TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Aug 01 Review

Volume Number: 17 (2001)
Issue Number: 08
Column Tag: Review

by Ben Baumer

Ecrix VXA Tape Drive

After having suffered through several years and many pounds of DLT III tapes on our old APS DLT III 2000 XT backup tape drive, we recently made the switch to Ecrix's new VXA tape drive, which uses revolutionary tape technology to produce extremely reliable backups on pint-sized tapes. So far, we've been pleased with the performance of the Ecrix drive, but in order to capitalize on the VXA's state-of-the-art technology, you will need some significant hardware that you may not be willing to allocate to a backup server.

There are three main advantages that the Ecrix VXA drive claims over your standard DLT or DAT drive: speed, reliability, and cost. As we all know, FireWire offers data transfer rates at up to 400 Mpbs, which can be twice as fast as your old SCSI interface. Although this sounds like a great savings, the likelihood of your backup server to achieve these speeds in practice is questionable. If you are backing up clients over a network, your maximum data transfer rate is already limited by the speed of the network (most likely 10 or 100 Mpbs), making the speed advantage of FireWire over SCSI inconsequential. It really doesn't matter how fast your computer can write to the tape if it's slower than the speed at which the computer can get the data from the client. For local backups, however, FireWire makes all the difference, and backup times will drop significantly. All of this assumes, of course, that you have a FireWire capable machine available as a backup server. We use a PowerMac 8500 with a G3 card and a PCI FireWire card. Substituting the Ecrix drive for our old SCSI DLT drive did not result in faster backups over the network. On local backups, however, I was able to achieve a top speed of a whopping 360 MB/min.!

APS DLT 2000XT (SCSI) Local (MB/min.) Remote (MB/min.)
Sustainable Speed 100 50
Maximum Speed 120 55

Figure 1. Backup Speeds for the DLT SCSI Drive
Ecrix VXA (FireWire) Local (MB/min.) Remote (MB/min.)
Sustainable Speed 250 50
Maximum Speed 360 55

Figure 2. Backup Speeds for the VXA FireWire Drive

As the tables above show quite clearly, Retrospect can write up to three times as fast to the VXA FireWire drive as it can to the DLT SCSI drive. However, on network backups, there is no discernible difference in speed between the two drives. Clearly, the network is the bottleneck in this example, and the superior performance of the VXA drive is lost. We have about 35 client machines in our backup cycle, and all but one (the backup server itself) are accessed over a network. For us, the gains of the VXA drive pale in comparison to gains we could make by upgrading our network speed. Since the whole idea of a backup server implies reliance upon a network, most people interested in the VXA drive will probably have a similar experience. While the drive itself functions brilliantly, it will probably not significantly improve the speed of your backup cycle if you are primarily backing up over a network.

As for reliability, I did not take the opportunity to dip my VXA tapes in a pot of coffee or hose them down. Personally, I have never had a problem with backup tapes deteriorating, but even the threat is disheartening. The VXA drive uses a new technology involving packets that Ecrix claims will greatly decrease the likelihood of losing data on a backup tape. Just as network traffic moves in packet form, the VXA drive writes only packets to the tape. Combine this with an interpolation algorithm, and VXA suddenly become remarkably reliable, since large chunks of the tape must be missing in order to make the tape unreadable. For a nifty demonstration of this technology, see http://www.ecrix.com/vxa/.

The diminutive physical size of the VXA tapes (roughly the size of audio cassette tapes) is a big plus if storage space is even a small concern, as backup sets tend to build up fast. Although the tapes are relatively expensive ($79.95 for the 33/66 GB V17 tapes), their price per gigabyte (~$1.21) is slightly less than that of the DLT tapes that we were buying ($38 for 15/30 GB tapes, ~$1.27/GB). However, with hardware compression on, I was only able to squeeze a maximum of 52 GB onto one of the VXA tapes, and an average closer to 45 GB. Comparatively, the DLT tapes averaged about 25 GB per tape, with a high of 28.5 GB. This makes both the effective average price per GB ($1.78, $1.52) and the effective maximum storage price per GB ($1.54, $1.33) swing in favor of the DLT tapes! While the price of DLT 15/30 tapes has been rising and will likely continue to do so, it is noteworthy that they come in under the VXA tapes in effective price per gigabyte. Also, Ecrix does offer two other tape types that all work with the VXA drive — the V10 (20/40 GB for $44.95) and the V6 (12/24 GB for $29.95).

