Network+: Coming to cart you away

Do you have all your critical graphics and data stored on a 5.25- inch SyQuest cartridge? asks Nick Valentine. Did you say yes? Oops...

It may come to be known as the Great SyQuest Quake of 1997, an alarming event that undermined and cracked the foundations of what had hitherto been seen as the most solidly established storage medium of them all.

The 5.25-inch SyQuest cartridge has been with us since the early Eighties: a removable Winchester drive that once offered the best of all worlds - access times on par with an integral hard drive, near-line storage, data transportability, systems sharing, data security and fast back-up.

Initially available in 44MB format, the cartridges are now also available in formatted capacities of 88MB and 200MB.

SyQuest can boast that their drives are used "across the entire spectrum of data storage environments and applications", and "have special appeal to those people who need to save and transport data-intensive applications, including desktop publishing, imaging, multimedia and music composition".

The 88MB is the most popular variant, accounting for the bulk of SyQuest's estimated 2 million users and 9 million cartridges installed worldwide. This could add up to almost 800,000 gigabytes of data that are now urgently looking for a new home.

Since early July, users of the 88MB SyQuest drives have found it virtually impossible to get servicing, support or replacements. Most retailers have abruptly dropped SyQuest-compatible 5.25-inch drives from their data storage ranges, and can offer refunds only to customers whose drives fail under warranty.

This is scant consolation for those SyQuest users who suffer the ultimate nightmare; having a sole drive fail, leaving them locked out of their data on cartridge.

The London-based image consultants Wolff Olins are typical of the graphic/ publishing houses that have relied on SyQuest in the past. David Jones, the company's IT manager, says he became aware in early July of a looming problem.

"We're now being told we're just not going to be able to get repairs or replacements for any drives which fail," he reports. "We've got three working now, and if one if those goes down I'm going to be faced with the need to migrate the whole organisation to a new format."

With more than 500 cartridges around the company, that poses a serious problem.

Specialists such as 20/20, which offers technical support for the Macintosh, can offer transfer from cartridge to other formats - usually CD-Rom - but this is not cheap, at pounds 30 per cartridge.

Alex Hams, an engineer at 20/20, says that SyQuest is almost entirely to blame for the crisis.

"This has been brewing for months. The first problem was the increasing unreliability of drives. Two years ago most of the 88MB drives on the market were Grade-A tested. Since then the standard has progressively decreased. The last batches were Grade C or D - maybe 60 per cent reliable.

"And for at least a year now, it's been virtually impossible to get drives serviced or repaired by SyQuest UK.

"It looks as if they're desperately trying to get users to migrate over to the 3.5-inch EZ135 drive - but that format has fallen flat on its face. It simply doesn't offer the same value for money as the Omega Zip or Jaz drives. Now I'd say they've ended up with the worst of all worlds.

"They don't have an attractive new format, and now they've made the established one problematical as well. "

SyQuest denies trying to push users out of 5.25-inch cartridges. Angela Skinner, sales manager at SyQuest UK , says that they continue to give "100 per cent support and back up" for the 5.25-inch format.

"We're aware of the rumours, but don't understand the basis of them. It's a horrible thing to have to say, but we can only conclude that retailers aren't giving customers the full story," she says.

"Yes, we would like to see customers move on to the 3.5-inch format; 5.25-inch is getting a little long in the tooth now. But we're still fully committed to it.

"We have recently withdrawn the 88MB drives, but our current 200MB drives are fully back-compatible with 44MB and 88MB cartridges."

However, users who have tried using the new 200MB drives have found that there are unpleasant surprises in store.

"They're agonisingly slow," says Alex Hams. "It takes at least four times as long to read and write to any cartridge and, even worse, you can no longer reformat cartridges. If one corrupts, it's junk."

While conspiracy theorists can have fun debating whether the present crisis was engineered by manufacturers or by retailers, it does appear that the unthinkable is happening: one of the largest customer bases in the computer world is currently being left high and dry.

If anyone had wanted to initiate a stampede out of the tried and trusted 5.25-inch format, they could hardly have managed to do so in a more brutally effective fashion. So SyQuest is about to have its wished-for "migration" delivered, in spades; but perhaps not in the direction the company would have wishedn

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel you sales role is li...

Head of Marketing (Online & Offline, Media, Digital, Strategy)

£85000 - £100000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing - Slough, Berkshi...

Administration Assistant / Office Assistant

£18 - 20k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An Administration Assistant / Office Assistan...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution