Backups: You only miss them when you haven't got one. (October 20th, 2004)
Product Manufacturer: Iomega
- Software complement, good engineering, ability to use as read-only without driver
- Price, not ubiquitous as ZIP is.
"A man's life in these these parts often depends on a mere scrap of information." Clint Eastwood in A Fistful of Dollars
WHAT IS IT
Make certain that you have a good backup plan in place: One that calls for scheduled backups to take place regularly, one that calls for separate backup media, so that you can have one backup on-site and one backup off. Backups are useless if you haven't got them going a few generations back, and if you haven't got one off site in case the building burns down. The software complement that Iomega ships the drive with is an excellent one.
I love firewire. I do. It is easy to connect, fast, and does not seem to have the device priority connection issues that I have experienced with USB. Booting from a firewire device is pretty darn classy as well. In the past all firewire drives have been self-contained. Changing magnetic media required opening the firewire enclosure and swapping out an IDE hard drive.
Iomega aims to change that practice with their FireWire REV drive. The REV drive uses the 2.5" spindle of magnetic media, similar to that used in laptop drives. But where they go next is wildly different.
The drive enclosure accepts the black media which actually holds the disk. The disks have a "clean area" and "dirty" area. The clean area houses the disk and is sealed when not in the drive. A special door mechanism opens the sealed area when the cartridge is inserted and create a new sealed area. Air filters in the drive help keep dust from building between the head and the drive and it uses self-cleaning heads to keep the drive internals clean. Normal hard drives are assembled in a dustfree clean-room, so Iomega has had to go to great lengths to make the removable media as clean and reliable as possible.
The REV ships with a great complement of both Macintosh and Windows software. It comes with Retrospect Express 6.0 for Mac and Ghost for PC. It works without driver installation on the Mac, appearing as a CD, which makes it easy to restore on a system that hasn't got the driver loaded. The driver is needed for writing files to the drive. One of the best things about the packaging is a great chart explaining backup and restore procedures.
What could be wrong with this product then? Price per gigabyte. $400 for the cost of the drive and one piece of media, and $50 for additional media. The initial investment is high, versus just buying a few 120gb firewire drives from someone like Wiebetech.com (who sells a fw800 120gb for 229 USD.) Yes, the cost per gb changes when you consider the compression of the Iomega REV media, 90gb at 2.6:1 compression, however that has a speed hit to it. It may be better to compare 35gb uncompressed to other drives, because you won't get that high compression on all files. For an illustration of what I mean, take a few different types of files, text, image, and binary, and compress them with stuffit. They will not all compress to the same degree and one or more of them won't really compress at all.
The Iomega REV is nice for archival and backup/restore, but does the luxury of small cartridges outweigh the price advantage of desktop or laptop sized firewire drives? If every computer had a rev drive built in, perhaps- but they don't. However, the alternative is having a number of firewire hard drives and storing them all. Storing the one REV drive and a few of its disks take up less space and allow for convenient off-site storage, a key to any well-planned backup procedure.
The REV provides a durable, portable solution that acts like any other hard drive. This is a nice storage medium. For those of you concerned about the current 35gb (90gb compressed) media, Iomega is planning a larger drive. However, be warned, the larger media will not be backwards compatible with the current drive. Today's current media will be compatible in future versions of the REV.
In conclusion, the REV is a well thought out device with a lot of care having gone into engineering the drive and media. It is a large expense, and makes sense if you use it for backup and restore of your own machines. It makes less sense if you intend to share media with clients: At this time, as cool as it is, it has not caught on with OEMs and graphics shops the way Iomega's ZIP product once did.