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Enter the Backulator

Question: What do you get when you cross a data backup system with an automated optical disc duplicator?
Answer: A “backulator!”

Enter the Backulator

Hugh Bennett
Emedialive, July 12, 2005

Question: What do you get when you cross a data backup system with an automated optical disc duplicator?
Answer: A “backulator!”

There’s no end of reasons, of course, to backup and archive hard drive contents: disasters, accidents, mischief, viruses, breakdowns, legal obligations, and even posterity. Home offices, as well as small and medium-sized businesses, typically turn to magnetic tape, other hard drives, and optical storage to fill these needs. But tape and drives are corruptible, manually operated DVD/CD recorders are inconvenient, and mechanized jukeboxes are expensive one-trick ponies. Enter what I call the “backulator.”

Offline backup and archiving operations are simply straightforward extensions of existing DVD/CD copying and publishing functions. To harness automated disc duplication systems to perform these additional tasks just makes sense. Seizing upon this opportunity, “backulation” units are appearing from familiar duplicator names. Early entries include MF Digital’s Baxter, which incorporates Novosoft’s Handy Backup, and new solutions from Primera and Rimage employing StorageQuest’s Reflector software and Data Storage Solutions’ Solidsave, respectively. More are on the way.

Rather than spend money on dedicated tape drives or DVD/CD jukeboxes, small enterprises can economize by purchasing multifunction products that will not only backup and archive but also do small-run disc duplication. And for those with existing name-brand copying equipment, add-on backup software can now be had rather than purchasing entirely new systems.

In addition to simply recording information, many “backulators” incorporate direct disc-surface label printing. Unheard of in the tape world, units automatically impart human readable content labels as large or small, simple or complex, plain or colorful as needed. Even for those lacking thermal transfer, re-transfer, or inkjet printers, it isn’t a stretch to envisage simple “backulators” incorporating laser-labeling capabilities such as LightScribe.

There is, of course, room for improvement. For example, write-once discs are well suited to information distribution and unalterable long-term storage. But when it comes to rolling backups, rewritable media is far more flexible, environmentally friendly, secure, and cost-effective. Currently supported DVD±RW discs are functional but I’d like to see manufacturers go the extra mile and include DVD-RAM, as it offers enhanced data integrity through robust defect management and 100,000 rewrite cyclability.

Another challenge is the sheer number of discs required for large data sets. Individual DVDs hold 9.4GB to 17GB (assuming 2:1 compression) so lots of information requires piles of discs to be physically stored and managed. Competition between Blu-ray Disc (BD) and HD DVD will retard the market and again tarnish optical storage’s reputation, but progress should eventually come with next generation blue laser technology. For instance, writable Blu-ray (BD-R/RE) discs will hold 50GB to 100GB (compressed) and perhaps 200GB in the future.

Reaching the intended market may be tricky. Disc duplicator manufacturers are virtually unknown in the backup and archiving worlds, so it remains to be seen if they can make the ascent or if perhaps partnerships with established names such as Quantum, Dell, HP, IBM, StorageTek, Plasmon or others might have a better chance of success.

Hugh Bennett, editor-in-chief of Hugh’s News, is president of Forget Me Not Information Systems, a reseller, systems integrator and industry consultant based in London, Ontario, Canada. Hugh is author of The Authoritative Blu-ray Disc (BD) FAQ and The Authoritative HD DVD FAQ, available on Hugh’s News, as well as Understanding Recordable & Rewritable DVD and Understanding CD-R & CD-RW, published by the Optical Storage Technology Association (OSTA).

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