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Iomega REV: Competition for tape?

Iomega REV: Competition for tape?

Iomega combines removable-media and hard disk technologies to improve system backups


Iomega has been in the removable-media drive business for over two decades, starting with its 10MB external Bernoulli drives. Its 100MB Zip drives (now available in capacities up to 750MB) have been a de facto standard for removable-media storage since the mid-1990s. However, with hard disks now available in 40GB and considerably larger capacities, the Zip drive and its now-discontinued sibling, the 1GB/2GB Jaz drive, arent large enough or fast enough to be suitable backup devices.

Iomegas latest drive, the REV, is designed to provide the backup capacity and performance necessary to keep up with current and forthcoming hard disk developments.

REV Overview

The REV drive includes two hardware components:

  • The drive mechanism, which incorporates the electronics and the read/write heads
  • The removable cartridge, which incorporates 2.5-inch disk media and the drive motor

REV has a native capacity of 35GB per cartridge; future versions are expected to hold more. The initial external version of REV connects to Hi-Speed USB (USB 2.0) port. The first internal version connects to the ATAPI (ATA/IDE) interface. In the second half of 2004, SCSI, FireWire and Serial ATA (SATA) versions will be introduced.

REV stores data using the UDF (universal disk format) version 1.02, the same data format used by CD-RW and rewritable DVD drives. Because REV support UDF, REV drives can be used as bootable drives on systems which support booting from optical drives or removable-media drives.

REV disks are very compact: 10mm high, 77mm wide, and 75mm long. They weigh about 73 grams each, and can fit into a shirt pocket.

A USB 2.0-based REV drive with one 35GB cartridge sells for about $400 US; ATAPI drive and cartridge bundles are about $380 US. Additional cartridges sell for about $60 US each, or about $200 US for four cartridges.

Designed for Reliability

A removable-media drive is only as useful as its ability to store data reliably. A few years ago, Iomega had problems with the infamous click of death read/write head problems on its Zip and Jaz drives. REVs design reflects Iomegas concern about data reliability:

  • REV stores data using advanced ECC error correction.
  • REV locates the drive motor in each cartridge to eliminate the need for a spindle hole and reduce the likelihood of contamination
  • REV drives include a head-cleaning mechanism which is used automatically as needed
  • REV cartridges are sealed when not in use, and a special gasket and airflow design help prevent contamination when in use.


REV works with Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and Windows 2000 Professional/Server/Advanced Server with Service Pack 3 or 4 installed. The FireWire version will be compatible with Mac OS X. Linux support is also planned.

Backup Features

Although REV can be used as a normal removable-media drive using the REV system software for drag-and-drop file copying, REV is primarily designed for use as a fast, high-capacity backup drive. REV includes two backup utilities:

  • Norton Ghost for REV: a special version which enables users to create a compressed disk image
  • Iomega Automatic Backup Pro: supports data compression, encryption, and automatic file backup

REV can also be used with many third-party backup programs. See https://iomega-na-en.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/iomega_na_en.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=14536 for details.

Native Versus Compressed Capacity

The initial version of the REV, known as REV 35GB, is named for its native capacity of 35GB. Iomega claims that REV can reach capacities of up to 90GB when used with its bundled Iomega Automatic Backup Pro set to high compression. 90GB capacity assumes a compression ratio of 2.6:1. Frankly, Id be surprised if anybody gets close to this compression ratio on a day-in-day-out basis using a typical mixture of binary and text data.

To determine your real-world capacity, check the report after you run a compressed backup. Most backup programs report the average compression rate. Multiply this figure by 35GB to determine your approximate drive capacity. For example, if the data and compression setting you use results in an average compression rate of 1.4:1, multiply 35 by 1.4 to get an approximate capacity of 49GB. Keep in mind that your results will vary according to the types of data you back up. Word-processing and uncompressed graphics files have a high compression rate, while compressed graphics, archive and digital music files will hardly compress at all.

REV Performance

REV is designed to back up data at speeds up to 25MB/minute, which is several times faster than comparable tape backups such as DDS-4, Travan 40, and DAT72. For more information on how REV performs in drag-and-drop file copying and backups compared to other types of hard disks, see http://www.peripheralstorage.com/tape/iomega/system_performance.pdf (requires Adobe Reader).


REV is designed to provide the advantages of hard disk durability and speed to both removable-media and tape backup users. Its high capacity and high speed make it worth considering by both types of users.

For more information

Click the REV link at Iomegas website for the official REV home page http://www.iomega.com.

For a convenient list of Iomegas technical white papers on REV performance and design, go to http://www.peripheralstorage.com/tape/iomega/iomega_rev_pdf.htm

If you need Adobe Reader (required for some documents referenced in this article), download it from http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html

PC Magazines review of REV provides real-world performance figures and results of an emergency backup performed with REV http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1587746,00.asp

Learn about Iomegas plans to create REV autoloader libraries at http://www.internetnews.com/storage/article.php/3108751

DataCity compares REV to other tape and DVD products at http://www.datacity.us/iomega_rev_drive/iomega_rev_drive_comparison_chart.html

Iomegas claim of 2.6:1 data compression is based on the Calgary Corpus collection of text and binary data files. Download it from ftp://ftp.cpsc.ucalgary.ca/pub/projects/text.compression.corpus and try it yourself.

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