Tandberg’s RDX Breathes Life into Backup Hardware Market

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Hosted storage has been slowly replacing tape as a means of backup for the SMB market, denying solution providers their instant profits of hardware sales. Tandberg is looking to revitalise those backup hardware sales with the RDX series, which is cheaper and faster than hosted solutions, and eliminates all the hassles of tape.

Many small and midsize businesses have turned to hosted backup solutions to save a few bucks and eliminate the hassles of tape. While it is good news that backup is being taken a little more seriously by that finicky market segment, solution providers are feeling the pinch of reduced margins simply because hosted services can’t compare with the profit of hardware sales.

Tandberg Data is aiming to bring backup (and storage) back into the physical realm with the RDX QuikStor line of products. Designed from the outset as a backup solution, RDX eliminates tape in favor of removable hard disk drive-based storage that meets the ruggedness of tape and out performs hosted solutions.

Backup is one of those processes that many small businesses still fail to take seriously. Some argue that it is too much of a hassle, others say it is too expensive, while many more simply don’t have the time to baby-sit a backup procedure.

Solution providers have turned to hosted solutions to solve many of those problems, yet hosted storage fails to provide the real advantages of a premises-based solution—namely speed, archiving and ownership of the data. Until recently, tape or traditional hard drives were the only options to the hosted methodology. Sure, some companies introduced removable hard drives or other cartridge-based systems, yet those devices suffered from high costs, fragility or other problems.

With all of that in mind, Tandberg asked a simple question: What if you could combine all of the advantages of tape with all of the advantages of a hard drive and eliminate the disadvantages of both in the backup market? The company answered its own question with the RDX QuikStor—a new segment of storage that features the backup capabilities of tape along with the speed and low cost per gigabyte of hard disk-based storage.

The Tandberg RDX QuikStor drive is available in a few different form factors and interfaces, including internal, external, USB and eSata. We tested an External Kit, which included a USB 2.0-based drive and a 500GB cartridge, and retails for $799 (£564). Solution providers will find that bare drives retail for as little as $199 (£140), while cartridges range in price depending upon capacity. RDX cartridges are available in capacities of 80GB, 160GB, 320GB and 500GB.

While $799 (£564) may sound like a lot of money, that price point proves to be very inexpensive when compared with LTO or other tape drive technologies. What’s more, QuikStor offers much more capacity than traditional tape drives. Solution providers also need to consider how expensive hosted storage solutions are based on gigabytes needed and the length of time. Pre-buying a few gigabytes of hosted service for a multiyear period could prove to be more expensive than the QuikStor solution.

Solution providers will appreciate the fact that all RDX cartridges are interchangeable; in other words, any RDX drive will be able to use any RDX cartridge, regardless of capacity. That offers a level of economy and promises increased capacities in the future.

To save customers some money, solution providers can go with a lower-capacity drive for the daily backups and then dedicate a high-capacity drive for the monthly archives. That way, customers are only buying the capacity that they need and can still preserve an upgrade path for the future. The cartridges prove to be just as resilient as tape and can survive knocks, drops and other shocks without damage. Tandberg states that the drives have a service life of more than 10 years.

One of the most important factors to consider with a hardware-based backup solution is speed—after all, for most businesses there is a very narrow backup window, usually in the middle of the night, to back up all of the data. Here, Tandberg has designed the drives to work as fast as 45MB per minute (162GB per hour). During our testing, the drive did approach those speeds, but on average we saw speeds of around 38MB per minute—a far cry better than hosted storage and previously tested tape solutions.

Tandberg bundles in a backup program called RDX File Keeper, which offers CDP (continuous data protection) and disaster recovery protection. File Keeper uses byte-level CDP for all user data, protecting data as it is written to disk. An imaging capability allows users to capture complete hard drive images for disaster recovery purposes.

Even when the drive is not connected, RDX File Keeper still operates. It “caches” backup data and then moves it over to the RDX cartridge once connected. File Keeper’s CDP can also be defined to keep multiple copies of data files based on time stamps to provide simple revision tracking and control.

Realistically, File Keeper is a single desktop user tool and is geared more toward the remote or mobile user. For server protection or network disaster recovery applications, solution providers will need to rely on companion products, such as Symantec’s Backup Exec or Acronis True Image, or many of the other backup and DR products on the market.

Since the RDX system works with the OS as a traditional external storage device, compatibility between the various backup programs on the market should be excellent. Solution providers should note that Tandberg does offer better integration with Symantec’s Backup Exec product by providing the software drivers to leverage Backup Exec’s drag-and-copy features found in Backup Exec QS.

Basic installation of the drive is simple; users will only need to install the drivers and applications from the included CD and then plug the drive into their USB port. It is that simple. The included software is wizard-driven and extremely easy to use. The external drive does require a separate power supply, which is included and comes with multiple plugs to work with various electric grids around the world.

With the RDX QuikStor, Tandberg Data has proven that there is still some life in the backup hardware market and has created a device that can back up small networks, branch offices and individual users at a price that is very competitive to hosted solutions and much cheaper than tape.

Hopefully, in the future, Tandberg will increase the capacities and build rack-level appliances so that the impressive technology and performance of the RDX system can find its way into the enterprise.