OnStream SC30 SCSI Digital Tape Drive

The OnStream SC30 SCSI Digital Tape Drive - Page 1

Back-Up Storage for the masses!

The OnStream SC30 SCSI Digital Tape Drive


Ahh yes... the proverbial "cover your butt" of the home and enterprise computer user, the tape backup drive. I know what you are thinking. You're thinking "I don't really need to backup my system" ! These are famous last words.

A few weeks ago we received the
OnStream SC30 for review here at the Hot Hardware Test Labs. At that time, things were extremely busy and the box lay dormant until other products in the review cue were finished being tested. Then "Murphy's Law" struck... Murphy is some Irish guy (I'm Italian anyway and it figures) and he has a law that says "if something can go wrong... it will". While we were busy as beavers testing the other products that had come to the lab earlier, we had the dreaded hard drive crash (more like simple data corruption) on the main Hot Hardware web publishing rig. Needless to say we were absolutely dead in the water. If only we had slapped that OnStream SC30 Backup Drive in the system, we would have had a nice clone to restore our precious data from. Lesson learned... Backup early and often!
In the Tape Drive arena you get two types of drives, "big and slow" and "small and slow". Of course, then there is OnStream. With their new ADR techology they are able to produce a drive that backs up and restores data up to 2MB/Sec. or 7 Gigs an hour. If you have ever used a tape backup then you'll know that this is very fast. Usually backing up a 6-10 Gig drive takes about 5-6 hrs. The SC30 (a SCSI internal unit) is supposed to do this in about an hour. Here's how...
The SC30 is kind of like an 8 Track Tape Deck only digital and it can write all 8 tracks simultaneously and read them that way as well. Now, all you Barry White Fans don't get any ideas about jamming in that 70's Vintage 8 Track "Midnight and You" collection. The SC30 won't play the "Master of Love" for you. It's digital only baby!

In addition, the drive has variable speeds that it can run at. This streams the data at the proper rate for the various file sizes you are backing up. Here are some theoretical performance numbers and specs for the entire Onstream Line including EIDE and Parallel Models.


Onstream is supposed to have a 70Gig Compressed/35 Gig Uncompressed unit out soon too! Now that's big and fast! We installed the drive in our test bed system which has on board Ultra Wide SCSI. This took no time at all and was no more difficult to install than a typical CD ROM drive. Just slide it in, hook up the cables and boot.

Here's what we found when putting the SC30 through its paces.

Quick File Transfers:

While most tape drives are really intended for simple back up of your entire hard drive, the OnStream SC30 boast Transfer Rates that are adequate enough for simple transfer of files within Windows with a drag and drop approach. We transferred a few small 1-2 MB Zip files and they were transferred very quickly. The SC30 clicked through the transfer with ease. Upon puling the files off the drive we experienced a small pause of almost a minute before our transfer was complete. Writing data to the drive by this method was very efficient. Restore was a little more "clunky" but still vastly improve over its other tape cousins. We also played small 2MB AVI Video clips with ease and there were no noticeable pauses or stuttering of any sort. This drive would make excellent storage media for large video and multimedia production applications.


We decided to go ahead and back up our IBM 9 Gig Drive to see if we got anywhere in the ballpark of the "up to 7.2Gig/Hour" data rates. We ran two passes of the backup on our Pentium III 450 rig with 128MB of RAM.

Our first pass was intended just to let the drive sit and do its "thang" undisturbed. While backing up our data, the drive was extremely quiet only whirring slightly as it streamed data on to the tape at approximately an average of 70MB/minute. Our drive was only about half full of data and the back up took an hour and 15 minutes for 5.6Gigs. This a substantial improvement over traditional tape drives that would have taken more than 3X the time it took the SC30.

Our second pass was to multi-task the system while the SC30 did its backup. We were very pleased to report that the SCSI version of this drive was very kind to the system and Windows environment while it was doing its job. We were able to actually fire up a game of Quake 2 simultaneously while backing up. The system, while noticeably slower, didn't lock once. The average transfer rate dropped to about 45MB/minute, which is still pretty snappy!


Final Words and Rating: 

What impressed me most about the SC30 from Onstream was the fact that the drive performed well enough to support OnStream's claims. Too often, inflated performance figures are quoted for these types of products and the customer is lead down a path that is far from reality. The SC30 lives up to claims in performance and features. The drive is also well made, very easy to install and use. For those who need "mission critical" data backup for both the home and office setting, this drive will serve you well and with a spring in its step.
We give the OnStream SC30 a Hot Hardware Temp-O-Meter rating of...

85! -- 8 Tracks of Hot Digital Love!


Tags:  Stream, drive, Digital, CSI, ita, SCSI, Ive, TAL, C30, EA, AP, AM

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