Sony Electronics Inc.s Professional Disk for Data uses blue-laser technology to push optical storage to new capacity levels. Sonys ProData drives can hold as much as 23GB on a single-sided optical disk, which should make the drives ideal for archives that cant be held on standard DVDs or magneto-optical media.However, even at a capacity of 23GB, the ProData drives, which shipped earlier this month, wont replace high-capacity technologies such as tape in most backup implementations. At $45 per cartridge, the ProDatas price-to-capacity ratio is not favorable compared with tape technologies. ProData drives are priced at $2,995 for an internal SCSI unit and $3,299 for an external SCSI or USB (Universal Serial Bus) 2.0 unit.In eWEEK Labs tests, the capacity and durability of the ProData drives were impressive. We believe Sonys new drives would be a solid choice for near-line storage and some archival tasks. The ProData drives are protected by a resin cartridge that guards the disks from dust and fingerprints. ProData drives use short-bandwidth blue-violet lasers, which can write at densities superior to those of the red-laser technology found in DVD and magneto-optical drives. The ProData drives can perform sustained writes at 9MB per second and reads at 11MB per second. This is slower than many tape technologies, but more than adequate for most data access needs. Access time is speedy because there is no tape to rewind or fast-forward. Sony offers rewritable and WORM ProData blue-laser media options. The ProDatas WORM capability is appealing because e-mail archiving will be more vital than ever in the future, and blue-laser technology has an archival life expectancy of 50 years. The ProData drives rapid random access and loading capabilities could justify the use of this technology in archives where quick data mounting is necessary. The ProData drive is more efficient at storing data than DVD drives, which can reach only 4.6GB on single-sided, single-layer media. In tests, the external SCSI ProData drive was relatively easy to set up. The ProData drive shows up as a removable storage device, and we used the bundled Software Architect Inc. DiskDrive TuneUp application to format the drive. Once it was formatted, we could put a file system on our drive and use it like a hard drive. At the time of this review, Software Architects DataSaver Personal Backup software for Windows and Mac OS systems was not available for our tests. We used NovaStor Corp.s NovaBackup 7.1 backup application, which recognized the storage space on our ProData drive and used it for backup operations. Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out eWEEK.coms Storage Center at http://storage.eweek.com for the latest news, reviews and analysis on enterprise and business storage hardware and software.