by April 3, 2003 0 comments



Not so long ago, 4.1 GB hard disks were considered more than sufficient for a PC. But today, even the entry-level requirement is ten times that at 40GB, and you can buy twice that size (80 GB) by spending just a little extra (40 GB Rs 4050, 80 GB Rs 6500). 

Encrypt Data
The safest place for your data is perhaps down in Marina trench, but would that really help? After all, data without access is akin to no data at all. You put on firewalls, hire expensive security analysts, bring on the latest hardware; backup your data but there still remains a security hole–physical access to the storage media. What if a person masquerading as a genuine employee or an insider not entitled to have access to your confidential data just walks off with the media. All kind network security fails at this point. We have two options here–restrict access to storage media or the better still, encrypt your data. Solutions such as PGP or Pretty Good Privacy let you do that (up to 128-bit encryption). Its open-source version is limited to encryption of e-mail. There’s a commercial version for encrypting storage volumes in an enterprise. Other open-source solutions have not really matured enough. There are other commercial products that allow you to do real-time encryption by acting as a transparent layer between the OS and storage media. Sentry 2020 is one such product. In some cases, you may want encryption greater than 128-bit. For this, you’ll have to look to Indian companies, since the US the export of such products. One Indian name that’s into this is SecureSynergy.

Where removable storage is concerned, there was a time when with a 4.1 GB hard disk, you would only use 3.5’’ 1.44 MB floppy disks for transferring files from one location to another. E-mailing files also was becoming a real option, however, always restricted by the space available online. (Hotmail’s 2 MB limit still runs out so fast and you start receiving those annoying ‘Account-size too large’ reminders.) There are websites now that offer far more space to store your files and data, free and for a price–indbazaar.com offers 25MB space for your files and folders, free. Paid online storage sites include Xdrive.com and Driveway.com. But online storage requires transferring large chunks of data over still-narrow bandwidth and is not very widely adopted, especially for critical data. 

So, the gap between how much you could store on the computer and how you could carry around, has been quite wide.

The latest Iomega
mini USB drive

Iomega’s Zip drive was launched in 1994, to cover a part of this gap. The first zip-disks came in a storage capacity of 100 MB and are now available in up to 750 MB capacities. These drives have some pretty useful features, such as ‘Automatic Backup’ software that can automatically back-up data to an Iomega Zip disk, hard drive or NAS server. There’s also ‘IomegaSync’ software, which automatically synchronizes files on a zip-disk and the hard-drive, to make sure the latest files are available on the zip-disk. The zip drive is a proprietary standard, and has been quite popular among professionals who need to carry large files around very often. The 750 MB drive costs around Rs 10,700 and Rs 600 for the Zip disk. Another option called the Jaz drive again from Iomega, was touted as a removable, portable hard-disk, shipped in capacities of up to 2 GB, has long been discontinued, as optical data-storage options have changed the market dynamics significantly. Then there’s the Imation Superdrive (120 MB and backward compatible with floppy disks) has also suffered similar fate. Magneto-optical storage or MO drives which were a popular medium till a few years ago are still around but have suffered in popularity due to
the newer, cheaper optical storage technologies. 

Comparative
CD/
DVD medium 

CD writing started to mature as a technology in 1997. Owing to the medium with storage capacities up to 650—700 MB of data, this technology has caught on as people have started getting more and more customized CDs written or burned with their business-presentations, brochures and even collection of music, games and other data. With the prices of CD-Writers dropping like a stone in water of late, many users are opting to burn their own CDs at office and home. 

CD-RW (CD Re-Writable) technology is slightly more advanced. These CDs are re-usable. The CD-RW medium is coated with crystalline materials, which can be altered by re-alignment at different temperatures. CD-RW writers can be used to write to CD-RWs as well as CD-Rs. CD-RW medium costs more than CD-Rs, which are available for as low as Rs10. CD-RW discs cost around Rs 70 up to Rs 300. 

Digital Versatile Discs or DVDs were launched in 1996 but took sometime before their more widespread usage could be achieved, mainly due to standardization issues. DVD-ROMs for data storage are the same physical size as CD-ROMs, but come in capacities of 4.7 to 17GB. This high-storage capacity is achieved by a multitude of technological enhancements–placing the tracks closer together, using dual-layer scanning as against single-layer in CD-ROMs, double-sided data encoding and more efficient error-correction. 

There are multiple DVD Re-Writable standards, DVD-RG (General – for consumers), DVD-RA (Authoring -for professionals), DVD-RAM (supported only on DVD-RAM drives and none of the other standards), DVD-RW (a re-recordable format similar to CD-RW). These formats are supported by Panasonic, Toshiba, Apple Computer, Hitachi, NEC, Pioneer, Samsung and Sharp. These formats are also supported by the DVD Forum. DVD+RW and DVD+R formats are supported by Philips, Sony, HP, Dell, Ricoh, Yamaha and others, but not the DVD Forum, although these companies are also members of the DVD Forum. DVD-multi, which supports all the DVD Forum-approved formats was released last year and DVD writers that can also handle CD-writing have been released. DVD+RW drives already write CD-Rs and CD-RWs.
All DVD recorders can read DVDs but use different types of DVD media to record data. There are compatibility issues with using DVD writers because of these multiple standards and the cost of these devices is too high currently (an ordinary DVD-writer costs around Rs 22,000) to be used for personal storage. 

USB Pen drives are the latest in removable storage. They can be plugged into an ordinary USB port of your PC and store up to 512 MB of data. These can be password protected as well for data-security. Prices range from Rs 1,600 for 64MB to Rs 11,500 for a 512 MB one. 

Already portable hard-drives are available in the market with capacities of 20 GB-30 GB storage that can be plugged into your PCs USB ports. With so many options available, the user today is no longer stuck to the ubiquitous floppy drive. So here’s to expanding, mobile data — that is the driving force behind these great storage devices. Save on.

Shruti Pareek

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