Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 147 / DECEMBER 1992 / PAGE 146

Maynard ArchiveXL 80. (tape backup system) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by Tony Roberts

For computer users with large hard drives, a tape backup system has become the next must-have peripheral purchase. The Maynard ArchiveXL 80 is a tape backup unit that pulls its weight in making sure your data files are safely backed up.

The ArchiveXL 80 is designed as a low-cost backup device for personal use. It can pack up to 120MB of data (up to 250MB if you use compression) on a single extended-length tape. Several backups can be stored on the same tape, and when necessary, it's possible for your backups to span multiple tapes.

The ArchiveXL system uses what's become the industry standard: the quarter-inch cartridge (QIC). The device can read both QIC-80 and QIC-40 tapes.

I tried an external unit, dubbed the 5580e. Other drives in the series include the 5540e, a lower-capacity external unit, and the 5580i and 5540i, comparable internal drives. These drives are designed for AT or compatible computers. ArchiveXL models 5240i and 5240e are available for XT-class machines.

The 5580e measures 8 1/2 inches long, 4 1/2 inches wide, and 2 1/4 inches high. It can sit flat, or if desktop real estate is at a premium, it can be turned on its side like a tower case PC and inserted into a pedestal base provided for that purpose.

The system includes an interface card, which is placed in an empty slot in the computer, and all the cables necessary to hook the unit up to your computer.

The system comes packed with a copy of QICstream backup software, which is an adequate, but no f ashy, performer. Although QICstream is compatible with DOS 5.0, it's not compatible with Microsoft Windows.

It can back up and restore full disks, changed files, or selected files. QICstream includes a macro capability and a scheduler to permit automated backups, but, unfortunately, it's not easy to figure out how to use these advanced features.

Both the written documentation and online help are cryptic and difficult to follow. Thankfully, though, the ArchiveXL 80 works well with other software, such as Central Point Backup, which scores much higher in the ease-of-use category.

With CP Backup configured to use QIC formatting, QICstream and CP Backup could be used interchangeably for backups and restores. The ArchiveXL 80 drive also backed up and restored flawlessly using Central Point's proprietary CPS tape format, but tapes stored in that format lose their compatibility with the QICstream software.

By default, QICstream performs a backup with a verify. In more than 600MB of backups, only one file failed to verify.

The verification performed by QICstream checks the tape to make sure the data recorded there is readable. On the other hand, CP Backup and other specialized backup programs can perform a full file-by-file comparison of the files on tape and on disk.

Whether you verify a backup or do a full comparison, it adds significantly to the time required for the backup. But since you're not feeding floppies during the whole process, it doesn't really matter. The ArchiveXL 80 can do its work while you're out to lunch or after you've finished working for the day.

Backup speed varies from about 500K per minute to about 3MB per minute, depending on the speed of the machine being used and the type of data being backed up. Backup times also can be affected by the presence of another device--such as a scanner--on the same DMA channel as the ArchiveXL 80.

Although the manual provides no information about which DMA channel is used by the tape drive, experimentation showed that backups ran much more quickly once DMA conflicts were eliminated.

With a top tape capacity of 250MB, the ArchiveXL 80 has proved to be a solid contributor to data safety for both individual workstations and small networks. Backups across a network worked just as well, though a little more slowly, than backups of local drives.

In cases where a network is not available, the ArchiveLX 80 external unit can still be used for multisystem backups. Simply add an interface card to each of your computers, move the tape drive from computer to computer, plug in the data cable, and go.

I've always recommended daily backups of important data, but until I installed the Maynard ArchiveXL 80 system, I wasn't very good at taking my own advice. Now there are no excuses. With this system, it's no problem whatsoever to maintain full weekly backups along with a series of incremental daily backups. Maynard ArchiveXL 80--$679 MAYNARD ELECTRONICS 36 Skyline Dr. Lake Mary, FL 32746 (407) 263-3500 Circle Reader Service Number 361