Castlewood Orb Drive

More Bang For Your Buck?  Definitely!!!

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The removable storage media arena has gone through some interesting changes over the past few years. The popularity of the Iomega ZIP & Jaz drives is a sure sign that people want and need to be able to take their data with them. While tape backup systems hold huge amounts of data, the speed at which the low-end tape drives function make them good for little more than emergency backup systems. This is pretty much true of the LS-120 drive as well.

ZIP and Jaz drives have increased their operating speeds by leaps and bounds over the early models but Jaz cartridges are expensive and with data and application sizes being what they are today, you can easily find yourself piled up with as many ZIP disks as you once had 1.44MB floppies.

The Castlewood ORB drive, uses 3-1/2" removable media that is virtually the same as that which makes up your PC's hard drive, with a capacity of 2.2 GB, more than any other product in its category. The company touts an impressive 12.2 megabytes per second maximum sustained data transfer rate, a considerably faster transfer rate than any removable media product available today. The Orb drive also boasts a substantial increase in reliability over it's competition, with an estimated MTBF (mean-time-between-failure) rating 50 percent better than other removable cartridge products. Since ORB removable media drives are actually true hard drives, they can outperform other removable media drives, such as; magneto optical, high-density floppies, optical DVD and tape. With a maximum sustained transfer data rate of 12.2 MB p/second, the ORB can readily record streaming audio and video. And there is no limit to the number of times an ORB disk can be recorded upon. The ORB also offers a random access feature, making disk data searches and retrieval quicker and easier.

And, all this functionality comes in at a substantially lower cost: ORB drive retail packages, including one disk, have a suggested retail price of $199.95, while the Orb disks have a suggested retail price of just $29.95, up to 80 percent less than the cost of competitive media, driving the cost of storage to a new low of $0.0138 per megabyte.

ORB disks can be used in a wide variety of applications requiring the use of large amounts of digital data, including content authoring, like CAD/CAM, graphic design, publishing and multimedia presentations, and editing of content, like music and video. Information technology (IT) markets are expected to use ORB drives as a way to easily and quickly increase PC storage, and for backing up employee files and digital electronic sales via Web sites.

Castlewood offers the Orb drive in just about any available interface you can think of. Internal SCSI and IDE drives, and external SCSI, Parallel and USB drives are all available and while my experience is limited to the internal IDE interface, I can easily say that I am very pleased and impressed with the Orb drive's performance.

The device ships with a single disk that includes ORB Tools. This is a full featured suite of utilities which feature: Write Protect, Disk Partitioning and Formatting, Set ORB as "fixed" or "removable," a file archive called "tracker," ORB Disk Duplicator, SCSI Mounter, and other useful maintenance functions. The ORB Tools Backup Suite includes "1-Click Backup, Volume Copy, Image Copy and Professional Backup.. Castlewood uses a new protocol technology, called "headerless ID," which eliminates the need for disk formatting. ORB’s one-step backup utility gets very high marks for thoroughness, simplicity and security by automating system disk and file backups.

I first became enamored of the drive after the accounting department head of a local business called and asked for a data backup system. Realizing that she knew little of computers, she stated that she wanted something with which she could back up the entire system everyday that wouldn't take so long as their current Colorado 350 tape system.

Installation of the drive is a snap. Fitting the drive into an external 3.5in. drive bay, it connects up exactly the same as a new hard drive, plugging into to an existing IDE channel. With most modern BIOS's the drive is auto-detected on boot and voila, you're ready to go. I installed the drive in about ten minutes and then installed the Orb Tools package. I showed her that the simplest way of performing the backup that she wanted was to open the "Professional Backup" application, check the box next to the C:\ drive and click start. I must admit even I was suprised by the speed at which the application and drive performed. Their entire C:\ drive (978MB) was fully backed up in under 8 minutes.

Castlewood ORB removable media hard drives are the first universal storage systems to be built using cutting-edge magnetoresistive (MR) head technology, making them very different from other removable media drives. MR hard drive technology, first developed by IBM, permits a much larger concentration of data on the storage medium. Using this technology, Areal densities (megabits per square inch) are expected to skyrocket, growing at a compound annual rate of 60% through the end of the decade.

Like new hard drives, the basic design of the MR heads of the Orb drive, consists of separate read and write elements sharing common material layers. The write-wide and read-narrow MR heads increase the tracking reliability in removable cartridge disk drives. Because of additional simplified mechanical designs such as release mechanisms, and only three integrated circuits, ORB drives have an excellent mean-time-between-failure (MTBF) rating. Additionally, fewer components means that less power is required and thus cooler operation. This will be an important advantage as ORB drives are adapted to mobile computers and broader consumer products in general (using batteries or having less space for cooling fans). Outstanding performance, high capacity and the low cost of MR removable media drives also make them a viable alternative to fixed drives in the hard drive upgrade market.

Key Features

awardblu.gif (5629 bytes) There's really no getting around it.   If you're in the market for a removable storage device then Castlewood's Orb drive is the way to go.  While still pretty much unrecognized as the removable media market goes, Castlewood seems to have designed and built the defacto state-of-the-art in storage devices for the home PC as well as small business and SOHO markets.  Speed notwithstanding, you want a reliable backup, the Orb drive, while as yet untested as to time, still seems to offer the greatest bang for your buck!
To find out more about the Castlewood Orb Drive, check out their web site at
June 5, 1999
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