ioSafe: Introduction and Internals

Heavy Duty Storage and a Speedy NAS.


Cloud storage is all the talk these days, and our own Tim Verry has been hard at work detailing as much of it as he can keep up with. While all of us at PCPer currently use cloud based solutions for many of the day-to-day goings on, it’s not for everyone, and it tends to not be for very large chunks of data, either. Sometimes local storage is just the way to go – especially when you want to be the one in absolute control of the reliability and integrity of your data.

The general rule for proper backups is to have your local copy, a local backup (RAID is *not* a backup), and an additional off-site backup to cover things like theft, fires or floods. So lets say you simply have too much sensitive data for your internet connection to support bulk transferring to an off-side / cloud storage location. Perhaps the cloud storage for that much space is simply cost prohibitive, or your data is sensitive enough that – despite encryption – you don’t want it leaving your network and/or premesis? Perhaps you’re just stubborn and want only one backup of your data? I think I might have the answer you’ve been looking for – behold the ioSafe SoloPRO:

What is this thing, you may ask? On the inside it’s one of the available 1, 2, 3, or even 4TB 3.5" hard drives. On the outside it’s a very durable and solid steel enclosure. The hard drive is wrapped in a thermally conductive yet water resistant ‘HydroSafe’ foil that enables water resistance rated at a 10 ft depth for 3 days with no data loss. The bonus, however, is not the water resistance – that featuer is present primarily to battle the side effects of something much more drastic – the ioSafe is fire-proof. That feature comes from what sits between the steel casing and the shrink wrapped hard drive – something ioSafe calls a DataCast (pictured below):


I’m going to break from my normal warranty voiding and show a photo from this past Storage Visions conference at the Consumer Electonics Show, where an ioSafe was already cracked open for our viewing pleasure:

Pictured center is a 3.5" foil-wrapped hard drive cradled by the bottom half of a DataCast mold. The mold itself is made of the same material used in fire-proof safes. It is essentially a consumable plastic that undergoes a phase change at a specific temperature. While a pot of boiling water on a hot stove will remain at the boiling point until all water is gone, the DataCast can sit inside an inferno and will go no higher than its phase change temperature until it is fully consumed. The insulative properties of the material coupled with the heat input required to cause the consumption of the outer layers enable this design to withstand a rated 1550F for 30 minutes. While it may be cooking on the outside, the temperature maintained is sufficiently low as to prevent data loss from the protected HDD.

A rather convincing demo of all of the above can be seen in the below video, where an ioSafe is subjected to fire, water, drops from great heights, and crushing forces:

After all of that, the data was still intact!

While a fire is almost guaranteed to melt or otherwise destroy the data ports at the rear of the unit, the internal drive will be accessible after breaking away the housing and will (in theory) remain fully intact. In the case where the SATA ports have melted as well, or even if the controller PCB has somehow been compromised, the purchase price includes a 1-year protection plan where ioSafe will foot the bill for a data recovery service to the tune of $5000 per TB of capacity. $5000 is about the upper bounds of what expert recovery services would charge for a full TB of data recovered, making for a nice addition to the overall product. Users desiring longer protection plans can upgrade to a 3 or 5-year plan from ioSafe for an additional cost.

Next up: Packaging and a cool way to share this device out to your home network!

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