Consumers understand the importance of keeping their documents and other material possessions safe from unexpected disasters. Towards this, many invest in fireproof and waterproof safes. However, as the digital economy grows, many of the possessions such as documents and photo albums are in terms of bits and bytes, rather than tangible things which can be placed in safes. This brings to fore the necessity to find a disaster-proof safe place for those bits and bytes in both personal and business settings.

Storage media (hard disks, in particular) are quite sensitive to environmental conditions, and protecting them from disasters such as fires and floods is an interesting problem. ioSafe has been in the business of selling disaster proof storage solutions for the last 7 years. Their products have been well-reviewed and their CES demonstrations have always drawn a large audience. We received a ioSafe SoloPRO 1TB USB 3.0 version to take out on a test drive. The unit protects data from loss up to 1550°F for 1/2 hour as per ASTM E119 and it is also waterproof upto 10 ft. for 72 hours.

Package Contents and Initial Impressions:

The ioSafe SoloPRO package was surprisingly heavy, coming in at 18 lbs. In addition to the main unit, it came with a 24 W power adapter, a USB 3.0 cable, a user manual and a note about the possibility of fireproof insulation powder being present on the external surface of the unit.

The main unit alone weighed in at a hefty 15.5 lbs. Its dimensions are 5" x 7.1" x 11". The rear side of the main unit has an explicit on-off switch, the USB 3.0 connector and the power inlet. There is also a fan in the unit for active cooling of the hard drive.

On connecting the unit to the computer, we found that the unit internally uses a Seagate Barracuda 7200 rpm 1 TB hard drive with a 32 MB buffer. The USB 3.0 port is provided by JMicron's JMS539 SuperSpeed USB to SATA II 3.0G bridge.

Those are the tangibles in the shipment. What else does one get? The SoloPRO unit comes with a Data Recovery Service (DRS) package, 1 year of which is included in the purchase price. The SoloPRO allows for this to be upgraded to either 3 or 5 years at an extra cost of $50 or $100 respectively. The warranty in the US market is for 3 years, but a 5 year upgrade to DRS automatically extends the warranty to 5 years.

The DRS provides for one instance of no-questions-asked data and hardware recovery. The user mails the affected unit back to ioSafe (shipping paid by ioSafe) and the recovered data is loaded onto another ioSafe unit. In case the data is not recoverable through ioSafe's usual procedures, the company provides upto $2500 in coverage for data recovery by a third party.

Consumers have to explicitly register online with ioSafe for DRS to be enabled on their unit. There is a lot of information (some of which is unnecessary, in our opinion) that needs to be entered while registering. Upon successful registration, one is also provided with a single user license for Genie Timeline Pro, a software to aid in backups (say, to a SoloPRO). The software costs $59.95 when bought standalone, but is complimentary with the purchase of an ioSafe SoloPRO.

The ioSafe SoloPRO 1TB version with USB 3.0 support comes with a MSRP of $349.99, a premium of more than $200 over a comparable non-disaster proof version. What is the technology that is worth this premium? Let us see in the next section.

The Technology Behind ioSafe
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  • zanon - Monday, April 9, 2012 - link

    First, thanks for your reply! Regardless of the situation, it's always appreciated when the author gives feedback.

    My biggest fundamental problem with your coverage is that I really think it does get some key points wrong and do a disservice to readers who might not know better. There are certainly valid reasons why a local solution might be useful/necessary, but storage and security aren't among them and Anandtech isn't a site that should be fuzzy with the details on matters like this, IMO.
    I see your point about Carbonite and CrashPlan, but what is the guarantee that the company won't shut shop suddenly?

    This is silly. You have no "guarantees", per se, about anything tech related. What's your "guarantee" that a meteor won't come out of nowhere and obliterate Microsoft next week? Nothing. But that's not how data security or uptime is managed, no one ever says "100%", it's all about probability, and how many "9's" you're willing to pay for. A company like Code 42 or Amazon have been around many years now, and appear to have very stable models. Same with all the other reputable players. The odds of them just up and vanishing without warning are miniscule, and the important thing is that those odds are weighed against the risk odds of the individual, which are far more significant.
    Rather than trusting someone with their backups, some people might prefer to have their data close by.

