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Bye Bye Tape, Hello 5.3 TB eSATA

Pricing And Warrantee

Per the website, the tested system would cost accordingly:

  • High-Rely Seven Bay Rack mount eSATA System, Part No: HR7BRM0BKS - Qty 1, $1725
  • High-Rely 750 GB Media, Part No: HRM750SABK - Qty 7, $3661
  • High-Rely Dual Port PCI Express eSATA controller, Part No: HR2EPCIE - Qty 1, $96
  • Total cost of the tested system - $5482 plus applicable tax and shipping

Highly Reliable Systems provides an 18 month warranty on the High-Rely Seven Bay Backup System and 12 month warranties on their other products including the disk drives. You can also purchase an additional 36 month warranty for the eSATA chassis for ($345) and each 750 GB disk drive ($105).

Conclusions

I'm a big fan of using hard disk drives for my own backup operations. It's quick and easy. If you have more than one computer at home, you can be creative and have the machines back each other up. However, if you manage a server at the office that absolutely, positively needs to be backed up, consider using a device like the High-Rely eSATA Backup System. As tested, it's probably over-kill to use the 750 GB disk cartridges. You may want to scale down to smaller capacity drives. On the other hand, depending on the type of business you're in, the kind of data the company generates and the number of employees in the office, you may need the larger drives.

If you're a hardware kind of person that doesn't look for all the bells and whistles, you'll be comfortable working with the seven bay eSATA solution. If you are not too technical, it's still worth trying out, especially since you don't have to deal with tape rotations and tape to disk recoveries. In my opinion, the eSATA Backup System would be ideal for small university departments, small offices and researchers. Since the drives are hot swappable and keyed, I can see this removable disk system being used in military or other secured facilities that lock up their media at night.

Three things off the top of my head that I would like to see in the future from companies like Highly Reliable Systems are: smaller form factors, better PC based monitoring tools and stream-lined bare metal restores.

Performance-wise, the eSATA Backup System matched with the Windows 2003 Backup Utility was not too impressive. eSATA has great throughput, but when I look at the Windows 2003 Backup Utility test results I'm suspicious that the problem isn't with the hardware. Perhaps different software would provide better completion times.

In the end, I'm not sure how long tape based backups will be around. Technical evolution has already replaced the audio cassette with CD/DVDs and now with high capacity disk and flash storage devices. Hard disk drive capacity, speed, pricing and portability are forever evolving in positive directions. I'm sure it won't be long before the big boys on the IT block like Dell, HP and IBM start to build and sell their own hard disk based backup solutions. But the name brand products aren't going to be cost effective for the small office environment. If you are adventurous, definitely check out High-Rely Systems eSATA Backup System. It's simple hardware that uses simple software, leaving some room for creativity to you.

Pros:

  • No messy tape rotation schedules
  • Easy disk replacement for off-site transfers
  • Dropping storage prices make hard disk backups affordable
  • Accidental disk removal protection
  • Good protection for dropped disks

Cons:

  • Backlit display not viewable from more than 2 feet away
  • No power redundancy because of the single power supply
  • Weak included and online documentation

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