What is it: Travan TR4 tape drive
Applications: data backup for networks
Backing up the large quantities of data held on network servers requires a backup technology that is both fast and reliable. DAT (Digital Audio Tape) is currently the leading contender, but the new Travan TR4 standard means that QIC (Quarter Inch Cartridge) devices are staging a serious comeback.
The Hewlett Packard Surestore T4i is one of the first such Travan devices, and is aimed specifically at backing up network servers. Each of the removable Travan mini cartridges it uses has a capacity of 8Gb (8,000Mb).
The drive costs around half the price of an equivalent capacity DAT drive, and the data transfer speed is also similar to that achieved with a DAT drive. The only drawback with the Travan solution is that the mini cartridges are three times the price of DAT tapes. This is because the Travan mini cartridges have their own tape tensioning and alignment mechanism, whereas DAT relies on the drive to deal with this.
Supporters of the Travan approach say this greatly extends tape life and improves reliability. But, for users with extensive backup requirements, the media cost could become a significant factor. The case in favour of Travan is therefore more persuasive at smaller network sites.
The T4i is easy to install - HP provides a complete fixing kit that should cover most hardware scenarios. Documentation is extensive, with good coverage on testing procedures to make sure the drive is working correctly. The manual concentrates on describing how the device is used with the resident backup utilities for Netware and Windows NT.
The Surestore also works well with Seagate Backup Exec, but there were problems with Cheyenne Arcserve which uses its own drivers and, as yet, doesn't support the T4i.
Network administrators should carefully consider how they connect the drive to their server, as performance may be affected. A PCI local-bus SCSI host adaptor card is essential to get the best performance - our tests showed throughput more than doubled to 29Mb/min when connected to a modern PCI SCSI card, rather than a standard ISA one.
Verdict: Travan is clearly a cost-effective alternative to DAT. The T4i's performance and price make it an excellent choice for securing data on small-to-medium-sized networks.
Media prices, however, make it less attractive for the larger enterprise.
Contact: Hewlett Packard on 0990 474747
The Travan specification is based on the QIC (Quarter Inch Cartridge) technology developed by 3M.
The earlier TR3 standard uses mini cartridges with a 750ft tape length offering a maximum native (uncompressed) capacity of 1.6Gb. The new TR4, or QIC-3095 format, uses the same size mini cartridge, but with a reduced tape length of 740ft.
The 4Gb native capacity has been achieved by increasing the number of tracks on the tape from 50 to 72. In addition, performance has been boosted dramatically by replacing the slow floppy disk controller with a SCSI-2 interface, which makes it roughly as fast as DAT drives.
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