Gadling Gear Review: ioSafe Rugged Portable hard drive

ioSafe Rugged Portable Drive

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.IOSafe Rugged Portable Drive

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.

Final thoughts

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.

Daily gear deal – 320GB external hard drive USB/Firewire for $65

My daily deal for today is for this Verbatim 320GB portable external hard drive. The drive features USB and Firewire interfaces.

The 320GB storage space should be enough to hold multiple backups of most of your important files. In addition to this, it can also make a safe place to store any photos and videos you make on your trip.

The best part about these portable drives is that they can be powered using the USB port of your laptop or desktop computer, which means you don’t have to drag an additional power supply along with you.

Another great thing a large external drive can do, is add more storage space for music or video files – especially since many small laptop computers only come with limited space.

You’ll find this Verbatim 320GB portable hard drive on sale at Amazon for $64.99, which includes free shipping.

Click here to order, or to learn more about this product.

Daily deal – Toshiba 250GB portable hard drive for $65

My daily deal for this afternoon is for a Toshiba portable external hard drive.

Besides being a really good deal, there are several other reasons why I think everyone who travels with their computer should invest in a portable drive.

For starters – the 250GB storage space should be enough to hold a backup of most of your important files. In addition to this, it can also make a safe place to store photos and videos you make on your trip, I know several people who made over 1000 photos, and lost every single one of them when their laptop hard drive crashed before arriving back home.

The best part about these portable drives is that they can be powered off the USB port of your laptop or desktop computer, which means you don’t have to drag an additional power supply along with you.

Another great thing a large external drive can do, is add more storage space for music or video files – especially since many small laptop computers only come with limited space. You’ll find this Toshiba 250GB portable hard drive on sale at Amazon for $65.85, which includes free shipping.

Turn your Gmail into an online storage drive

Although I use Gmail primarily to stay in touch while I travel, my account has proved enormously useful for plenty of other reasons. Rather than visiting 3-4 different airline and hotel sites, I collect and “star” all my itinerary info within my Gmail for easy reference. And rather than carrying around all those annoying frequent flier cards, I created a single file in Google Documents that lists my member number for every airline. Not to mention the hundreds of other great ways you can take advantage of Google when you travel.

Now I have another reason to keep coming back to my Gmail – an add-on for Firefox users called Gspace. Gspace turns any Gmail account into 2 gigabytes of free online storage with an easy-to-use interface. Think of it as an easy way to store your photos, videos, favorite music and important travel documents on the road. When you log into Gmail, you’ll see the files you’ve uploaded listed as emails in your account. Head over to the Gspace site, download their Firefox application, and you’re ready to go. You access Gspace from the pull-down “Tools” file menu in your Firefox browser. Check the How It Works page if you’re having any problems.

If you don’t have Firefox, you can download it for free – trust me, it’s better than Internet Explorer. Also, if you’re not already a Gmail user, it’s time to sign up. The best part? You can sign up for unlimited Gmail accounts, so there’s technically no limit to what you can store.