Using Blu-Ray as a business backup solution: Why traditional optical & tape technologies should be wary of it

Blu-ray technology is locked with HD-DVD in a battle which will decide who will take over the DVD format as the preferred consumer media. However, the appeal of Blu-ray as a storage support extends beyond the realms of the consumer market as SMEs may be attracted by the low price of media and its flexibility.

First generation Blu-ray can store up to 25GB and in theory, the rewritable version of the media can be written over 1,.000 times. Blu-ray enjoys three distinct advantages as compared to HD-DVD when it comes to backup purposes.

  • You can find Blu-ray recorders and media pretty easily.
  • Blu-ray offers higher capacity than HD-DVD
  • A rewritable HD-DVD has yet to be announced.

A blank Blu-ray disc offers roughly five times the capacity of a single layer blank DVD. Increased capacity means proportionally less media which translates into reduced management and storage issues.

Blu-ray blank disc manufacturers like Verbatim and Sony have develop proprietary ways of improving the durability of their disc. Verbatim, for example, introduced a scratch-proof hard coating for its discs. This successfully underwent a "steel wool" test which involved a steel wool cloth being rubbed against the surface of a disc to stimulate everyday use.

As for compatibility, most recent mainstream backup applications will support Blu-ray technology fairly easily and Windows XP already supports it out of the box. At the time of writing, backing up 1TB of data would require an initial investment of around £430+VAT for one drive and forty 25GB blanks for a total cost of £340+VAT, bringing the total to just over £770+VAT.

The price is bound to drop in the next few months as mass production picks up due to the demand for Sony's Playstation 3 console - which uses Blu-ray as removable storage sub-system. Furthermore, the next generation of 50GB BD-RE disks should become widespread by March 2007, signalling another drop in capacity per pound. Expect recordable 50GB Dual Layer BD-RE to be sold for around £20. As a further boost to the format, Sony increased the production of 50GB blank disks six-fold.

Currently, a 2x Blu-Ray writer can achieve a transfer rate of around 8.6MB/s, roughly equivalent to a 6.5x DVD writer. This means that such a writer can fill a 25GB disc in less than 47 minutes and a 50GB one in 95 minutes. This is slower than competing technologies like DVD+R or tape-based technology however Blu-ray does strike a good balance between price, convenience, performance and capacity.

The only recommended drive at the time of writing is the Sony BWU-100A as it supports higher capacity BD-RE blank media and is backward compatible with DVD and CDROM, both in reading and writing.

Our recommended media is the Verbatim BD-RE 25GB blank which has a scratch-proof protective layer. It is cheaper and readily available and comes from a recognised media manufacturer.

Blu-ray brings some fresh air to the SME storage market as the amount of data stored increases exponentially; due partly to legal issues and the sheer amount of information generated by business apps.

By end 2007, Blu-ray proponents expect transfer rates to reach 36MB/s, slashing writing speeds to less than 12 minutes while capacities are projected to reach 100GB. TDK has already demonstrated a working model of a 6-layer 200GB blu-ray blank media.