This enormous and heavy steel box encloses a 1TB (1.5TB, and 2TB also available) hard drive that it protects from fires up 840 degrees Celsius for half an hour and from sitting in water up to a depth of 10ft for three days. In other words, if you have a house fire, this thing can get toasted by the fire then doused by the fire brigade and still live to tell the tale.
The way it does this is by housing the drive in a number of protective layers starting with a tough steel case measuring 28 x 18 x 12.7cm. This model isn’t officially crush resistant but the 2mm thick steel box should keep it protected from most household detritus landing on its head.
Removing a dozen or so screws and taking the steel off we get to the fire protection layer which is made of DataCast endothermic insulating material. This is a ceramic that actually has water embedded in it, which is released as vapour to cool the drive down during a fire. Opening up the ceramic fire protection and there are flow channels that keep air circulating round the device when in normal operation.
Finally we come to the water protection side of things, which is taken care of simply by a vacuum sealed plastic bag around the drive. While this may sound overly simple, the idea is that the bag and drive aren’t under threat in any other way aside from water – the rest of the box protects from fire and impact – so it only has to be water proof, not tough.
You may have gathered that, aside from the drive itself the SoloPro is destroyed by the fire and water exposure. Even a brief dunking will render the power supply, cooling fan, and external data connections useless, at least until they’ve thoroughly dried out again. Likewise, even a light toasting will destroy most of the plastic therein. So, this isn’t a ruggedised device, per se, just a disaster resistant one.
Of course we couldn’t let these claims go untested so we did a little trial by fire and water of our own.
Before we get onto the fun part, though, let’s take a quick look at what features this drive has. Round the back there’s a USB 3.0 port, which provides a fast and universal data connection. That is the only option though, so you’ll need another device to give this box access to your network – i.e. by attaching this to a NAS box or picking up a USB to network adapter. Next to the USB connector is the power input and on its right is a power switch, while above this lot is a fan for keeping everything cool during normal operation.
Two holes in the bottom steel plate also enable you to clamp or tether the drive to a secure location. In the box you simply get a USB 3.0 cable and of course the power supply.
We tested the drive’s transfer speed moving both a single large file (1GB), and a folder full of thousands of smaller files to and from the drive and it returned pretty decent figures. Certainly you won’t be left wanting too much when if comes to speed from this drive.
Now let’s get toasting…
Not having a house fire or the professional burn chambers used by ioSafe in its own demos to hand we had to resort to an everyday barbecue. Using normal charcoal and putting the ioSafe on the grill, we left it for about half an hour, turning it over intermittently so it was evenly done. Now, our barbecue didn’t reach the kinds of temperatures that this drive is rated up to, indeed some of the external plastic parts remained seemingly intact, but it still did enough damage that any equivalent device would have been rendered useless.
Once the drive had been sufficiently toasted we doused it with water to cool it and the barbecue down. Once cool enough to pick up we then submerged the drive in a bucket of water to give it a thorough soaking.
And the results?
As we say, the fire wasn’t the most intense so as we took the drive apart we noticed the external connections looked intact so we connected it up through the USB port. Looks can be deceiving, though, and either the controller circuitry hadn’t sufficiently dried out or had been fried. Nevertheless, we soldiered on and tore apart the case and its thermal insulation material, revealing the drive in its waterproof bag.
Again, the SATA cable protruding from the bag seemed to be intact so before ripping apart the water proof bag we gave this cable a try. Success! The drive worked perfectly.
If, however, you’re unfortunate enough to have the drive fail then all is not lost. ioSafe also includes up to $2,500 worth of forensic data recovery. What’s more this covers any failure in the drive whether due to misuse, accident, fire, flood, or simply mechanical failure. The standard term for the data recovery service (DRS) is one year with a further standard warranty lasting three years. You can extend the DRS cover to three years for an extra £49.99 or both the warranty and DRS to 5 years for £99.99.
Currently, we can’t find the SoloPro for sale in the UK, though TheTechBag does stock most of the rest of ioSafe’s product line. Based on its pricing for the non-pro (which is USB 2.0 not USB 3.0) versions of the Solo, it is likely to be around £300-£350. This is clearly a huge sum of money for what is essentially just an external hard drive but given the protection and peace of mind it could give you, it doesn’t feel like a totally extortionate price. That said, considering the Solo Pro 1TB is $250 in America, the price we’re paying over here is rather galling and ultimately means we can’t quite fully recommend this (despite its efficacy).
The ioSafe Solo (Pro) range doesn’t fulfil every possibility when it comes to storing your files with it lacking any sort of means to access your files over a network, for a start. However, if you simply want an external hard drive that will keep your most precious files safe and sound, no matter how terrible the circumstances then it is without equal.
Score in detail
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