Max(tm) 10GB tape drive
to the web site
Windows 98/95, Windows 3.1 or higher, DOS 5.X and Windows
NT 4.0 Workstation
Technologies(R), Inc. is a leading developer and manufacturer
of high performance tape storage solutions designed specifically
for networking environments. The company is headquartered
in the U.S. southwest, in Longmont, Colorado. During
1999, we've reviewed several of Tecmar's professional
network backup products including the Travan NS20 tape
drive, Novanet Backup 7, and Novanet Web Backup. The
latest offering from Tecmar, the Ditto Max(R) 10GB tape
drive, is interesting and curious at the same time.
you'll probably recognize the Ditto name. It was a prominent
trademark. But on March 17, 1999 Tecmar
and Iomega announced that Tecmar was paying a total of US$3
million for the rights to Iomega's Ditto 2GB and Ditto Max
family of products, which included the 10GB Ditto Max Pro
and the 7GB Ditto Max drives. Tecmar acquired intellectual
property and exclusive Ditto product rights including certain
software, media intellectual property product rights, tooling,
jigs, and dies owned by Iomega, a pile of other equipment,
the Ditto brand name for tape and tape-related products,
packaging rights, product images, logos, etc. Iomega received
an exclusive license to the Ditto trademark outside of tape
and tape-related products and retained its "one-step" icon.
with the Ditto Max Tecmar appears to be expanding its market
beyond the strictly professional tape
backup channel to cover the SOHO and small business market
as well. It's something a wee bit different for the company.
The Ditto Max home page on the Tecmar web site even states
that "Whether you use your computer for work, personal
business, or just for fun, Ditto Max Professional 10GB is
the perfect backup solution."
The obvious conclusion one comes to is that Iomega, bleeding
a bit of red ink, decided it really wanted to focus on the
most familiar part of its consumer market, and decided to
spin off what it thought of as a professional tape drive
line. Tecmar is the beneficiary and now has an inexpensive,
legitimate SOHO and small business tape backup contender
After receiving the drive from Tecmar, we installed it almost
immediately. It did not undergo testing for almost a week
however and as a result, we had a chance to examine the software
(Flash!File and Fullback) supplied on the Ditto Tools CD,
bundled with the Ditto Max. We couldn't help but notice that
the tools appeared to be a full version of Seagate Backup
Exec (but at v4.0), completely renamed and re-branded.
We contacted Darryl Lloyd, Inc., the active and responsive
agency which represents Tecmar, and asked the obvious question.
It turned out that we were correct about the Seagate software,
but Tecmar had to go the long way 'round to actually get
this software. Veritas bought Seagate Software. Tecmar licensed
the software from Seagate/Veritas. Seagate had originally
provided the software to Iomega and it was prearranged that
Tecmar would be able to transfer the rights to use it under
an umbrella license. Tecmar has now had the time to incorporate
an updated and customized, full version into Ditto Tools.
We tested the Tecmar Ditto Max on a variety of handy computers
including our PII/400 workhorse running Windows 98, a dual
133MHz Pentium former server (now a much happier workstation)
with 128MB RAM running Windows NT4 (SP5), and a P166MMX machine
with 64MB RAM running Windows 95. Ditto Tools installed without
problems on each machine, and the Ditto Max drive was up
and running in no time.
Testing these sorts of solutions is always fairly interesting,
but one thing that should be noted is that parallel port
devices will never win the speed sweepstakes. While we did
hit the maximum throughput numbers once or twice (19MB per
minute), average throughput was much slower (closer to 14MB
per minute). A 5GB compressed backup took about 6 hours (averaging
around 830MB per hour). But if you're sleeping, and the backup
is being performed automatically by a solid and reliable
combination of software and hardware, who cares about speed?
Note that, according to Tecmar's specs, the internal version
of this drive is almost twice as fast.
tested the Flash!File utility. Basically, Flash!File creates
uncompressed 125MB fast access location on a backup
tape. This allows much faster access to anything you store
under Flash!File (you can simply drag & drop files onto
the Flash!File desktop icon which is installed). Flash!File
is quite easy to set up and will be of serious interest to
people who have a constant need to access backups which cycle
quickly: accounting numbers from the previous week's business,
inventory numbers from a recent backup, queued database information
which is backed up but not yet entered, and so on. You can
designate what files/paths use the Flash!File setup.
Cons: Backing up large partitions and drives is a lesson
in patience when using the parallel port, so absolutely do
NOT ever do a multi-gigabyte backup with this unit until
after hours. The other large backup related problem is associated
with big video files. The dual processor test machine is
frequently used to create really large uncompressed video
files, and the backup software choked on individual files
larger than 4GB. This situation is unusual and we don't anticipate
too many people running into the problem. In any case, a
parallel port device is not the place to be backing up gigabyte
after gigabyte of data (unless you're doing it overnight).
WinFax 8 from Symantec would not detect incoming calls while
the backup software was operating. After upgrading both test
machines to WinFax Pro 9, the problem disappeared (and we
recommend WinFax Pro 9 anyway).
Pros: The Ditto Max 10GB tape drive is absolutely reliable.
The transport, tape technology, and general drive stability
are undisputed. Set up your regular backup schedule using
Tecmar Ditto Tools, make sure there's a tape in the drive,
and walk away. Ditto Max Professional 10GB is compatible
with 3GB, 5GB, 7GB, and 10GB cartridges from Tecmar, Iomega,
Imation, Sony and Verbatim. The prices for these tape cartridges
range from US$19.95 up to US$34.95 for singles, with discounts
for 2-packs and 3-packs. If you're looking for a really inexpensive,
reliable, large capacity tape backup unit, the Tecmar Ditto
Max is worth a long look.
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