People concerned with the security of digital information generally assume that data loss will happen electronically, either by accident or by targeted attack. That’s a pretty good assumption, but data loss can occur for other reasons as well, being in a fire for example. I say that as a retired volunteer firefighter who has seen first hand what fire, heat, and water do to electronic equipment.

Fireproof and waterproof data storage

It’s hard to believe that something could be fire and waterproof at the same time, certainly not sensitive data storage devices like a hard drive. It appears that I need to start believing, as ioSafe has figured out how to make affordable external hard-drives that are:

“Engineered and tested to protect data from fire (up to 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit for one-half hour per ASTM E119) and flood (full immersion in fresh or salt water at depths up to 10 feet for 3 days).”

The technology behind that claim is equally impressive:

  • ioSafe’s patented FloSafe cooling vent technology provides air-flow cooling to dissipate heat during normal operation. FloSafe technology also has the ability to detect destructive heat levels and automatically close the vents to protect data from extreme heat.
  • Data on ioSafe protected products also is protected from extreme heat by ioSafe’s proprietary DataCast endothermic insulation technology. Chemically embedded with water, cooling water vapor is engineered to be released above temperatures of 160 degrees Fahrenheit to protect the data within the enclosure.
  • The patented HydroSafe technology is a waterproof vapor barrier designed to protect data loss from fresh or salt-water damage, including full immersion. Simultaneously, HydroSafe technology allows the cooling FloSafe air flow heat dissipation required by all computer hardware during normal operation.

I’m sure ioSafe knew they needed to back up their rather bold claims and did so in a dramatic way at CES 2009. Check out the YouTube video.

160 degrees F

The 160 degrees Fahrenheit is important as it’s the upper temperature limit for hard drives in a storage condition. That got me thinking as I have several hard drives stored in a home safe. The safe has the same ASTM E119 rating of 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit for one-half hour, but consider an interior temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit to be acceptable. Oops.

ioSafe Solo specs

Here are the general specifications of the Solo:

  • Capacity: 500 GB, 1 TB or 1.5 TB
  • Speed: 7200 RPM
  • Connections: USB 2.0
  • Supported Operating Systems: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Mac OS 8.6 and greater
  • Warranty: 3 years extendable up to 5 years
  • Disaster Recovery Service: 1 year extendable up to 5 years
  • Weight: 15 lbs

The pricing is pretty impressive for what you get, starting out at $150.00 US for the 500 GB unit.

Impressive warranty

If the ioSafe Solo fails to work after a disaster, you can ship the unit back to the company at no cost. They will try to recover the data, send it back to you along with a new ioSafe Solo. If ioSafe is unable to recover the data, they will pay up to $1000 US to have a third party disk-recovery service see if they can.

Other methods

I had a chance to discuss the ioSafe Solo with a fellow IT manager and he brought up some good points that I wanted to share. He quickly pointed out two other methods that protect electronic data as well:

  • Offsite storage: Typically, a bank safety-deposit box or something similar.
  • On-line data vaults: Use a cloud-based data storage facility, such as Amazon’s S3 service.

Still, those solutions have their own set of drawbacks. The storage facility can only be accessed at certain times and you have to bring the data storage device there. Using on-line data vaults require you to turn over your data to a third party requiring a certain amount of trust, even if it’s encrypted.

Final thoughts

I’ve never been a big fan of USB hard drives, only using mine to transfer data when it wouldn’t fit on my 16 GB flash drive. To be honest, I’m going to rethink that position, as this old firefighter sees a better way to store digital files.