Tecmar ETS420C Travan NS8

High-volume storage at an affordable price

Tape backup technology has changed significantly in the past few years. Tapes have become smaller, yet their storage capacity and data transfer capability have increased rapidly. The new Tecmar ETS420C Travan NS8 from Tecmar Technologies continues these trends. The ETS420C is a tape drive that supports SCSI-1 and SCSI-2, and produces fast transfer speeds and impressive data compression. The ETS420C targets the backup and recovery needs of departmental servers and high-performance workstations.

The ETS420C is an external drive. (Its internal equivalent is the TS420C.) Installing the drive was straightforward. I easily added it to my daisy chain of SCSI tape drives. The unit did not come with backup software, so I used Stac's Replica 3.0 for Windows NT to test the ETS420C's backup speed and recovery capabilities. (For a review of Replica, see Brian Gallagher, "More Backup Software," December 1997.)

I didn't have to reconfigure Replica to use the Tecmar drive. By default, the ETS420C emulates the Wangtek model 51000HT tape device driver, a widely accepted driver that Replica immediately recognized. Tecmar includes a jumper inside the ETS420C unit that lets you configure the device to native mode, but for the ETS420C to operate in native mode, you must run software that specifically supports the ETS420C driver.

You can use Travan 4 or QICWide tapes with the ETS420C. The unit can write 4GB of uncompressed data to each Travan 4 cartridge; this figure jumps to 8GB when you use the unit's built-in Adaptive Lossless Data Compression (ALDC) hardware compression. The ETS420C can write 2GB of uncompressed or 4GB of compressed data to each QICWide tape. If your backups require more than 8GB of storage at once, you might consider the TS520 series, Tecmar's new tape devices that can write up to 20GB of compressed data on one tape.

One of the ETS420C's most interesting features is that the unit uses two data heads. One head writes data to the tape while the other verifies data the first head just wrote. This capability saves time during backup and recovery operations, because the double head makes only one pass over the tape, instead of the two passes a conventional head must make to write and verify data. The unit's single-pass strategy also reduces wear and tear of the tape and drive.

I began my tests by backing up more than 2GB of data from the local drive of my test computer. Replica began the backup at a data transfer rate of more than 100MB per minute. However, after about 45 seconds, the ETS420C settled into a rate of 56MB to 58MB per minute, which the unit maintained throughout the test.

When my 2GB backup completed, I ran backup tests that included graphics, word-processing, zipped, and data files in a variety of formats and sizes. These tests ran without difficulty. I also backed up systems within my domain, and the transfer rate was only slightly lower than the rate for my local tests: about 52MB per minute. Throughout my tests, backup speeds varied depending on the type of file I was backing up, because some files compress more efficiently than others.

The ETS420C and TS420C are somewhat limited in their scope. They cannot back up more than 8GB of data at a time. The TS420 products do not offer the storage capacity of high-end DLT (up to 40GB of storage per cartridge at up to 5MBps) or AIT (up to 65GB of storage per cartridge at up to 7.8MBps) products. However, the ETS420C ran flawlessly during my tests. Its fast performance and low cost make it an attractive solution--perhaps the solution you're looking for.

Tecmar ETS420C TravaNS8
Contact: Tecmar Technologies * 303-682-3700
Web: http://www.tecmar.com
Price: $561 ($453 for the internal TS420C unit)
System Requirements: SCSI adapter card
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