SMBs

SolutionBase: Simplify SMB backups using Iomega Rev Disks

First there was the ZIP disk, and then the JAZ. Iomega has recently taken removable disk storage to a new level with the Iomega Rev disk. Here's how you can use it as a tape alternative for backups in small and medium size businesses.
This article is also available as a TechRepublic download.

Data protection is one of the greatest challenges small and medium businesses face. Frequently faced with tight budgets and often boasting only outside consultant support, an SMB's focus is typically consumed with managing operations, increasing market share, improving products and services, and a myriad number of other factors. However, configuring and rotating a complex series of backup tapes, not to mention regularly cleaning a tape drive, isn't at the top of most SMB’s to-do lists, even though those steps preserve one of the organization’s most critical assets: its data.

Fortunately, new technologies such as Iomega Rev 35/70GB Backup Drives come along and simplify routine tasks that, if overlooked, could ruin a business. While grandfather-father-son rotations serve as by-the-book best practices to which most every business should subscribe, the process just isn’t practicable within every organization.

What’s a Rev disk?

Iomega’s Rev Disks are small and hardy backup drives easily carried in a pocket. They greatly simplify the backup process and make it easy for an office manager to regularly rotate a copy of the business’ data offsite each day or week.

Measuring just short of 3x3" and less than a 0.5" high, weighing less than three ounces, Rev disks are readily portable. They’re removed from their drives via a single touch of a button, as seen in Figure A. Better yet, both 35 GB and 70 GB models are available (using compression, those models can store up to 70 GB and 140 GB of data, respectively).

Figure A

Iomega Rev drives fit 3.5" and 5.25" drive bays and feature compact cartridges for easily storing data offsite.

Rev 70 disks offer almost double the capacity of most tape drives. Rev disk pricing is attractive to SMBs, too. While Iomega's disks generally cost more than tapes -- a single Rev 70 GB disk runs $69, while four-packs cost $249 -- actual Rev Backup Drive pricing is favorable. The suggested retail price for an Iomega Rev 70 GB ATAPI Backup Drive is $579, which includes one Rev 70 GB disk. External USB models are available for an additional twenty dollars.

Depending upon an organization’s needs, bundled offerings are also available. Server backup kits include multiple Rev disks and CA BrightStorARCserver Backup powered software. Iomega even offers the Iomega Rev Server, a desktop autoloader (targeted at SMBs) housing eight Rev disks that can store up to 1.1 terabytes of data.

Most SMBs will be well-served using the simple ATAPI drive, though. For the cost of the drive and a few disks, organization’s can better protect their business’ data. Simply following a regular once-a-week schedule, small businesses can easily assign one individual to rotate Rev disks off site (larger companies may wish to rotate disks off-site daily). The staffer charged with the assignment need only push the Rev Backup Drive’s eject button and insert a replacement disk. A part-time IT professional or consultant can configure either the included software (non-server versions ship with EMC Retrospect Express) or Windows’ own NT Backup and Windows Small Business Server Backup Wizard applications.

Installing the ATAPI drive

When deploying a Rev ATAPI drive, locate the Rev Drive Solutions CD that ships with the unit. Follow the Iomega Installer prompts to prepare the computer to recognize and use the new drive. Administrators can choose either an Automatic or Custom installation. The main option available in the Custom install is the ability to omit deploying the EMC Retrospect Express backup software.

Once setup is complete, you’re ready to install the drive itself. The Iomega Rev ATAPI Drive fits either 3.5" or 5.25" drive bays. The Rev drive fits 3.5" bays with no adjustment; when placing the drive in 5.25" drive bays, you must first attach the supplied side rails and front bezel plate.

Once installed inside an available bay, the ATAPI drive requires an IDE connection and a standard four-pin Molex connector (commonly used on IDE hard disks). The drive’s jumper is set to cable select by default and can be paired with a CD-ROM drive, should a system require it. Just be sure to connect the IDE cable’s middle slave plug to the CD-ROM drive (and configure the CD-ROM jumpers to the cable select setting). Also, Iomega recommends connecting the ATAPI drive to the motherboard’s secondary IDE interface.

When the system is booted, the Rev software will detect the new drive. If the Rev drive isn’t found, a troubleshooting menu will appear.

Configuring backups

Administrators can choose to leverage a native Windows backup application or use EMC Retrospect Express. When electing to power backups with EMC Retrospect, administrators will follow these steps:

  1. Select Backup from the Backup Overview window.
  2. Press Next to bypass advanced settings and use the Backup Wizard.
  3. Specify whether you wish to back up Documents and Settings, My Computer or Let Me Choose (Advanced). For this example, we'll select Let Me Choose (Advanced).
  4. Use the supplied menu to indicate which folders should be backed up, as seen in Figure B.

