OnStream PC tape backup is affordable but slow

OnStream PC tape backup is affordable but slow

The drive's Echo Catalog feature can track name and location of all files saved to tape cartridges

By Jason Byrne

GCN Staff

When a new PC comes standard with a 12G, 18G or 36G hard drive, its backup requirements overflow the usual 8G tape.

OnStream Inc. has used Philips Electronics'

Onstream D130

30G desktop PC tape backup drive

OnStream Inc.; Longmont, Colo.;

tel. 800-759-4621


Price: $299

+ Easy desktop PC backup

+ Great price per megabyte

- Transfer rate below par

Real-life requirements:

Windows 9x or NT 4.0, 32M of RAM,

50M of free storage, free 5.25-inch

bay, IDE controller

Advanced Digital Recording technology in easy-to-use tape backup software and hardware that combines tape backup with cartridge technology similar to that in Zip drives from Iomega Corp. of Roy, Utah.

The media capacity is 15G uncompressed or 30G at a compression ratio of 2-to-1, enough for almost any desktop PC user.

ADR lets the drive write and read eight tracks of data simultaneously, which is supposed to increase the transfer rate to and from the tape, as well as improve data integrity.

The star of the package is the install-it-and-forget-it backup feature. Most backup software requires the user to either schedule backups or start them manually.

That's always a good idea, but what about a particular file that you want to back up immediately without all the rigmarole?

The OnStream software lets you access the tape through a drive icon and letter within the My Computer window, then just drag and drop the file for immediate backup.

OnStream can automatically back up new or changed files daily. One of the nicest features is the Echo Catalog, which tracks all files saved to tape cartridges and knows which cartridge a specific file is on. Because the catalog is kept on the hard drive, there's no need to go hunting through backups to find things.

The Echo Catalog can also keep track of files saved to other removable media, such as floppy disks.

I installed the test unit, an internal IDE, on a 300-MHz Pentium II system with 64M of RAM and Microsoft Windows 98. Installation was a breeze in a free 5.25-inch bay.

The OnStream tape backup

has plenty of capacity at 15G,

but the backup rate of 26M

per minute is too slow.

The installation software helpfully examined the machine and recommended how to set the jumpers on the drive.

I backed up the hard drive several times over a few days, as well as dragging and dropping individual files and folders for backup.

The backup rate without compression averaged 26M per minute, or about 30M per minute with compression enabled. Compared with other tape drives that transfer 2M to 5M per second, or 120M to 300M per minute, the OnStream drive was quite slow.

A lot of the other drives cost $600 to $4,000, however, and the internal OnStream IDE comes in at a low $299; 30G media costs only about $39. SCSI and external versions are available, as is a $699, 50G version.

That makes the OnStream a slow but cheap backup solution with a good price per megabyte.

If you need to do large-scale personal backups cheaply and without lots of administrative overhead, and if speed isn't a concern, the DI30 is a good choice.

For many users, however, it is too slow to make up for the great price advantage. The SCSI version is likely to give a better performance at a higher price than my test unit.

ADR technology still has some bumps to iron out.'As the technology matures, I hope OnStream can get more on track.


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