Tools Of The Trade: The Iomega REV removable hard drive

Click to follow

Storage company Iomega made its name in the Nineties with the Zip drive, a neat little device that could store 100 megabytes of data on a single cartridge.

Storage company Iomega made its name in the Nineties with the Zip drive, a neat little device that could store 100 megabytes of data on a single cartridge.

When the Zip came out, the only real alternative for moving files was a floppy disk, storing 1.4mb, or expensive cartridge and removable drive systems. But growing file sizes, along with the falling price of drives that can record CDs and DVDs, have hit sales of the Zip, even though Iomega launched a version storing up to 750mb of data.

Yet the idea behind the Zip - which has the capacity of a hard disk and the flexibility of a floppy - remains sound. And Iomega is now back in the market with a removable drive format, the REV.

Out of the box, the mini hard disk in a REV cartridge stores 35 gigabytes of data. Compression software pushes that to 90gb, or 900 original Zip disks. Yet the cartridge works just like a hard drive. Read and write speeds - at least on the Firewire version we tested - were more than reasonable.

Having such vast storage capacity on tap in a cartridge that costs around £35 is a huge bonus for anyone working with large files, especially in fields such as digital media, music production and video.

The original Zips were popular with creative professionals, and Iomega is certainly targeting this market with its Firewire REV drive, with a white case which matches that of the iMac. But over the past few years, Iomega has also made inroads into the business storage market, and this too will be a target for the REV. The drives come with backup software included in the price, and the company is developing both networked versions and a "jukebox" that will hold several cartridges - ideal as an alternative to tape for backing up servers.

The external unit is neat and lightweight, and easily portable. Backups are quick, considering the capacity of the cartridge, and the media is low-cost enough to compete with tape; this drive is significantly cheaper than most conventional tape-based backup units. There is not actually much that can be said about the REV itself, as it does exactly what it says on the box, without fuss.

For individual computer users, the main alternative to the REV, unless your machine has a DVD drive, is a conventional removable hard disk. These have far greater capacities, and some, such as Maxtor's, also come with backup software. But hard drives are more vulnerable to damage than a system such as the REV. Furthermore, there is no way to add capacity, and locking away a whole drive is trickier than safely storing a cartridge.

For companies, conventional tape is still the main way to back up network PCs and servers. There is a version of the REV that can be built into a server instead of a tape drive, and the jukebox version will also appeal to this market. But for small networks, an external REV drive is a flexible and low-cost way of taking backups of critical data.

If you need a backup system or additional storage, look seriously at the REV. It is one of those rare products that, here at Tools of the Trade, we plan to go out to buy for ourselves.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Pros: low cost, good design, robust.

Cons: none to speak of.

Price: £220+VAT (drive); £35+VAT (disks).