From the December 2004 issue of Entrepreneur

A few years ago, DVD burners were considered luxury items out of reach of most growing businesses. How the times have changed. Now, most midrange and high-end business desktops come with DVD burners already installed. But for those of you with older hardware, upgrading is an affordable option.

There's been some big news this year in DVD advancements. You've been hearing about double-layer (DL) technology, a feature that increases the disc capacity substantially. The good news is that a special DL disc holds up to 8.5GB of data, up from the 4.7GB of a standard DVD. The less-than-stellar news is that special DL discs can cost upward of $10 apiece, and the burning speeds top out at about 2.4x (compared to up to 16x for other DVD formats). You can expect to wait awhile when filling one of these with data.

Another problem is one that has greeted many of the successive advances in DVD technology: Older DVD drives may not recognize the new media. If that's a problem, check with the drive's manufacturer for firmware upgrades. Still, for data backup or large multimedia projects, it's hard to beat that capacity. And these drives can always burn regular DVDs at faster speeds. They can also handle the full complement of CD-R, CD-RW and all the popular DVD formats. Check the specs for complete information on the souped-up burn speeds for different formats. All drives will be fairly quick about it, but there can be variations from model to model.

Now that you're set on buying a new DVD burner, you've got a big decision to make: internal or external? Internal drives are less expensive, but you have to deal with installing them, and then they're anchored to one machine. External drives can be moved around to different PCs or used with laptops if necessary. The internal BenQ DW1620 is a DL drive with an affordable $125 (all prices street) price tag. That's an inexpensive way for your company to get the latest technology, provided you don't mind dealing with the installation or letting your IT person take care of it for you.

For external drives, check out the $229 Sony DRX-710UL. Its sleek design and USB 2.0 and FireWire interfaces make it a solid portable option. It also comes with the well-regarded Nero burning software. One of Iomega's offerings, the $299 Super DVD QuikTouch Video Burner, is an external DL drive that's particularly attractive for entrepreneurs who work extensively with video. It has an integrated video capture card for collecting and burning directly from any digital device with an analog output, such as video camcorders or DVD players.

If you don't want to mess with a DL burner, the $259 Plextor PX-712UF is an external drive that sports the usual complement of DVD formats. At 12x speeds, it can burn a DVD+R disc in about six minutes. At 3.7 pounds, you might not want to pack it around with your laptop, but it can certainly cover the bases around the office. TDK offers a $190 internal drive that also features 12x DVD+R recording and 8x speeds for DVD-R. An external version is available for about $100 more.

If you're on a tight budget and your business doesn't necessarily have to have the latest and fastest technology, older generation internal drives can be picked up for less than $100. Each of the manufacturers listed has a lineup of drives to fit a variety of price ranges and needs. So whether you need to back up or store data, create multimedia files, or share documents, a DVD burner is an affordable and flexible investment.

MANUFACTURER/
MODEL
CONTACTFEATURESSTREET
PRICE
BenQ
DW1620
(866) 700-2367
www.benq.com
DL internal, Qvideo software$125
Iomega
Super DVD QuikTouch
Video Burner
(888) 4-IOMEGA
www.iomega.com
DL external, integrated video
capture card
$299
Plextor
PX-712UFp
(800) 886-3935
www.plextor.com
External, USB 2.0 and FireWire
interfaces, Roxio software
$259
Sony
DRX-710UL
(800) 352-7669
www.sony.com
External, USB 2.0 and FireWire
interfaces, Nero software
$229
TDK
ATapi/E-IDE DVD 12x+/8x-
Indi DVD Multiformat
(714) 238-7900
www.tdk.com
Internal, Roxio software$190