ATL, Seagate team for easy backup

As government agencies look to back up more data that doesn't require instant access, such as desktop files and e-mail, the demand for inexpensive near-line storage is rising. We evaluated one storage solution designed to meet this demand: ATL Products' ATL P1000 tape storage library running Seagate Software's Backup Exec.

The ATL/Seagate data library solution is simple to use and easy to administer. Backing up or retrieving data is almost as easy as copying files from one folder to another on your desktop. And data retrieval was plenty fast enough on our tests, ranging from two to five minutes, depending on where the data was located.

Introduced this summer, the P1000 can support up to 1.05 terabytes of uncompressed data or 2.1 terabytes of compressed data. It can be configured with two or four Digital Linear Tape (DLT) 4000 or DLT 7000 tape drives from Quantum Corp. and 16 or 30 CompacTape III or IV backup tapes. The ATL P1000 can be rack-mounted, or it can be placed on the floor and moved about easily because there are casters on the bottom of the unit.

The unit we evaluated came with two DLT 7000 tape drives and 16 35G tapes. All drives in the unit are hot-swappable— a nice feature for buyers who want to add drives at a later time. The P1000 uses a robotic controller to retrieve tapes from the library and place them in the tape drives. Tapes are cataloged and tracked via bar codes on the outside of each tape.

One special feature of the P1000 is the load and bulk packs, which are sets of eight tape cartridge holders that let you add or remove multiple tapes at one time. We were able to move full tapes from static holders inside the library to an empty load pack using the control panel. Then we removed the full tapes and inserted a new bulk pack with empty tapes— all in a matter of minutes. A pack is placed into the library through the front of the unit.

Another feature that information systems managers will like is the load port, which lets you add or remove a single tape without bringing the library offline. This feature is great for pulling a full tape from the library, setting the anti-write lock on the tape for archival purposes and replacing the tape in the library.

To ease management, the P1000 offers a 10-inch control panel on the front of the unit that is sensitive to the touch. From this control panel, you can run diagnostics, bring new drives online, take drives offline and otherwise fully control tapes within the library.

However, we found the control panel a little difficult to master at first. It will take the user a few tries, and it requires a bit of help from the manuals to get comfortable with all the commands.

For users who don't want to do maintenance from this panel or who are in a remote location, ATL also made it possible to manage the unit through a World Wide Web browser.

Performance of the unit varied in our tests, but it was satisfactory. Locating, retrieving and loading a tape took the robotic arm only seconds. The tape then was advanced, and the proper directories were retrieved.

Setup— loading the tapes and installing the tape drives— was performed easily by following the instructions that shipped with the unit. We unpacked and set up the unit in less than an hour.

The P1000 can be configured with up to five host computers on different SCSI channels, but we configured our test unit with a single SCSI channel. Configuration is easily accomplished, thanks to numerous SCSI ports located at the rear of the unit.

While the P1000 will work with several backup software packages, we chose Seagate's Backup Exec Version 7.0 for Windows NT 4.0. The Seagate software proved easy to install, thanks to installation wizards and auto-loader software on the CD. The one caveat is that you must have the proper Windows NT SCSI drivers loaded on the server before installing the Seagate software. Otherwise, the software will install but not recognize the system. At this point, the user will have to configure the software manually.

Backup Exec is extremely user-friendly. Included in the interface are large backup and restore buttons as well as a user assistant icon that offers wizards for several tasks. With the assistant, you can create a networkwide backup strategy, schedule backup times and decide what type of backups to perform and when to perform them. You also can monitor job status and set up the software to send out alerts to the IS manager if there is a problem.

You can download the Seagate software for a 60-day free trial by visiting Seagate's Web site at www.seagatesoftware.com/homepage/.

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Seagate Software(800) 327-2232www.seagatesoftware.com

ATL Products' Reseller:DLT Solutions Inc.(888) GSA-4-DLTwww.dlt.com

Price and Availability: The ATL P1000 costs $27,800 on DLT Solutions Inc.'s GSA schedule. The Seagate Backup Exec software is available on CompUSA's GSA schedule for $469 for a single server and unlimited workstations.

Remarks: But for one minor configuration problem, the P1000 and Backup Exec data library solution was extremely easy to use and configure. Performance was speedy enough. Altogether, this is a good choice for IS managers with midsize data backup requirements.

Final Score: Very Good

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