Plasmon UDO Desktop Drive

Secure archival of information is not just a regulatory requirement; it's also a business requirement.

Price
£1,600

Items such as intellectual property data, software code, written documents and even photographs, need to be stored on a medium that will last for significant periods of time and which cannot be altered.

This is where optical storage has made its mark. The original Write Once Read Many (WORM) drives were optical and it's only relatively recently that tape vendors have introduced the same capability to their products. This inviolable storage medium means that once data is written away, it can be relied upon to not change. More importantly, it is seen as being legally secure.

Writing data to a secure optical system is often something that happens at the end of a long process of backup and archive. While this suits data such as email, it doesn't necessary provide a foolproof method for all documents. Having the ability to deploy an optical device where the format is readable by the corporate archive solution is useful.

Restoring data can also be a big issue. When a request for data arrives either from a regulator or as part of a Data Protection issue, it can often be difficult to do a complete restore to the main systems to find the requested information. Being able to access the data using a desktop drive without altering the data is an extremely useful option.

The Plasmon UDO Desktop Drive ships with its own USB cable, power cable and power adapter. There is a 30GB rewritable disc in the box along with a lens cleaning cartridge. There is a single CD containing the drivers and the user guide. The user guide refers to both the SCSI and the USB drives but is clearly laid out.

Plug in the power, connect the USB cable and you can get started. As befits any removable media device, the UDO Drive is immediately recognised by Windows XP and installed as a removable device.

Before you can write anything to a disc, you need to format it. To do this, you have to install the driver which is a file system driver which means after install you need to reboot the computer. The driver allows the UDO Drive to support sector sizes of 8k which are not directly supported by Windows. Supporting small sector sizes allows the UDO Drive to store the maximum amount of data on a single disc.

Driver support out of the box is for Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Fedora Core Linux. A key market for IP protection is the Mac. This is because it dominates the media, advertising and public relations markets. All of these need to protect IP and Plasmon has said that they are looking at the potential for writing a Mac driver, but for now no driver is available.

There are two file systems supported by Plasmon - UDF 1.02 which is standards based and Plasmon's proprietary Archive File System. Plasmon claims that its file system is faster. Formatting any disc takes just a few seconds. As this is optical media there is no low level format, all the format does is prepare the disc to be written to.

There are three types of discs - RW, WORM and a Complaint Write Once. The latter is something created by Plasmon and around which it is beginning to build a developer community.

This was a very easy product to setup and begin working with. For those with small amounts of critical data that they are going to save at the end of the day, this offers a solution.

However, this is not a general purpose backup device. Its primary use is for key files not large numbers of files. Copying 20 images with a total size of 97MB took just under 3 minutes. By comparison, writing 7.64 GB consisting of 6451 (856 folders) files had to be cancelled after two hours and 40 minutes, with less than 80 per cent written to the disc.

Plasmon partners with a number of software vendors who work in the compliance industry. These vendors are adding support for Plasmon's Compliant Write Once discs to their software. This support is not just for the standalone UDO drives but also for the optical jukeboxes that Plasmon sells. What the software vendors are adding to their products is the ability to mark individual sectors as deleted without having to rewrite the media. This ensures that where data needs to be deleted due to a Data Protection request, it can be done so via an audited process.

Plasmon will soon introduce a 60GB version of the drive that will be backward-compatible with older 30GB discs. At a recent conference for the library industry, Plasmon claims that there was significant interest in the 60GB drive. As a result, Plasmon has begun selling its drives with a 10 per cent upgrade protection premium. This ensures that customers will be able to swap out hardware when it is available but keep using their existing media.

There are several clear markets for this drive.

The first is those who are working in the small finance market. Under existing regulation they are required to maintain all records and contacts with clients. The UDO drive provides them with an ideal solution.

The second is anyone in a large company who must ensure that they have accurate, non changeable control of information. By writing it to a UDO drive, they can ensure that they meet their compliance requirements.

A third group are those people creating intellectual property who want to ensure that it has a timestamp and is stored on a media that is supported by the courts. This potential market is large but until Plasmon releases a Mac driver, it won't be able to make a significant impact on it.

In all, this is a nice device, simple to install, easy to use and well suited to the task. For those with small amounts of critical data that they are going to save at the end of the day, though the price tag may prove restrictive.

Verdict

A nice device, simple to install, easy to use and well suited to the task. For those with small amounts of critical data that they are going to save at the end of the day, this offers a solution. Perhaps the only thing holding it back is the price.

UDO Driver Operating System Support and PC Requirements Windows: XP and 2003 Linux: Fedora 2.4 or 2.6 PC Requirements Connection: SCSI Controller (e.g. Adaptec 29160) or USB 2.0 port Space for software: 10MB of hard disk space for software installation Access Times Average Seek (1/3 full stroke): 28 ms Load Time: 5 sec Unload Time: 3 sec Rotational Speed (WORM/RW): 2100/1950 RPM Data Transfer Rates Max Sustained Read: 8MB/sec Max Sustained Write & Verify: 4MB/sec Burst Asynchronous: 3MB/sed Burst Synchronous (Fast SCSI enabled): 40MB/sec Buffer Size: 32 MB MTBF (Power On Hours): 100,000 hours Number of Media Insertions: 750,000 cycles Structure Dimensions (WxHxD in mm): 185 x 65 x 283 Weight: 2.9 Kg (without power cord & PSU)

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