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Storage UPDATE--SATA Best Practices--December 6, 2004

Storage UPDATE--SATA Best Practices--December 6, 2004

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1. Commentary

  • Making the Most of SATA Drives
  • IT Prolympics Update: Congratulations to the Winners of the Windows IT Prolympics!

2. Resource

  • Using an LTO Tape Drive with Windows 2000 Remote Storage

3. New and Improved

  • QiNetix Extends Windows Server Capabilities
  • Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!

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==== 1. Commentary: Making the Most of SATA Drives ==== by David Chernicoff, [email protected]

Lately I've gotten a flurry of questions about the suitability of Serial ATA (SATA) drives for use in entry-level and midrange servers. Obviously, the easy answer is "yes, they work great and are an inexpensive alternative to SCSI." However, the more accurate answer isn't quite that simple.

The biggest problem I've seen with the use of SATA drives is that vendors or buyers of those devices tend to stick a couple of large drives in the computer and assume that capacity will fulfill disk requirements, especially in entry-level systems. Large-capacity (i.e., up to 400GB) SATA drives are so inexpensive that it seems to make sense to throw in the biggest drives you can afford. OEMs encourage this practice, offering their entry-level systems with a 120GB or 250GB drive as available configurations.

The problem is that, from a best-practices perspective, you shouldn't be sticking your OS and all your data on one drive. Too many things can go wrong with the OS--from simple crashes to nasty virus infections--to risk housing your data and OS on the same drive. Even when vendors try to address this concern, their solution isn't always optimal. For instance, one major server vendor recommends that its entry-level servers be equipped with at least two drives, which, on the surface, seems like a good idea. However, the vendor is actually recommending two drives so that they can be mirrored. Mirroring provides additional insurance against disk crashes but still leaves you open to virus infections and malicious software (malware) attacks.

If you have two SATA drives, I suggest that instead of mirroring them, you use the smaller one as a boot drive, configure the OS on it, and dedicate the second drive to data storage. If the server supports RAID (as do many servers, even entry-level machines), decide what type of RAID protection is suitable for the data drives. For the boot drive, which will change very little, choose a good backup and restore product that will ensure minimal downtime should you need to replace that drive. Or, if a virus infection or an OS failure occurs, you can use the backup to restore the OS to an operational state on the remaining functional drive.

SATA drives are a great boon to entry-level servers, and not because of their capacity or performance. (The new Seagate 400GB SATA drive is also available with an ATA 100 interface and effectively delivers the same performance over both interfaces.) The simplified cabling and increased cable lengths of SATA as compared with ATA mean that low-cost servers can have storage capacities once reserved for high-end boxes; it's now easy to deliver a server with more than a terabyte of SATA storage.

It's still important to remember that SATA isn't a replacement for SCSI in heavily utilized, high-performance environments. Although SATA offers improvements over ATA, SCSI's strengths still set it apart from SATA. If your primary need is to store large amounts of lightly used data, SATA is an excellent choice. For mail or database server applications, though, you're still better served--even at the entry level--by SCSI storage.

IT Prolympics Update: Congratulations to the Winners of the Windows IT Prolympics!

Contestants in the Windows IT Pro IT Prolympics tested and showed off their Active Directory (AD) prowess by taking a written exam and participating in a virtual-lab skills test. The three winners are:

  • Gold medal: Steven Schullo, Hixson, Tennessee, who wins a trip to TechEd, a subscription to Windows IT Pro, and an AD t-shirt.
  • Silver medal: Michael Royer, West Hollywood, California, who wins an iPod, a subscription to Windows IT Pro, and an AD t-shirt.
  • Bronze medal: Nathan Casey, Santa Rosa, California, who wins an xBox, a subscription to Windows IT Pro, and an AD t-shirt.

You'll be able to read more about these IT Prolympians in the January 2005 issue of Windows IT Pro.

Although the contest is over, you can still test your AD knowledge and see how you stack up against your peers. Simply go to, download the study guide, then take the written and virtual-lab exams. Challenge yourself and learn at the same time.

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==== 2. Resource: Using an LTO Tape Drive with Windows 2000 Remote Storage ====

Windows 2000 Remote Storage doesn't support most Linear Tape-Open (LTO) formats. Thus, when you use an LTO tape drive with Win2K Remote Storage, you'll receive the error message, "No supported media type was found on this computer." You can modify the Win2K registry to allow support for the Ultrium LTO format. For more information about this registry setting, go to

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==== 3. New and Improved ====
by Jason Bovberg, [email protected]

QiNetix Extends Windows Server Capabilities

CommVault announced the second generation of QiNetix, an enterprise data-management suite built on the Windows Server 2003 platform. This upgrade of QiNetix provides faster backup and recovery capabilities, enhanced resiliency, and enriched granular data protection, by using recent advances in Microsoft technology. Windows customers will be able to maximize their Microsoft application and data protection, enabling easier and faster upgrades, at further reduced operational and staffing costs, according to the vendor. Highlights include fast restores of an entire system with 1-Touch Restore, a Readiness Check feature that performs a preoperation check of all components, and improved backup and recovery performance through CommVault media-management technology. For further information about QiNetix, contact CommVault at 732-870-4000 or on the Web.

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