At $2799, Hewlett-Packard's SureStore DAT40 isn't the cheapest backup solution, but that will be your only excuse: the DAT40 scores high in ease of use, and it's the fastest tape backup drive we've seen.
The SureStore DAT40 is an internal Ultra2 LVD SCSI drive that stores on compact 20GB DDS-4 digital audio tapes. (An external version is also available.) The drive uses hardware compression to store up to double the tape's capacity, hence the DAT40 name. In addition to tonnes of capacity, the DAT40 provides the high performance that server and workstation backups require, offering a rated transfer speed of up to 6MB per second using hardware compression. And the drive has an incredibly useful one-button disaster recovery feature that can save you lots of frustration after a crash.
Unfortunately, the DAT40's price won't be your only expense: although you can use a single-ended SCSI card in a pinch, to get the best performance out of the drive you'll need an Ultra2 LVD SCSI adapter (priced at around $700). As such, this tape drive is not for the average user, but those with heavy backup needs should take a closer look.
The SureStore DAT40 performs fantastically. We tested it on a single-user workstation. On our 400MHz Celeron Windows 98 system, with 128MB of RAM, an Adaptec 2940U2W Ultra2 LVD adapter, and an 18GB Quantum Atlas hard drive, the DAT40 backed up 12.15GB of data in about 1 hour and 16 minutes - that's 2.67MB per second. Hewlett-Packard says performance is even faster under Windows NT.
The DAT40 also multitasks well; we performed a second backup while using Word and Excel, and hardly noticed the drive working. The second backup - of the same amount of data - took only a couple of minutes longer than the first.
If lightning speed isn't enough for you, maybe this will be: in conjunction with the bundled Colorado Backup II software, the SureStore DAT40 has the ability to boot your system and restore your files with the touch of a single button - no disaster-recovery floppy required. The only catch is, the one-button disaster recovery feature requires that your SCSI adapter support booting from a CD-ROM (the DAT40 has firmware that emulates a CD-ROM drive for this feature). Most Ultra2 LVD SCSI adapters do.
The SureStore DAT40 combines incredible speed with a tremendous storage capacity, and it's about half the price of a high-end digital linear tape drive. While, at nearly $3000, the SureStore DAT40 isn't for everyone, small-office network administrators or power users with lots of critical data would be hard-pressed to find a better solution.
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