REVIEWER: David Rose, network architect for Snyder's Drug Stores.

BACKGROUND: Snyder's Drug Stores, a 161-store chain based in Minnetonka, Minnesota, is in the midst of an aggressive growth-by-acquisition strategy. The company's most recent acquisition of the Drug Emporium chain nearly doubled the size of the company and is just one step in the company's ambitious plans to grow to 1,000 stores in the next two to three years.

PLATFORMS: Dell PowerEdge 2500 server running Caldera (SCO) Openserver and new, comprehensive pharmacy management software, PDX Inc.'s Pharmacy System Software.

PROBLEM SOLVED: A major challenge we face is the ability to deploy and administer computer systems installed at 100 sites outside the direct control of the corporate IT staff. The equipment needed to be able to withstand some abuse, as the users can be lax about caring for it. Also, with each new company acquisition comes the need to manage diverse hardware and software platforms. The need to more fully automate pharmacy operation is a critical challenge facing pharmacies nationwide. According to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the volume of dispensed prescriptions is expected to increase 46 percent within the next five years while the number of available pharmacists is expected to increase only 5.4 percent. As the volume of pharmacy transactions increases, so does the data stored on the Dell servers, making reliable data backup an even more critical piece of the overall solution.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Tandberg SLR7 tape drives are an affordable, highly reliable, high-performance, high-capacity solution for professional NT/UNIX workstations and entry-level NetWare, UNIX and Windows small business servers. Our Tandberg SLR7 drives are configured to perform a full system backup daily. With the servers and backup drives beyond the physical control of the IT staff, automating the backup operations minimizes data protection problems and prevents the store's staff from having to re-key an entire day's worth of business. Store personnel must simply change tapes each day and put the new daily backup tape in the store's fireproof safe. We operate with an eight-tape rotation ­ six tapes for daily backups and two tapes rotated for weekly backups. Snyder's Drug Stores is hoping to convert the acquired Drug Emporium stores to the new Dell-Tandberg architecture as soon as budget becomes available, giving the corporate IT staff the luxury of administering a single platform standard installed in all company stores. Consolidation on a standardized platform would be an ideal solution.

STRENGTHS: The major strengths I see in this product for our company are the reliability of the Tandberg products and the familiarity that our end users currently have with the product.

WEAKNESSES: In our evaluation of this product, the major weakness we discovered was the cost of the media. An equivalent DAT tape is less than 50 percent of the cost of the Tandberg media.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We opted to use the Tandberg SLR7 instead of other tape technologies such as DAT or DLT for two key reasons: familiarity and reliability. Both of those advantages weighed heavily in deploying technology remotely in retail stores where the IT staff no longer has direct control and the users are not always diligent in the care and operation of computer equipment. Our users are already familiar with SLR drives; they are easy to use, which is a major issue in a retail environment. The reliability of the Tandberg Data product is also key in a retail environment where we don't have total control over the care of the product.

DELIVERABLES: The Tandberg SLR7 drives perform a full system backup daily. The labor savings is the greatest deliverable.

VENDOR SUPPORT: This does not apply to us, as we did not work directly with the vendor during the acquisition of the product.

DOCUMENTATION: The product came with a minimum of printed documentation. This was not a major issue for our experienced IT staff.

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