Tape storage is old technology, tapes are clunky and they're hard to manage. None of these is actually true but it is the case that tape-based backup systems are expensive to buy, especially at the entry level where smaller businesses generally fish.

Enter Tandberg Data's RDX QuikStor, its disk cartridge-based backup and archiving system, which is effectively a disk-based replacement for a tape backup system. Hard disk cartridge systems became popular in the 1980s and 1990s but usage fell as networks got faster and the size of hard disks installed in PCs and Macs outstripped the capacity of the cartridges. So via the RDX QuikStor, Tandberg is making a bid to keep this type of device alive.

The device comes packaged either as an internal drive or an external, rubber-protected box. The internal version, which is available either with a 5.25-inch or a 3.5-inch faceplate, is connected to the host machine's SATA interface, as are the drives inside the cartridges; the external version gets a USB 2.0 connection. This means, according to Tandberg, that the SATA interfaced-drive, made by Fujitsu according to one website, delivers up to 30MB/second while the most you'll extract from the external product is 25MB/second. Other than that, the two versions are identical.

Externally, there's an illuminated eject button and an activity / fault indicator. You can also eject the drives in an emergency CD-style by shoving the end of a paperclip into a hole on the front fascia. At the back of the external unit we reviewed, there's a mini-USB port and a socket for the external 12V power supply.

Cartridges come in 40GB, 80GB and 120GB capacities, although Tandberg reckons that it'll be adding higher capacities over time as they become available; a 40GB cartridge is part of the bundle by default. The SATA-interfaced hard drive inside the casing, which is impossible to open without damaging it, is a 2.5-inch device. Compact at 120mm by 86mm by 23mm, they're robust enough to drop from up to a metre off the floor, according to Tandberg. And small drives tend to be quiet and generate less heat, as our review sample demonstrated.

However, use of 2.5-inch disk drives also means that capacity doesn't come cheap, compared to the larger hard disks. This shouldn't be a major problem for most users though as they're more likely to be used as part of a rotating backup set rather than filled up and simply stored.

Performance and software

We had no problems with the RDX's performance. We connected the machine via a USB 2.0 hub to a workstation powered by an Intel 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo E6700, with 2GB of RAM, and a pair of RAID 0-configured SATA hard disks. It turned in a creditable 21.14MB/second and 19.2MB/second reading from and writing to the device respectively; numbers that are close to what Tandberg promises.

The RDX comes with Symantec's BackExec 10, which is a good match for the needs of a small business. It allows you to build up a set of cartridges and treat them just like tapes. It will create backup sets -- groups of cartridges -- to which you can allocate attributes such as minimum overwrite times. For example you can set a group of disks so that they will cannot be overwritten within a given number of days, weeks, months or even years -- or ever.

Under Windows, which most prospective customers will be running, the device worked fine, and, after installing the utility that comes with it, it was recognised as a removable device. Those using Linux might be disappointed though as there are no Linux drivers in the box. And despite the documentation promising the availability of Linux drivers -- SuSE and Red Hat -- on the company's Web site, we were unable to track any down.

In use however, the machine is quiet and works as expected. It's easy to set up and use, and the documentation is good. And despite the lack of support for Linux, it'll attach to either a workstation or a server, from where it can either be shared or can act as backup for the server's storage system.

OUR VERDICT

The RDX is quiet and works as expected. It's easy to set up and use, and the documentation is good. And despite the lack of support for Linux, it'll attach to either a workstation or a server, from where it can either be shared or can act as backup for the server's storage system.