    No common individual can even vaguely match the kind of backup and redundancy that a pro solution can. Good ones have replication to multiple redundant data centers (which in turn have their own replication). They have physical and environmental security. Having data "close by" is good as a secondary level to aid in rapid restores (for hardware failure and such). But a hardened case won't necessarily work for serious disasters, or against some of the most key threats of all, like theft (or confiscation). A single drive with no redundancy isn't even much use against data corruption.
    I won't comment on the real time online backup offsite comment, but I do know of companies personally which do an offsite backup once a week...and I am sure they have their own reasons for choosing ioSafe as their disaster proofing solution.

    Oh, I'm sure too. There are situations where a given location may simply not have access to broadband, or only via something expensive/highly asymmetric like satellite. When data is expensive enough, it also just makes sense to have multiple redundant setups in place. But if they could do an online remote solution as well (online remote doesn't mean "cloud" necessarily) but aren't because they're worried about space, security, or more likely are just ignorant that's not a shining example for you to point to, that's companies being foolish, as they so often are. We know better.

    It's worth repeating and double emphasizing too that "remote replication" doesn't necessarily mean "cloud". Software like CrashPlan (or lots of others, or roll your own with open source), for free, enables backing up to any system connected to the net. So a few friends living in different areas can all agree to host backups for each other (or a business might replicate between offices).

    Thanks again for your response.
  • robb.moore - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - link

    Hi zanon-
    Great comments - you seem like a really knowledgeable person. Couple of observations:

    1. The Pentagon uses ioSafe. Arguably with the biggest IT budget on the planet, why choose ioSafe? They have a remote office with Macs. Pentagon runs on Windows. The remote office has vulnerable data, at risk and they're not allowed to backup over the internet due to security concerns.

    2. "Serious" business with thousands of remote offices choose ioSafe to backup vulnerable data not in the data center. They utilize ioSafe as a temporary backup location until the data can be uploaded or taken offsite. ioSafe plugs a vulnerability in their DR plans. It's not perfect but it was better than having thousands of endpoints backing up to the data center between the hours of 2am and 4am.

    3. Many IT people don't like the idea of perpetual incrementals. They prefer to take daily or weekly snapshots of the entire server, OS and programs and recover from "clean" images. Balancing Recovery Time Objective (RTO) with Recovery Point Objective (RPO) is tricky for all businesses to do more with less. ioSafe can often times help RPO/RTO for business with vulnerable data and limited budgets.

    4. Data creation outpaces online bandwidth in growth. This is expected to remain true for decades to come. It's as if the Atlantic Ocean is growing faster than the garden hose you're pushing it through. Data created locally will generally stay local. Data created in the cloud will generally stay in the cloud. It's tough to push massive amounts of data across a pipe that proportionally getting smaller over time.

    We're big fans of the private cloud - Local data that can be access remotely on any device. ioSafe is one solution of many to help mitigate the risk of loss for the local data. Every situation is a little different though.

    Excellent comments.


    Robb Moore
  • DanNeely - Monday, April 9, 2012 - link

    "The unit protects data from loss up to 1550°F for 1/2 hour as per ASTM E119"

    Without comparison to major house/apartment/office fire numbers this rating by itself is fairly meaningless. My biggest question would be what does the long tail of fire heating to do it? The main blaze could be extinguished in a house fire within the 30m timeframe; but fire fighters need to hang around for hours afterwards because hot spots will periodically flare back up.
  • robb.moore - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - link

    Hi Dan-

    The average house fire lasts 10-20 minutes at about 1100 degrees. Almost all fires involve water. In fact most of the damage is done by the fire fighter hoses than by the fire. Typically, when a room burns, all the fuel in the room is used up in a relatively short time. If a building burns for a couple hours, it's not the same spot burning as the fuel gets used up over a few minutes.

    1400 degrees is a VERY hot section of the fire (typically right at the ceiling. As you move downward in the room, the temps drop into the 300-400 degs F near the floor.


    Robb Moore
  • rs2 - Monday, April 9, 2012 - link

    A simple hard-drive failure is a far more likely occurrence than a fire or a flood, and for all its imposing presence and costly engineering this solution does nothing whatsoever to protect against internal failure of the mechanical disk. That shows a troubling lack of foresight.

