with the unit. The drive is available in kit form with a SCSI adapter included.

I tested the unit with my existing Adaptec 1542CP SCSI card without a hitch.

I was also impressed with its speed: 24.2MB per minute, just about in the middle of the speed range the company says the unit can handle-Tandberg claims 36MB per minute. The "bytes copied" number in the backup software's status window flew. The user guide also explains how to use the drive with DOS, Windows, Windows 95 and OS/2, and provides tips for other software such as Novell NetWare.

Installation is simple. Windows 95 recognized the unit when I plugged it in and connected it to my SCSI card. I responded to Windows 95's request for drivers by telling it I didn't want to install any, because the installation program for the custom version of Arcada Backup does that for you. This version of Backup differs from that supplied by Iomega. There's no one-step operation, and you specifically check off a box to back up the Registry. The only difference I saw that seemed to matter is that the Tandberg version doesn't indicate how much of your backup tape was used and how much remains available for the next backup.

The drive uses QIC 3210XL tapes (I used the Sony tape cartridge included in the package). The unit has power and read/write activity lights on the front panel, and the auto-load mechanism swallows the tape behind a dust-protection door. You must push the eject button to remove the tape from the drive. The Travan tape in the Iomega drive sticks halfway out the unit, and you must push it in and pull it out manually.

The Tandberg is relatively quiet during operation, but very noisy as you boot up.

When I think that I used to spend several hours backing up my 40MB hard disk to diskettes, I marvel at the backup-drive technology. Iomega and Tandberg have made it simple to add a dose of data insurance to your system.

Info File
Iomega Ditto Easy 3200
Price: $299.95 (street); 3200 media, $40
Pros: Installation; software
Cons: No power switch
Platforms: Window 95, 3.1x
Iomega Corp.
800-MYSTUFF, 801-778-1000
WinMag Box Score: 3.5

Info File
Tandberg PantherMini 4600
$499 (internal); $629 (external)
Pros: Speed
Cons: NoisePlatforms: Windows 95, 3.1x
Tandberg Data
800-826-3237, 805-579-1000
WinMag Box Score: 4.0
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