Another Addition to My Backup Plan: the ioSafe Solo

A few months ago, I wrote an article for Macworld about how I back up my data. I pointed out that I’m a belt and suspenders guy when it comes to backing up data, and that I even have a fireproof safe in my basement “just in case.”

Following that article, a vendor wrote me to tell me about their solution, a waterproof, fireproof hard drive enclosure, the ioSafe Solo. The company was kind enough to send me a unit to see what I thought of it, saying that if I had had this, I probably wouldn’t have needed to buy the safe.

The ioSafe Solo is a 15 lb., 5″ x 7″ x 11″ container for a hard disk. It looks impressive, as though I could take a sledgehammer to it and still not reach the hard disk inside. The device’s tech specs claim 1/2 hour of protection from fire at 1550 F, and 3 days in 10 feet of water. (I hope I don’t have to find out if those specs are precise.) The disk also comes with a 1-year data recovery guarantee, in case of problems; you can upgrade that on the company’s web site to 3 or 5 years if you want.

It takes up a fair amount of space, roughly the size of one of the mid-sized speakers I have connected to the stereo in my office. It has a USB2 connector – I would have appreciated FireWire 800, but I understand that the Windows world doesn’t use that – and it has a fan, which is a bit noisy, but not a problem since I only turn the disk on when I run backups. (If I did want to keep it on all the time, it would be too noisy.)

As with any external hard disk, you merely need to connect it and turn it on. From then on, once you’ve formatted it for Mac – run Disk Utility and use GUID Partition Table if you want to boot off it; otherwise it’s in NTFS – you can use your favorite backup program and copy your data.

One thing to keep in mind: you cannot change the hard disk; the device is sealed. The hard disk inside is a Seagate Barracude ST315003, at 7200 RPM, which seems to be quite reliable. If you do plan to get such a device, think ahead as to how much disk space you need. ioSafe sent me a 1.5 TB model, and the device comes with disks up to 2 TB. If I had bought one, I probably would have gone for the biggest possible disk, just to make sure that there’s plenty of space for my data.

It’s hard to get excited about a hard disk, but I do have a greater sense of security with this one. I agree with the vendor; I probably wouldn’t have bought the safe if I had known about this device. (Though the ioSafe is more expensive than the safe I bought.) The convenience of having a device like this in my office does help me feel safer. While I’m still going to back up my data to multiple hard disks, and put two of them in my safe, the ioSafe is now a part of my standard backup routine.