ioSafe Solo rugged hard drive

Most of the hard drives we get here at Pocket-lint are portable, occasionally tough, but mostly made of plastic.

That's fine if you're dashing about the city and need a light, portable back-up solution on the go that's ready for a bit of rough and tumble, but pretty rubbish if your house or office burns down and your data with it Armageddon style.

In steps the ioSafe Solo, an external hard drive that promises to survive fire and flood by protecting your data when the Gods decide your office or home shouldn't be around any more.

As you might expect, the ioSafe is one tough cookie. Encased in metal, packed with ceramic, the drive might look portable however it's anything but.

That's okay, because it's not designed to be carried around, it's designed to survive a fire or flood, remember.

The technical aspects of the drive are that it comes in either 500GB, 1TB and 1.5TB models and is connected to your PC or Mac via a USB 2.0 cable. Independently powered, once on it's just a case of plugging in the drive to your computer before you can start transferring data to and from it. Read and write speeds are as good as any other drive we've tested and the reality is that the ioSafe Solo is just a regular hard drive underneath that metal shell.

What isn't regular is that shell. The metal of course isn't waterproof or fireproof. In fact the ruggedness has limits: 1550 degrees f for 30 minutes in a fire, 3 days submerged 10 feet in water, but during that time although the outer case will be toast, your hard drive and more importantly the data on it will not be.

The system works by encasing the hard drive in a watertight sealed bag that is then surrounded by a ceramic casing. The basic job of the ceramic is that it keeps the drive cool while the outside gets hot.

The ceramic casing, which actually contains water that is then dissipated when heated, has a series of air vents and corridors that collapse when the casing gets to hot - i.e., in a fire. The move, which is the core to protecting the drive inside, means that during normal operating the drive keeps cool, but in crisis locks the drive away safe.

Of course wanting to make sure the whole system worked we first submerged the drive in a bath for a day. After that we then put it in the oven at 500 degrees for 30 minutes.

We have to admit even our meaty American oven wouldn't get it anywhere near the heat that the ioSafe could theoretically take, but it allowed us to "cook stuff" just for you - thanks.

After our watering and burning session we had one cooked hard drive. While we weren't - and you won't either - be able to plug in the unit back as if nothing had happened (it had - we burnt the bugger) we were able to take it apart and connect the untouched working drive to access the data, which let's face it is what it's all about.

If the worst has happened and you can't get to the data simply by connecting it to a PC or Mac then the ioSafe drive protection system kicks in. As long as you've registered the drive with ioSafe they will spend up to $1000 getting the information back off the drive and then send you the data back.

Verdict

The ioSafe Solo does what it sets out to do. This isn't a rugged go-anywhere drive solution that other companies offer, this is a "my office or home just burnt down, but at least my data is safe" solution.

The weight (it's about 8kg) and locking hole put paid to you not carrying it anywhere, but then as we've said, it isn't designed for that.

Think of this as a digital equivalent to the safe under your bed. You don't care what it looks like, you just want, push come to shove, the stuff you put in it to be safe in case disaster strikes.

This will achieve just that.


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