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It’s no secret that Iomega pitches its latest REV drive as the answer to all of your backup needs. After all, the product is designed to take on the aging backup tape market by offering higher speeds, lower costs and larger capacities. The Iomega REV 120 comes in multiple flavors, but the two versions that will probably garner the most interest are the $499.99 USB External unit for desktop backup and the $699.99 Iomega REV 120GB USB 2.0 Backup Kit for network backup.

The major difference between the two units is the number of REV cartridges included and the bundled backup software. The higher cost unit includes five 120Gb REV cartridges and bundles in CA BrightStor ARCserve Backup and proves to be a complete solution for backing up a small business server. The lower priced unit comes with a single cartridge and includes EMC Retrospect Express backup software. Both units connect via USB 2.0, include an external power supply and bundle in disaster recovery options for the included backup software. For those looking for an internal unit, Iomega offers a couple of Serial ATA-based units with features comparable to the USB drives, at a slightly lower cost.

Naturally, users will want to compare the REV drives with tape units for backup. From an economy standpoint, a tape drive with similar capacity will cost upwards of $900 and will offer speeds of about 80Gb per hour (LTO–2 drive, using compression) and about 200Gb of storage. Blank tapes (LTO-2) cost around $50 each. Compared to a LTO-2-based solution, the REV drive is initially a bargain. Iomega’s blank cartridges cost about $75 each and if a user is intending on creating large libraries of backup data, LTO-2-based solutions may offer a better ROI over time. But the story doesn’t end there.

REV offers a level of flexibility that will never be found with a tape-based solution. Right off the bat there is speed. Because REV works like a USB hard drive, users are offered hard drive-like speed, which is many times faster than tape. Also, since REV 120 is a removable hard drive, the product can be used with alternative backup solutions, such as imaging-based backup. That allows small businesses to completely back up their hard drives using products such as Norton Ghost or Acronis True Image products.

The benefits of REV go well beyond just backup. Users working with the latest virtualization products may appreciate the ability to create multiple virtual hard drives on a REV cartridge and then have portable, virtual machines. Technicians can use the REV system to back up systems in the field or to store the images of software CDs or DVDs. Those working with video editing products will benefit from the speed and capacity of the product, allowing them to create editing disks, along with storing video in a library. The unit also works well for forensics, auditing and e-discovery purposes, where an individual needs to gather data and evaluate it later. Pretty much, any industry that needs access to large amounts of data instantly and in a portable solution will benefit from what REV has to offer.

System builders may want to consider offering the SATA unit as an option on white box servers sold into the small business market or offering an internal unit with high-end workstations. Either way, the product can meet both backup and increasing storage needs.

Users will find the unit very easy to install and operate. Iomega leverages plug-and-play technology to make the device work with Windows PCs and servers. We plugged a REV drive into a Windows Vista PC and it was ready to use as a removable storage device in a matter of seconds; no other software or drivers were needed to start accessing the drive. The unit offers plenty of speed for most tasks; we were able to copy 11Gb of data, consisting of a mixture of audio, video and data files, in about 10 minutes, all while still using our PC to browse the Web, check e-mail and write this review. That translates to about a speed of 1.1 Gb per minute, a third of the theoretical maximum speed of USB 2.0. SATA drives will probably perform much faster and are not limited by the speed constraints of a USB 2.0 interface.

Iomega offers a five-year warranty on the drive and the cartridges are rated for a shelf life of 30 years. The design of the unit helps to keep things working properly, the cartridge slides into the unit and opens a dust proof door before allowing the heads to slide into it. The drive heads are always parked when not in use and the cartridge only houses the motor and the disk platters, making it very resilient to drops, bumps and careless events. That makes the unit a better choice than the typical USB hard drive, which can be easily damaged.