Poor old Iomega, it once had the world at its feet dominating the removable storage market.
It crushed or bought the competition until there was none left. Then it rested briefly on its laurels, took its eye off the ball momentarily, and boom! – the market went south. I still don’t know what went wrong, but almost overnight SyQuest, Zip and Jaz drives seemed to go out of favour. Iomega has tried to get back in the game with a few new approaches that proved unpopular. This time, however, I think it might actually be on to something. The Iomega Rev is a new approach to removable storage – one that might just work.
Backing up isn’t a popular pastime; it’s boring, costly and time consuming. The fact that hard drives seem more reliable than ever is another disincentive, meaning people hardly backup unless there is a resident backup-nazi to force their hands. The Iomega Rev may change this. One of the main reasons for SyQuest, Zip and Jaz drives was file transportation. What was known as sneakernet, when it was quicker to walk across the room with a disk in your hand than pass it across the network, meant removable drives were popular. This was even more pronounced when passing files to printers, or pre-press shops.
Broadband means that many big files can simply be sent over the ether without going anywhere near removable disks. But Iomega’s Rev may even change this practice.
Iomega Rev is a new storage system that uses a single hard drive platter in a cartridge. Also in the cartridge is the motor to spin the disk, but not the heads to read it. This is similar to previous removable media – the difference is in the motor. Having the motor onboard means increased reliability; having the heads in the drive means cheaper media. This time I think Iomega has the very fine balance of cost and capacity right, something it’s narrowly missed in the past.
The drive comes with Dantz Retrospect, so backups are easy. Each disk is 35GB (32.5GB formatted capacity) – big enough to be useful, and at around £45 per disk, or £34 if you buy the five-pack bundle, they are reasonably priced. That’s less than a pound per gigabyte if you ignore the initial cost of the drive.
There are a few barriers to the success of the Rev drive, and the kind of blanket acceptance of the SyQuest or Zip drives seems unlikely. However if approached the right way the Rev looks like a great deal. First, optical media has encroached on the traditional removable media sector. Anything under 5GB is now easily burnt onto cheap DVD-ROM discs. Easy, but not quick. Burning a DVD with 4GB of data will take around 30 minutes using a 4x SuperDrive. The same data takes just 6 minutes copying to a Rev drive. That might not sound that quick, but a gigabyte is a lot of information. The Rev drive is only fractionally slower than copying to an external FireWire 400 drive.
I like the capacity of the Rev. 35GB should be enough for most iTunes music libraries. Projects, even DVD-movie projects, rarely go over 35GB – and even if you’re editing Lawrence of Arabia, you can have extra disks.
The Iomega Rev isn’t perfect for every occasion, but for archiving large amounts of data such as video or audio, it would be ideal. While it can seem a bit on the slow side, that’s more to do with the volume of data it can carry than real speed, moving 35GB of data anywhere takes a long time. I’m confident that this format will be around for a while, even if it doesn’t get as widespread use as the Zip drive. As the Rev uses a hard disk at its core, it’s likely that the maximum capacity will increase over time. While the price of the drive (£279 including VAT) is high, the flexibility is still appealing. If portability isn’t an issue, external FireWire hard drives offer higher capacities for less money. However, when compared to tape backup the Rev is a much more appealing proposition, being faster with higher capacity.