Figure B

Use the EMC Retrospect Backup Wizard to simplify configuring backup routines.
  1. Specify the types of files within those folders that should be backed up (options include Documents And Settings, Operating System And Applications, Pictures, Music, Movies, Office Documents, and All Other Files), as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

Specify the type of files that should be backed up.
  1. Specify where the backup should be stored.
  2. Indicate how often the backup should occur.
  3. Specify when the backup should occur.
  4. Set the number of backup copies that should be created.
  5. Specify how many backup sets are to be used.
  6. Name the backup sets.
  7. Specify whether backups should be compressed. Note that choosing compression can exponentially extend the time required to complete each backup.
  8. Configure backup set encryption. The three options are None, Password Only (No Encryption) and SimpleCrypt. For this example, we’ll specify Password Only (No Encryption).
  9. Enter and confirm the password and specify whether Retrospect should remember the password (necessary for scripting or automating backups).
  10. Confirm the Backup Summary screen by pressing Finish.

You can also elect to use Windows NT Backup (or another backup tool) and simply select the Rev drive as the backup media.

Whichever backup method you choose, Iomega includes diagnostic tools, shown in Figure D, to keeping a watch on the Rev drive’s performance. In addition to reviewing proper configuration, Iomega Rev Diagnostics runs error checks and tests bus transfer speeds. In the case of tests I ran on an AMD Athlon 64 3000+-powered PC, bus transfer speed measured 45.2 megabytes per second. That said, Iomega’s documentation states the Rev 70 Backup Drives’ transfer speeds max out at 30 MBps, which is still quite fast.

Figure D

Iomega Rev Diagnostics help ensure Rev Drive performance remains optimized.

Rev Drives and Small Business Server

By default, Iomega Rev Drives appear not to be compatible with Windows Small Business Server 2003’s native Small Business Server Backup because Windows OSsdetect Rev drives as being CD-ROM drives. Windows Small Business Server, of course, only supports backing up to drives it considers acceptable for long term storage. Thus, Windows Small Business Server will not permit administrators to specify a Rev drive as the backup medium.

Fortunately, there’s a simple workaround. Configure Windows Small Business Server Backup to create the backup set on the server’s hard disk. When you do, a registry entry is created. Once the entry is written, you can open Registry Editor to change the backup destination, as seen in Figure E.

Figure E

A simple registry edit makes Rev drives compatible with Small Business Server Backup.

The registry entry you need to edit is found within HKEY_Local_MACHINE. Navigate to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE | SOFTWARE | Microsoft | SmallBusinessServer | Backup key and look for the Backup Location Path entry. Change the X within the Value Data string to the drive letter assigned to the Rev drive. For example, the entry will likely appear as C:\SBS_Backup\Backup Files. Change the entry to read H:\SBS_Backup\Backup Files (assuming H: is the drive letter assigned to the Iomega Rev Drive).

When the next scheduled Small Business Server Backup operation occurs, the backup file will be written to the Rev drive. Should you need to edit the Small Business Server Backup, you’ll have to redirect the backup to a drive SBS finds acceptable. Once the backup edits are complete, you’ll have to re-edit the registry value to redirect the backup file to the Rev disk.

Other OSs

In addition to using Rev drives in Windows systems (including Windows Vista), the drives are also compatible with Macintosh computers. While the EMC Retrospect Express software that shipped with the Iomega Rev ATAPI Drive wouldn’t install on my Windows Vista Business Edition system (I received an error message stating the current OS isn’t currently supported by the product), I found Vista not only identified the drive without prompting for drivers, but enabled reading and writing files to Rev disks. In tests I ran, Microsoft Windows Backup properly completed automated backups using Rev disks as the backup media.

A good choice for SMBs

Numerous backup options exist, but Iomega Rev Drives simplify the process in small and medium size businesses. More importantly, Rev disks’ cost and size make them attractive to small business’ pocket books and real-world operational styles. While they’re not necessarily a good option for larger enterprises, smaller organizations can benefit from using Rev disks, as the easier the backup routine becomes the greater the likelihood a backup routine will remain in force within the organization.

4 comments
scotts
scotts

Is anyone else having flashbacks of the infamous Zip drive? Click-of-death... oh the horror...

shraven
shraven

I'll leave tape options out of the discussion even though there is little reason to and tape media costs are DRAMATICALLY lower once you've bought a tape drive. However, what's the point of this device? Hard disks are $100 for 500GB. A 5.25" mountable bay sells for $12 and extra drive enclosures to mount the hard drive in, which then can be added and removed are $7. Alternatively USB/firewire and now eSATA drive enclosures are are $30 and under and are truly plug and play. Zip disks were the shiznit back when the only other consumer alternative was the floppy. That ended with affordable CD burners and media. Since then, Iomega has been irrelevant. Lastly, what is the reliability of these Rev disks? I'm assuming they are more prone to failure than tape media if they are hard disks.

Bee Jay
Bee Jay

I replaced my unreliable tape library with a 10 drive REV autoloader. It works great with one major exception. Computer Associates Brightstor ArcServe backup software (we have an enterprise edition) is the biggest, most unreliable piece of crap I've ever used in my life. The only consistent thing about it is it's continued unreliability. We had used it before and stuck with it because IOMEGA recommended it for use with the autoloader. If you can find something else that will drive your autoloader, I'd recommend it over anything by CA, sight unseen.

info
info

Had a couple evants with this drive where it just stopped working. Autoloader will not load the disk. Turns out that you have to let the CA software take control and not configure the OS to do anything with it. My only problem now is applying specific options to format the disk before backup starts. The option is there but can't seem to work. I would like to give my client the option to just change the disk at the end of the week like the article suggest....