The availability of cheap ATA drives and USB 2.0 is revolutionising backup. Now that Maxtor has introduced a small business edition of its One Touch external drive, the one bundled with Dantz Retrospect backup, price comparisons show the startling divide opening up between disk and tape backup.

According to figures supplied by Maxtor:-

A Seagate Travan 40 drive costs £354.91 from Inmac in France. Retrospect Multi Server v7.0 adds £463.72. Add in Open File Backup v7 at £530.07. Top this off with an annual support and maintenance contract for Multi Server at £179.12 and then buy a pack of ten TapeStor 40 Travan tapes at £318.44. It comes to £1,846.27.

Most of the functionality can be provided by one Maxtor Small Business Edition 200GB USB 2 external drive at £399 RRP (ex-VAT). Maxtor says its product backs up data five times faster than Travan and restores it six times faster. The 200GB becomes 300GB with compression - unless you're backing up uncompressible data or already compressed graphics images. Buy a second unit and you can rotate them. So you then have rotation and faster backup and restores for £800 versus £1,850.

UK prices from Inmac are: Seagate Travan 40 drive - £299.00; Multi Server v7.0 - £489.99; and Open File Backup v7.0 - £349.00 - all ex-VAT. It's not a lot better.

Maxtor provides a comparable price calculation for the Certance CT 40 desktop from Inmac Germany. It totals £1,611.42. From Insight in the UK it costs £1,510.

No doubt you could get a less expensive tape set up but you would still suffer the speed disadvantage. Backing up at disk speed, even USB 2.0 disk speed, and restoring off disk are many times faster than off Travan tape.

Maxtor also claims that backing up to its product is twice as as fast as using Exabyte (VXA) and DAT tapes. Restores are four times faster than Exabyte and three times faster than DAT.

You can schedule One Touch backups to take place automatically. The backup software can send e-mail alerts out to say whether a backup succeeded or failed and simple traffic light status icons indicate backup status as well. Historical versions of files can be kept and you can backup to particular points in time using restore points.

The number of removable disk backup products is increasing. Recent Techworld storage news included a combined RAID and removable backup appliance. Maxtor has a shared storage external drive for branch offices, departments and small businesses. This can be backed up to external drives as well.

If you wanted to ensure that backups were run at a branch office or in a small department then an automated external disk backup would seem to fit the bill well. It's hard to understand why business will continue to buy low-end tape drives with prices and performance comparisons like these.