Fireproof & Waterproof Hard Drive: Too Good to Be True?

by Sally J.

in * How to PRESERVE Family History Treasures, Digital Photographs, Free Articles / Blog

How I Discovered ioSafe External Hard Drives

The first time I ever even heard of such a thing as a waterproof and fireproof external hard drive was in an article called  Beyond organizing: storing and preserving those precious photos and videos by Omar Gallaga of  Digital Savant.

Since I was interviewed for the piece, Omar invited me to read the online version and make sure there weren’t any errors. The only quibble I had was with a fireproof external hard drive. Because, seriously?

THERE. IS. NO. WAY.

(That’s what I sent in my message to Omar.)

Waterproof? Maybe. Fireproof? Not a chance. I asked several other archivists – including ones who specialize in digital records – and they were just as skeptical as I was.

ioSafe’s website gave me specific details about the specs:

  • Fireproof -> Protects data from loss in fire up to 1550°F for 1/2 hour per ASTM E119
  • Waterproof -> Protects data from loss in water up to 10ft deep for 72 hours

Wow, I thought…if that’s true that would be incredible. I mean, an external hard drive that could survive a house fire or basement flood? But I needed to see some reliable,  independent 3rd party testing if I was going to believe this claim.

Is It Really Fireproof and/or Waterproof?

Omar’s reply to my “no way” was a more elegant version of “way” and included a link to just the kind of independent testing I like best: DIY backyard stress tests. This also happens to be the kind of testing I would gleefully undertake myself if anyone wants to sponsor the endeavor. Just sayin.

Here’s what the evil geniuses at Slippery Brick did:

Step 1: Purchased an ioSafe Solo drive and added their own files to it.

Step 2: Placed a ioSafe drive in a closed gas grill. Since they couldn’t get anywhere near 1500 degrees F for 30 minutes, they made do with 600 degrees F for 60 minutes. It’s worth clicking the link below just to see the photo of the hard drive on the grill next to what looks like dinner.

Step 3: Then they plunged it into a cold bucket of water and left it there for 2 hours.  Now these guys  admit that the ioSafe never claimed these drives could withstand both fire and extended submersion under water…only that it could survive one or the other. But, hey! They had to cool that sucker down so they could start taking it apart already.

The result?

We then cut away the bag to expose the actual hard drive which appeared in absolute perfect condition, and only slightly warm….We connected to a standard enclosure and connected it to a PC via USB and sure enough, all the files we placed on the drive we there and intact with the drive running smoothly and quietly.

Note: I asked Slippery Brick about permission to reprint longer excerpts and maybe a photo or two. I’m still waiting for response. Until then, I offer a peek inside from the manufacturer and this link to the original post.

Your data lives in a waterproof pouch inside an insulated box.

So, Would You Say It’s Indestructible?

No. Absolutely not. For one thing, I’m guessing it will blend if you put it in one of those super duper industrial blenders. Smashing it with a sledgehammer would probably do it in. Or thermonuclear war.

Realistically, it’s most likely to be destroyed from the impact of a tough fall, like when you knock it off the desk accidentally. Or presumably when the 3rd floor crashes to the ground after an earthquake or big fire. Yes, it can be killed.

I’ve dropped a HD before. Knocked it right off the side table it was sitting on. As soon as I heard the fall, I just knew. For years I lugged it around with me to workshops so I could plug it in and force my students to hear the sad, sick noises it made after that fall. Fortunately, there wasn’t anything on it that wasn’t backed up somewhere else. Unfortunately, that was because it was a brand new hard drive and we had only added a tiny bit of data to it.

How Can I Get One? Are They Crazy Expensive?

Finding these drives is easy. Take a look at all the models, sizes and colors  available on Amazon by clicking here.   (And remember, if you use those links to purchase anything at all from Amazon, it leaves a little thank you in my tip jar.)

There’s no question you pay more for this kind of protection. As the folks over at Slippery Brick made clear…this is a carefully engineered enclosure designed to protect your family’s digital history.

Until I learned about ioSafe, I recommended that people purchase two identical external hard drives and fill them with duplicate content. Store one drive somewhere other than your house to protect it from loss due to fire and flood.

Two 1TB drives from a reliable brand like Western Digital will cost you between $100 and $150 each for a total of somewhere between $200 and $300.

GREAT NEWS:

The list price of this 1TB ioSafe Solo is $299 on the ioSafe website, but only $229 on amazon.com. About the same as paying for two separate drives, but without the hassle of mirroring your data and convincing someone else to store it for you and never ever ever throw it away.

In short, I give the ioSafe my highest recommendation and urge everyone to store their digital family history in THE SHERMAN TANK OF HARD DRIVES.

 

UPDATE!

So I only have to buy this 1 XHD and that’s it?

Not quite. The design of this drive saves you from having two mirrored drives, but it doesn’t mean you only need to save one copy.

I still recommend my 3-2-1 rule: 3 copies, on 2 different kinds of storage, in more than 1 location. You’ll still need to keep two additional copies, with one of them being stored offsite.

For example:

  • 1 copy on the ioSafe
  • 1 copy on your computer or iPod
  • 1 copy backed up online

The offsite copy is your best defense against theft (the ioSafe drive includes a hole for a cable so you can lock it down, but someone who really really wants your data could still get at it). The offsite copy is also safe from impact – whether it’s dropped by accident or sucked out of your house by a tornado.

{ 2 comments }

Sally J. July 23, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Theft is certainly a risk, although I would think a computer or MP3 player would be far more attractive to a thief than this behemoth. Of course, someone wanting your data could walk away with it — even though it does come with an opening designed to facilitate locking it down.

You are ABSOLUTELY right about more than one copy. I recommend 3 copies, stored on 2 different kinds of storage devices, in more than 1 place. The other two copies could be online or printed out. But, yes — you still need more than one copy. I’ll edit the article to include a clear message about multiple copies. Thanks!

Barbara July 23, 2012 at 1:43 pm

You still need a second copy offsite as theft protection. If this drive is your only copy and a thief takes it, you’re out of luck.

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