Bye Bye Tape, Hello 5.3 TB eSATA


Julio Urquidi has worked in IT for the past 15 years and specializes in server management for the healthcare industry in California. One of the things you should note about this article is its emphasis on things other than performance. In most IT shops criteria such as documentation, operational functionality, system monitoring and vendor support come before performance in selecting hardware and software.

It's amazing how much disk you can buy for 60 bucks. For example, I just walked into a local retailer and purchased an 80 GB hard drive for less than what my neighbor paid to fill the gas tank in her SUV...and I still overpaid. Years ago, I would have paid three times the amount for a drive a third the size of my latest purchase. Yes, storage hardware has gotten very affordable over the years and with all the breakthroughs in technology, what was once a data protection pipe dream, backup to disk, has become a stark reality.

If you need to backup large amounts of data, but aren't all that comfortable with a bunch of relatively slow USB or Firewire drives and you can't afford more expensive NAS and SAN solutions, consider an interesting answer from Highly Reliable Systems, the High-Rely eSATA Backup System. The e in eSata stands for external. This unit consists of a rack mountable chassis that uses seven SATA disk drives. It just might pave the way for future hard drive backup solutions. The important thing to understand about the High-Rely eSATA chassis is that it's not RAID configurable. The chassis simply provides you with 7 high capacity disk drives, each of which can be configured as a separate physical disk drive.

The High-Rely eSATA chassis is one of two seven drive disk backup systems produced by the Reno, Nevada based company. The other seven drive product is a USB based chassis that is just as nice a package as its sibling, but without the high transfer rate of eSATA. Finally for individual users, Highly Reliable also has five and single drive products that come in USB and eSATA models. Resellers can also find eight and ten drive models.

The High-Rely eSATA system I'll look at here includes a seven bay chassis, seven 750 GB cartridge enclosed disk drives, a PCI-Express eSATA card, software and accessories.


The High-Rely package includes the chassis, two single port eSATA adapters, a power cable, a dual eSATA cable, drive keys, software CD and warranty.

The eSATA metal enclosure I tested is a black 4U rack mountable device that, populated with drives, weighs in at a sturdy 50 pounds. The model tested has eight available hard disk bays with seven of them configured for disk use while the eighth drive slot has a vented cover. The eighth bay is for the eight disk version of the product available only to resellers.

Noise-wise, if you work in a data center you recognize the not-so subtle hum of a server-like fan. You may want install the device in a spot designated for noisier devices. A well cooled room or closet would be ideal, especially since you're dealing with a machine that houses seven heat producing disk drives.

All the cabling in the eSATA unit interfaces with the chassis from the back. The eSATA cables plug into two separate cards located on the rear of the case. The eSATA cable that comes with the chassis is composed of two separate eSATA lines joined together by a fabric mesh. For the test model, one of the pair of cables had blue tubing at the ends to distinguish it from the other cable.

The chassis is powered by a single 300 watt power supply that uses the same standard PC power cable that most of us collect and keep in our boxes of spare parts. At the front of the chassis is a rocker switch that turns on the power and a single LED that tells you the system is powered on.

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