While the Ecrix VXA FireWire tape drive is clearly a superior product, it is not necessarily the solution to your backup woes. If you rely heavily on network backups, the VXA drive will likely not make much of any improvement in backup time over your existing tape drive. However, if you concentrate your backups on local disks, then the speed of the FireWire VXA drive will slice your backup times in half or even in thirds. On the basis of price, there is no significant advantage to the VXA tapes over the DLT tapes (although that may change as outside vendors begin cloning and selling these VXA tapes). As for reliability, I cannot confirm or deny the ambitious claims of Ecrix, but after having used the drive for a few months, I have no reason to doubt these claims. I have no doubt that this drive will provide a fantastic solution in the right environment.

 
AAPL
$98.81
Apple Inc.
-0.37
MSFT
$45.76
Microsoft Corpora
-0.14
GOOG
$564.44
Google Inc.
-3.83

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Dropbox 2.10.30 - Cloud synchronization...
Dropbox is an application that creates a special Finder folder that automatically syncs online and between your computers. It allows you to both backup files and keep them up-to-date between systems... Read more
Twitter 3.1 - Official Twitter client fo...
Twitter (was Tweetie) is a Twitter client with a variety of features. Important Note: As of January 2011, AteBit's Tweetie application has been acquired and renamed by Twitter. Version 1.2.8 of the... Read more
Cocktail Family License (5 Macs) 7.6.1 -...
Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get... Read more
Cocktail 8.0 Beta 2 - General maintenanc...
Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get... Read more
QuickBooks 2015 16.0.0.1352 R1 - Financi...
QuickBooks 2015 helps you manage your business easily and efficiently. Organize your finances all in one place, track money going in and out of your business, and spot areas where you can save.... Read more
Mac DVDRipper Pro 5.0.1 - Copy, backup,...
Mac DVDRipper Pro is the DVD backup solution that lets you protect your DVDs from scratches, save your batteries by reading your movies from your hard disk, manage your collection with just a few... Read more
Apple OS X bash Update 1.0 - Fix for sec...
The OS X bash Update fixes a security flaw in the bash UNIX shell on OS X 10.9.5 (also on OS X 10.8 and 10.7 [see Related Links below]). OS X 10.9.5 or later Downloads for OS X 10.8 and OS X 10.7 in... Read more
SyncTwoFolders 2.0.5 - Syncs two user-sp...
SyncTwoFolders simply synchronizes two folders. It supports synchronization across mounted network drives and it is a possibility to run a simulation showing in a log what will be done. Please visit... Read more
FinderPop 2.5.7 - Classic Mac utility, n...
FinderPop is a Universal preference pane that extends OS X's contextual menus using a FinderPop Items folder much as the Apple Menu Items folder used to do for the Apple menu. It has other features... Read more
VueScan 9.4.45 - Scanner software with a...
VueScan is a scanning program that works with most high-quality flatbed and film scanners to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance. VueScan is easy to use, and has... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

