capsule review

FireWire RAID Array

Imagine a high-end workstation, complete with a high capacity RAID (redundant array of independent disks). Now imagine it's small enough to fit in your backpack. That's what you get when you combine a FireWire-enabled PowerBook with the VST FireWire RAID Array. As enticing as it sounds, most people don't need a portable RAID, especially not at its current price.

The case holds up to four VST Slim Portable FireWire drives. On the bottom is a slot for a standard Lithium Ion PowerBook battery. The array can run off the battery for between three to five hours, or charge the battery when it's plugged in. The case contains a built-in FireWire hub which allows you to disconnect any of the drives without recabling.

The FireWire RAID ships with FireRAID software, which supports RAID level 0 (striping) and RAID level 1 (mirroring). A striped volume spreads the data across multiple drives in thin "stripes," for a boost in speed, and a mirrored volume is simultaneously copied on two or more drives. FireRAID allows you to set up striped and mirrored volumes at the same time.

We saw solid performance from a four-drive, 100GB array, using a striped volume. In our tests, the array was twice as fast as a single drive.

Even if you need the speed and capacity of a RAID array, you may not need the RAID case. FireWire itself is hot-pluggable, and a FireWire hub, for around $100, provides similar functions. The FireRAID software, which will work with any FireWire drives, will be available from VST before the end of the year for less than $200. But if you daisy-chain more than two drives together using a hub, you'll have to use AC power. The main advantage of the VST RAID is that you can run four drives off of a PowerBook with no external power.

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