- Review Price: £172.72
Kingston has been a major force in PC memory for as long as I can remember, and the chances are if you’ve been using PCs for a while, at least one of them will have had Kingston modules nestling inside. But when it comes to USB memory keys it’s a little harder for a company to differentiate itself, even one with a reputation as solid as Kingston’s. But in a world of generic USB keys, Kingston has managed to come up with something a bit different.
The DataTraveler Secure takes the security part of its brief very seriously indeed. In fact I’d say that Kingston’s latest USB key is probably the safest place to store your data when you’re on the move. And with 4GB of storage space at your disposal, you could potentially keep all of your sensitive data in your pocket, rather than leaving it on your hard drive. But what is it that makes this USB key so secure?
On the most basic level, this USB key will keep your data safe because it’s very, very robust. The DataTraveler Secure is constructed from stainless steel and coated with titanium – the result is a device that has a reassuringly solid weight to it (24g). The casing can definitely withstand a few knocks and no amount of dropping, throwing or kicking produced so much as a scratch on the titanium surface. However, the cap isn’t held on securely enough, and if you do drop the device you can expect the cap to shoot off in some random direction. Also, although the metal casing is tough as nails, the plastic edging isn’t, so if you’re in the habit of throwing the DataTraveler Secure around, expect the plastic sections to get chipped and marked.
You also don’t have to worry about dropping the DataTraveler Secure into a puddle or even the bath, since it’s waterproof. That said, the lid definitely isn’t waterproof, so although Kingston can guarantee that your data will be safe if you drop the device in water, you should make sure that it’s completely dry before you plug it into your PC. Although the DataTraveler Secure conforms to the IEC 60529 IPX8 standard that ensures water resistance in up to four feet of water, you shouldn’t assume that all is lost if a standard USB key gets wet. I accidentally put my SwissBit USB key in the washing machine and after letting it dry for a while it worked perfectly, with all my data still intact – I’m still using it today in fact, almost a year later!
But the tough metal case and the waterproof nature are only part of the reason why your data will be secure on this, particular USB key. There’s also some clever stuff going on inside. Like many other USB keys, you can allocate an area of the device to be password protected, thus enabling you to store data that no one else will be able to access. The application provided to partition and format the DataTraveler Secure is very simple and intuitive, so pretty much anyone will be able to carve up the storage space without any trouble.
But not only is the area password protected, all the data in this area is secured with 256-bit hardware-based encryption. This means that if someone tried to mine the data from the device without using the password, it would be as good as useless to them. Of course you’re probably sitting there wondering why you’d go to the trouble of trying to circumvent the password, when it’s easier to just crack it, but Kingston has thought of that too. You can set a maximum number of password failures before the DataTraveler Secure completely locks down. Once the device is locked down, the only thing you can do is reformat it, destroying all the data as you do so – the point being that if someone has VERY sensitive data, they’d rather have it destroyed than have it fall into the wrong hands!
You also get the MyTraveler utility on the device, which allows you to synchronise you’re My Documents folder, IE Favorites or any personal folders on your PC. The upshot being that you’ve always got a complete copy of your important files in your pocket, without having to manually copy them over – assuming that everything you need can fit into the 4GB of space that is.
Performance wise the DataTraveler is no slouch either. Compared to the Lexar FireFly I reviewed last week, the DataTraveler Secure is, quite simply, lightning fast. Writing a 351MB video file to the DataTraveler took a mere 40 seconds, compared to three minutes 15 seconds on the 4GB Lexar key. Reading the same file back took 40 seconds on the Lexar but only 17 seconds on the Kingston key. Copying multiple files proved even more impressive though. While the Lexar FireFly took a tardy 15 minutes 25 seconds to write 238MB of digital images, and my SwissBit key took a far more reasonable two minutes 15 seconds, the DataTraveler blew them both away by performing the same task in only 40 seconds. Reading the same files back on the Lexar, SwissBit and Kingston keys took 27, 24 and 22 seconds respectively.
So, not only is the Kingston DataTraveler Secure one of the most secure USB memory keys available, it’s also one of the fastest. With all these great features and impressive performance, you’re probably thinking that this device won’t come cheap and I’m not about to disappoint you. Although I couldn’t find anyone stocking the 4GB version yet, Kingston quoted me a price of £177, which is a lot of money when you consider that you can get a standard 4GB USB key for about £60.
But ultimately you’ve got to ask yourself how valuable your data is to you. If there is nothing more important than keeping your data safe and with you at all times, you’ll probably be willing to pay for the privilege. And that leaves the DataTraveler in a bit of a niche – if you need it, it’s a must have product, but if you don’t you can save yourself a huge amount of cash and look elsewhere.
If you work with very sensitive data that you’d rather not leave on your PC, but still need to be totally secure, the DataTraveler Secure will be a godsend. You can keep all of your files in a password protected, encrypted partition that pretty much self destructs when attacked. If you’re not totally paranoid about your data though, there are far cheaper memory keys available that are just as physically robust as this one.
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