DVD Should Not Be Overlooked

Speedier 8X drives make DVD storage worth a second look.

With magnetic tapes getting faster and larger and hard drives getting bigger and cheaper, DVD—which has slowly but surely improved over the years—is getting lost in the shuffle.

However, with the emergence of the new 8X-write-speed DVD drives, DVD has become an attractive solution for backing up smaller computers, such as desktops, workstations and laptops.

For the most part, writable and rewritable DVD have been targeted more for power users who need the storage medium to store large multimedia files for movie production and for presentations.

With long-term data archiving coming back into vogue this year (thanks to new regulations for enforcing data retention), the WORM functionality of DVD+R and DVD-R disks is useful for storage of business data and e-mail messages.

Because DVD media can easily be mounted and quickly accessed, they should make life easier for IT managers during audits.

eWEEK Labs got to test-drive 8X technology from Sony Electronics e-Solutions Co. LLC, Kano Technologies Corp. and Plextor Corp., along with sample media from Verbatim Corp. and Maxell Corp. of America.

Improvements in burn speeds and the decreasing cost of media are two new factors that make DVD a favorable medium for backups. Our tests show that each test drive could burn full-capacity disks in a little less than 10 minutes per disk. (DVD has a raw capacity of 4.7GB per disk.) This is a substantial improvement over previous-generation 4X-write-speed drives, which take closer to 20 minutes to burn a single disk.

New 8x Drives are Fast Writers

  • Dvd+rw 4x, Dvd-Rw 4x
  • Drive Burn speed Connectivity Price
  • Plextor DVD+R 8X, DVD-R 4X, External $359
  • PX-708UF DVD+RW 4X, DVD-RW 2X (USB2 and FireWire)
  • Sony DVD+R 8X, DVD-R 4X, Internal $270
  • DRU-530A DVD+RW 4X, DVD-RW 2X
  • Kano DVD+R 8X, DVD-R 8X, Internal $199
  • K8Xtreme

At these higher-performance rates, it would take only a couple of minutes for users to burn their documents to disk, making backup chores quicker and less painful than they used to be.

Over the past few years, the per-disk price of DVD media has dropped all the way to $1 to $2, making them inexpensive replacements for tape-based backup (which has always been too expensive to be feasible for mobile users and employees who work from home).

Although 4.7GB might not seem like a lot considering that most computers come with 40GB and larger hard drives now, most users will not be creating anywhere near 4.7GB of new information on a daily or even weekly basis, so the current size restriction will not be an issue for many users.

One somewhat-confusing aspect of the market is that there were 8X-speed drives on the market before 8X-rated media were available.

In our tests, the Plextor and Kano drives were able to burn at 8X speeds using standard 4X media, which begs the question: What makes 8X media better than 4X media? (After all, 8X media are more expensive, with a street price of about $4 per disk.)

According to media maker Verbatim, a new recording die and a new molding technique to make disks flatter are two important differences that make 8X media superior to 4X media. Although we didnt observe data loss problems in our 4X media tests, we recommend using 8X media for long-term data retention projects to avoid the potential problem of data corruption.

As for the future, pilot productions are under way for the development of dual-layer DVD media, which should raise data capacity to 8.5GB per disk.

Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at henry_baltazar@ziffdavis.com.