A.R. Witham on Black Jack – The ‘World’s...
iBooks and the Kindle app do a great job of ensuring that there’s always something new to read while you’re on the move. They work well in complementing the traditional physical book. There’s still room for more interactive and animated fare though... | Read more »
Kawaii Killer Plushy Edition (Games)
Kawaii Killer Plushy Edition 1.22 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.22 (iTunes) Description: Kawaii Killer is an intuitive & fun game taking place in the Kawaii Forest, which is plagued by evil... | Read more »
Ms.Pac-Man Goes Pink for National Breast...
Ms.Pac-Man Goes Pink for National Breast Cancer Foundation Campaign Posted by Ellis Spice on October 2nd, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
The Maze Runner Review
The Maze Runner Review By Lee Hamlet on October 2nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: A NICE CHANGE OF PACEUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad The Maze Runner is a surprisingly enjoyable movie tie-in that will succeed in keeping... | Read more »
RPG Soul of Deva (Games)
RPG Soul of Deva 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: SPECIAL PRICE56% OFF(USD 8.99 -> USD 3.99)!!! Demons attack humans, and humans live in fear of them...Set off on a... | Read more »
Banner Saga (Games)
Banner Saga 1.0.17 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $9.99, Version: 1.0.17 (iTunes) Description: NOTE: The Banner Saga does NOT run on iPhone 4. iPhone 4S and more modern devices recommended. | Read more »
Beatbuddy HD (Games)
Beatbuddy HD 1.0.2 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.2 (iTunes) Description: **IMPORTANT** Beatbuddy runs only on iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 5, 5c, 5s, iPad 4, iPad Mini Retina and iPad Air. | Read more »
Spirits of Spring (Games)
Spirits of Spring 1.0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.1 (iTunes) Description: From the creators of the award-winning empathy game, Papo & Yo, comes a tale about finding strength. | Read more »
I am a brave knight (Games)
I am a brave knight 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Do you have ten minutes to live a life? | Read more »
iKeywi - Customizable 5-Row Keyboard (U...
iKeywi - Customizable 5-Row Keyboard 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Utilities Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Want to add an extra row to your iPhone/iPad? One of the most popular keyboard extension in iOS... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple drops prices on refurbished 27-inch iMa...
The Apple Store has dropped prices on Apple Certified Refurbished 27″ iMacs, now available for up to $340 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 27... Read more
Logitech Type+ iPad Air Keyboard Case: Laptop...
If you want to make your iPad Air look and feel more like a laptop for productivity use, as well as protect it from impacts, spills, and scratches while on the move, the new Logitech Type+, a... Read more
ASUS, Lenovo, and Amazon Slug It Out For Tabl...
According to market intelligence firm ABI Research, Apple and Samsung have led the touchscreen tablet market by a substantial margin since Apple energized the category back in 2010. However, ABI says... Read more
Branded Tablet Growth Expected to Disappoint...
ABI Research says the 200 million annual shipments milestone for branded tablets continues to elude OEM vendors, and overall growth for 2014 is set to come in at a disappointing 2.5 percent. Apple... Read more
Amazon offers 13-inch MacBook Air for $899, $...
Amazon.com has the 13″ 1.4GHz 128GB MacBook Air on sale for $100 off MSRP including free shipping: - 13″ 1.4GHz 128GB MacBook Air: $899.99 Read more
Apple resting On Its iPhone Laurels? – The ‘B...
Apple calls its new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus “The Biggest Advancements in iPhone History,” but does reality live up to the hype? “Seldom have so many waited so breathlessly for so little,” tweeted veteran... Read more
Roundup of Apple Mac and iPad Education disco...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad at The Apple Store for Education and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free,... Read more
Apple Boycotts German Magazine Computer Bild...
Apple has revoked its PR accreditation of Germany’s Computer Bild, Europe’s best-selling PC magazine, in reaction to Bild’s posting of a “#Bentgate” YouTube video. Axel Telzerow, editor in chief of... Read more
iPhone 6 & iPhone 6 Plus Available in Chi...
Apple has announced that iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will be available in China beginning Friday, October 17 from the Apple Online Store (http://www.apple.com), Apple’s retail stores, and an expansive... Read more
MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP, start...
Best Buy has the new 2014 MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP on their online store. Choose free home shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Prices valid for online orders only, in-... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
Project Manager / Business Analyst, WW *Appl...
…a senior project manager / business analyst to work within our Worldwide Apple Fulfillment Operations and the Business Process Re-engineering team. This role will work Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.