Backups To Disk: Four Tape Alternatives Put To The Test

The 7-Bay High Rely From Highly Reliable Systems

You can tell immediately from its 19" rack-mount form factor that the High Rely from Highly Reliable Systems is not suitable for home use. The unit fits well, however, in the large server cabinets of mid-sized businesses.

Seven UltraATA hard drives are slotted into their own independently removable trays. This makes sense for creating a backup every day of the week. Added to that, the manufacturer chose really simple components, a factor reflected in the low overall cost of the storage system. The 19" rack takes up four height units and is relatively heavy. The removable bays are screwed together like any other 5.25" drives and are each connected via USB. A common AT power unit supplies the juice. To ensure a workable connection to the host, the individual USB 2.0 interfaces are grouped to a kind of USB hub, thus leaving just one USB 2.0 port on the rear of the storage module.

If 400 GB UltraATA hard drives are used, an impressive gross capacity of 2.8 teraBytes can be achieved, which is a whole lot of storage for just four rack height units. One criticism in this respect might well be that the possible transfer capacity of a total of seven hard drives would be drastically cut back because of the use of USB 2.0. Nevertheless, the solution works faster than most tape drives, and it's unlikely that several hard drives will be accessed simultaneously in this type of application.

The High Rely in action with seven hard drives.

The manufacturer includes two programs. The first ensures that hard drives of a certain removable bay are always allocated the same drive letter - otherwise scripts to execute automatic backups would wreak all sorts of havoc. In addition, the ID of each hard drive must be entered in a configuration file together with the desired drive letter. This ID is the serial number of each hard drive, which you can find out by using the DOS command "dir":

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M:\>dirVolume in drive M has no label.Volume Serial Number is A04D-4629Directory of M:\
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N:\>dirVolume in drive N has no label.Volume Serial Number is 285B-02DCDirectory of N:\

The corresponding configuration file looks like this:

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; High-Rely ConfigurationA04D-4629=X285B-02DC=Y

The second program is called Backup Now! It either runs on a timer or makes backups based on manual commands.