    Would it have been so difficult for them to also include some sort of cloud-based data backup/replication service with this device? Obviously the people in the market for such a product are people who seriously care about the safety of their data, so it would make sense to market a solution that covers all common failure modes; fire, flood, and physical device failure.
  • robb.moore - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - link

    Hi rs2-

    As mentioned in a previous response:

    That being said - the ioSafe SoloPRO is meant as a backup target - not primary storage. At ioSafe we highly recommend that our users follow a minimum of our 3-2-1 Backup Rule.

    Human error (accidental deletion, format, etc.) is our #1 reason for recovery. It's amazing to me how many people confuse "backup" to mean "move" and not "copy"

    It's very wrong (as I think you're trying to explain) to "move" all your data onto a single drive. It's also very wrong to move all your data onto a 100 disk RAID array without a backup.

    It's just as easy to accidentally format a large RAID array as it is a single disk - the human is the weak link.

    We've considered layering in some kind of cloud offering. Mozy and Carbonite both recommend onsite external drives to supplement their cloud backup. I guess I see it as we're better than 99.9% "good" already. There are lots of companies that do cloud backup and there's only one ioSafe.

    thanks for the comments!


    Robb Moore
  • DonCBurr - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    I agree with your 3.2.1 strategy and I agree with your analyses of the cloud when data becomes large which is why I like this concept; but I have to disagree with the idea of a single drive rather than RAID 1

    Even in my home environment data is stored in RAID 50 (fifty) and complete images are backed up to external drive RAID 1 drives; which I can put into our fire-safe that has a .rating of 45 minutes @ 1400 degrees BUT that requires backing up and swapping drives. RAID 1 because drives can and will fail and Murphy’s Law says it WILL fail when you need it the most. (and frankly most RAID implementations are not that much more than single drives implementations e.g. Sans Digital))

    Now if I could only run a long cord into the safe and continuously back up the data that would be great, but not practical; which is why I looked at your product: however IF I am to rely on your solution for the Fire/Water/Earthquake event (as opposed to the long-cord solution ) then I surely want the latest online real-time backup and RAID 1 simply reduces the odds that a single drive and single point of failure will be responsible for data-loss since the odds that two drives will fail at exactly the same time is pretty low.

    I hear you may have a NAS version with RAID coming out, which I am excited to see; but NAS adds a bunch of costs that a simple eSata, USB3.0, FireWire would not have.

    I certainly think that a $200.00 premium over standard drives as Anandtech points out, is worth it. So if I use this as the bench mark and I can buy a SansDigital RAID 1 box w/ eSata and USB 3.0 for 130.00 and put 2 1TB drives into it for about $200 that 330 + 200 = $530.00: I am a buyer at between $495.00 and $530. (doesn’t $495 sound SO much less than $530)

    My two cents….
  • robb.moore - Monday, April 23, 2012 - link

    Thanks Don for the feedback. Disks in RAID can be a good way to help guard against single disk failure. For many though, the concept of RAID, or confusing RAID with "backup" is common.

    Specifically speaking to the odds, ioSafe has a track record of protecting people's data better than 99.9% when our hardware + Data Recovery Services are used together. This stat is inclusive of all our customers various techniques and scenarios for data loss (human error, fires, floods, hdd failure, etc. etc.)

    Adding RAID to the backup target will incrementally improve chances of recovery but probably not as much as you think if you're already creating a redundant backup copy in the first place.

    Where RAID can dramatically benefit a business is what Disaster Recovery folks call Recovery Time Objective (RTO). There's a big advantage to having a disk failure that can be corrected by hot swapping a disk resulting in zero downtime if you business requires it.

    We highly recommend a RAID array for your main server if you're a business. RAID on the backup target can help incrementally improve your chances (0.005% better?) but so will 2 backup targets (twin external hard drives), online backup and offsite vaulting if this worries you.

    There are all kinds of techniques to improve your chances and every situation is a little different.

    Thanks again for your comments.

    Robb Moore
  • EddieBoy - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - link

    I see that has the 3 TB version for $349.99. Very tempting...
  • bobbozzo - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - link

    Nothing is Disaster-Proof (or fireproof or hackproof or whatever)... Please use terms like disaster-resistant instead when reviewing such products.

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