2011 may go down as (yet another) “year of the cloud”, but that doesn’t mean the cloud is the solution to everything. On my travels, I rely on Dropbox, Google Music, Amazon Music and Sugarsync to provide instant access to my files, but the “instant” part relies heavily on having access to reliable and speedy Internet access. Since speedy Internet can be just as hard to find in downtown Las Vegas as it is in downtown Tallinn, I also trust locally stored files on a good old hard drive and a variety of USB drives.
Of course, the biggest risk of carrying a hard drive is always going to be physical damage – the thing is after all designed around rotating platters with magnetic heads floating micrometers above them. To combat this, there is the rugged drive. One of the most popular names in rugged storage is ioSafe, long known for their line of fire and waterproof drives for at home, but now also the name behind a variety of portable rugged storage.
For this review, we’ll take a closer look at the USB 3.0 ioSafe Go-Anywhere Rugged Portable Hard Drive. On the outside this thing is actually surprisingly slick – taking some of its design inspiration from the gorgeous single piece aluminum products from Apple. The rest of the product is pretty simple – a MicroUSB 3.0 connector (which will work on USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports), an activity LED indicator and a Kensington lock port. The included cables work on any USB port, though most computers will need two ports to power the drive – which also means you don’t need to carry around a power brick.
As soon as you pick the drive up, you’ll feel that it isn’t in the same league as your everyday portable drive – it weighs significantly more and feels like a small brick. The weight (along with some pretty smart innovations on the inside) and single piece aluminum case design are what make it possible to protect against drops up to 20′ (that is 6 meters to those of us that prefer Metric), crushes up to 5,000 lbs and full immersion in water for up to 3 days.
The drives come in a variety of flavors too – spinning platters (500GB and 1TB) and SSD (120GB, 300GB and 600GB). All varieties offer the same rugged protection. Every Rugged Portable drive from ioSafe comes with 1 year of data recovery service (up to $5,000) with options to add up to 5 years of additional coverage. To clarify – this coverage is offered on top of the warranty provided by the manufacturer.
Rugged or not?
Of course, any company can make outrageous claims about their drives, so I decided to do things to this drive that I’d never consider doing to a “normal” drive. For starters, I left the poor thing outside in a pile of snow overnight, then on my way inside, I “accidentally” dropped it on a concrete garage floor. Amazingly, I think the solid aluminum case did more damage to the floor than vice versa.
The target audience
With prices starting at $249, the ioSafe rugged drive is definitely not as affordable as a 500GB drive you’ll find on the shelf of your local Target – but once you calculate the value of your content, the initial purchase price is quite easy to justify. In my case, I use external storage to hold photos and video, as well as images of my laptop in case I need an emergency on-the-road restore. In those cases, the extra $150 for the security of a rugged drive is well worth it.
There is very little inherently interesting about an external hard drive, but the ioSafe Rugged Portable Drive definitely gives you a sense of security – you can tell that this thing is designed from the ground up to travel the world and be thrown around. Performance is fantastic (especially when on a laptop with USB 3.0) and with sizes up to 1TB, you are bound to have an available option that will hold your storage needs. Prices start at $249 for the 500GB HDD version, up to a painful $1,999 for the 600GB SSD.
Still, once you go back to the whole “how much are my files worth” part, the price really isn’t hard to beat, especially when there are no reasonable alternatives on the market. When you need to store 1TB of content, the cloud just isn’t an option.
You’ll find the entire lineup of ioSafe drives at iosafe.com, along with more of their rugged products and information about their data recovery services.