A big drawback to saving all your data on a shared storage appliance is that it becomes a single point of failure, vulnerable to fire, flood and theft. The ioSafe 214, minimises that risk by putting an otherwise standard Network Attached Storage (NAS) appliance inside a fireproof and waterproof casing, resistant to temperatures of over 840 degrees Celsius and immersion in fresh or salt water to a depth of 10 feet for up to 72 hours. There’s even an optional security kit to bolt the appliance down.

Beyond The Ordinary

Rather than reinvent the NAS appliance from scratch, ioSafe has taken the more sensible approach of adopting an existing design from one of the market leaders. In this case that means a re-purposed Synology DiskStation DS214 with two drive bays capable of providing small businesses with up to 8TB of shared storage.

In terms of specification nothing much is altered, ioSafe employing a standard Synology motherboard fitted with a dual-core processor and 512MB of DDR3 memory. Network attachment is via a single Gigabit Ethernet interface with three USB ports also built in, two at the rear and one on the front panel, again, just like the Synology original.

The rear ports are USB 3.0 compatible and can be used to take backups or share a printer plus there’s a Copy button next to the front USB 2.0 port to transfer the contents of a USB stick straight to a network share, just as on a DiskStation.

Disk aren’t included and at around £550 (ex. VAT), the ioSafe 214 is over twice the price of the Synology appliance on which it is based. That extra cost, however, is all to do with the additional physical protection rather than tweaking anything inside, the ioSafe running standard Synology DiskStation Manager (DSM) software with its user-friendly desktop interface hosted in a Web browser.

Nothing at all is changed here, not even the branding on the sample we were sent, so you get all the standard utilities plus the option of loading up a variety of add-ons to, for example, use the appliance as a Web or e-mail server, screen files for viruses on the fly or create your own surveillance system. You can also apply Synology patches and and upgrade to the latest version of DSM over the Web as and when needed.

Performance is, understandably, much the same as on the Synology DS214 dependent, mainly, on the disks employed and limited by the availability of the single Gigabit network port. For our tests we fitted a pair of 1TB disks configured as a mirrored pair and, using the ioMeter benchmark saw read and write speeds peaking at around the 100MB/sec mark. Not overly fast, but good enough for file sharing on a small business or departmental network with around 10 users.

The Box Outside

It’s the fire and water proof casing that really make the ioSafe stand out as, although a two bay NAS just like the DiskStation 214, it’s almost twice the size and ten times as heavy due to an all-metal chassis plus 40mm of extra insulation. As a result disks are tucked away deep inside, protected by, first, an insulated metal panel then, once that’s removed, a waterproof door, again of all-metal construction.

Although the disks are hot-swappable, access requires the use of the large Allen key provided with a handy magnet also included to attach it to the case. This is used to remove both outer doors and to release the slide-in metal carriers that hold the disks, which can be either 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch SATA drives, secured in place using screws supplied.

Disks up to 4TB are supported with RAID 1 protection (mirroring) for redundancy, although this is at the cost of losing half the available capacity. It’s also worth noting that, as with any storage appliance, RAID only protects against disk failure so you will still need to take backups in order to recover accidentally deleted files or roll-back to earlier versions.

Theft protection is limited to the use of a Kensington lock as standard, although at nearly 13kg the ioSafe appliance it not particularly light and that, alone, could well deter the casual burglar. To thwart the more determined, however, you have to fork out a further £190 (ex. VAT) for a floor mount kit which will enable the ioSAFE to be securely fixed in one place.

Impressive Protection

The end result is very striking and impressive and, although we couldn’t check out the claims for ourselves, the ioSafe clearly ought to be able to withstand an awful lot of abuse. Indeed our only concerns were the lack of protection for the various external ports and the use of a standard plug-in AC adapter to power the appliance. Both would be vulnerable in the event of fire or flood, but then the ioSafe is more about protecting your data than keeping the appliance running in the event of a disaster.

Should the worst happen the disks can simply be removed and powered up in a replacement appliance, either from ioSafe or Synology. Moreover, if there are any issues after an event, ioSafe customers can make use of the bundled Data Recovery Service (DRS) and ship the disks off to an ioSafe lab for forensic recovery of their data.

Cost Benefits

The benefits of the ioSafe 214 are pretty easy to understand and likely to strike a chord given the storms of recent months which have led to a huge number of unexpected floods and lots of damage. Given that kind of scenario, being able to protect your data and recover quickly should the worst happen could clearly make the difference between carrying on as normal and shutting up shop.

Whether that protection is worth more than the cost of two standard Synology DiskStations, however, is debatable as you could spend the extra getting more performance or capacity and achieve the same ends simply by taking regular backups. Of course you still have to remember to do that and store the backups somewhere safe, in which case the ioSafe may just win out by virtue of being the more fault-tolerant option.