ioSafe is known for making virtually indestructible hard drives. You can take a look at the many YouTube videos of ioSafe drive torture tests. The company has now applied its built-for-disaster encasements to Network Attached Storage. ioSafe partnered with Synology in building the N2 NAS—a high-performance NAS that can withstand fire, flood and other disasters. We dunked the N2 completely underwater, baked the device in a hot oven and were still able to read and access data from the abused unit’s hard drives.
Pricing and Recovery Options
Pricing for the N2 includes not only the cost of the hardware, but also recovery options. ioSafe recommends shipping an N2 that has been subject to fire or water damage back to them, so that they can recover the customer’s data. The Data Recovery Service (DRS) offers forensic recovery with Advanced Replacement. DRS works like insurance. If data recovery is needed and ioSafe cannot do the recovery in-house, the company will pay up to $5,000 per TB specified for third-party services (typically, it uses DriveSavers). All ioSafe products include 12 months DRS as standard, but this can be extended up to 60 months.
A 2TB N2 with 1 year of data recovery service coverage starts at $900. The NAS also ships diskless ($600) or with configurations of up to 8TB of capacity.
The unit is expensive. A typical 2 bay NAS lists anywhere from $200-$300. However, if you have a ton of critical data that you don’t want to store online, or just maybe too much data to efficiently upload, then it’s easy to justify the additional costs of ioSafe’s solution.
ioSafe has documentation on its website which goes into detail about its disaster-proof technology, but, in a nutshell, the N2 is a dual-bay NAS that uses ioSafe’s hardware disaster protection technology that’s built on Synology’s DiskStation DS213 motherboard; and employs Synology’s DiskStation Manager (DSM) software as the device’s management interface.
The N2 is super-fortified with a metal casing. The material has a heat-conducive barrier and the waterproof unit is designed to keep hard drives dry when under water. Cooling fins extract heat produced by the hard drives. ioSafe’s FloSafe vents provide cooling inside the NAS. Additionally, a labyrinth design inside the case prohibits radiant fire energy from reaching the hard disk drives.
The patented DataCase fireproof insulation features chemically-bound water molecules that never dry out. The water vaporizes during a fire. Endothermic cooling converts water to steam, keeping the drive cool in flames.
The drives sit behind an outer front panel that opens with a special screwdriver that ships with the N2. Another interior door provides additional drive protection. When these doors are removed, you can see the two HDDs sitting in a metal frame, surrounded by ceramic plates.
ioSafe guarantees that data will be recoverable on the drives up to 1500 degrees Fahrenheit and if the N2 is submerged up to three days in 10 feet of salt or fresh water.
The N2 also has hot-swappable drives that are automatically configured as a mirrored set. With the two drives installed and the special waterproof/fireproof casing, the N2 is quite heavy, a little over 26 pounds. The device’s dimensions are 5.9″ x 9.06″ x 11.5 ” (HWD).
On the front panel at the bottom of the device is a power button, copy button, a USB 2.0 port and an SD card slot. There are also LEDs for status of LAN, disk 1, and disk 2, activity.
The rear panel has two USB 3.0 ports and a Gigabit Ethernet port. I do wonder why, since the N2 is built specifically for disaster recovery, there isn’t another Ethernet port for connection failover.
Setup and Features
Since the ioSafe N2 is essentially an armored Synology NAS, it’s as easy to set up and configure as several Synology NASes we’ve tested such as the DiskStation DS1812+ and the DiskStation DS712+.
The N2 ships with a disk that includes Synology’s DiskStation Setup Wizard. I installed the software on a Windows 7 laptop. As I find typically when testing Synology NASes, the N2 was detected on my network by the wizard immediately. Once detected, you can connect via the wizard to get into the software to configure the NAS.
The management software as mentioned is Synology’s DSM software. Even with ioSafe’s branding, it’s the same DSM used across all of Synology’s NAS line. We’ve covered DSM extensively in our reviews of Synology devices and you can read more about the specific features in the review of the DS1812+ or DS712+. DSM is where you can configure Synology’s proprietary Synology Hybrid RAID for fault tolerance and set up services such as FTP, WebDAV, DDNS, backup. You can also add packages to expand the feature set to include file-sharing via the cloud, Directory Server, DHCP, iTunes, Media servers and more.
Performance and Beating Up the N2
Before we subjected the N2 to fire and flood simulations, we benchmarked its performance for Reads and Writes. As expected, the N2 gave excellent performance. Write speeds were the third-highest we’ve tested for SMB NASes, at 52 MBps, beaten only by Synology’s DS1812+ and DS1511+. Reads were the second-highest to date for a NAS in this class at 83 MBps, topped only by Iomega’s StorCenter px4-300d. Here is a chart comparing the N2′s performance to other SMB NASes (Testing was done with the N2′s drives configured in RAID 1):
After we finished performance testing, we moved on to the fun stuff. The next step was submerging the N2 in a tub of dirty, brackish water for almost two hours. The device was allowed to dry overnight.
When powered up, the water caused damage to the Ethernet port, so the NAS could not be connected to the network. In a real-life flood or fire disaster, ioSafe recommends shipping the device back for data recovery and fixing/replacing the damaged device. Do-it-yourselfers can opt to remove the drives from the N2 and place them into another Synology NAS or into a Linux box to access the data. However, recovering data yourself, again, is not recommended by ioSafe.
We happened to have another Synology NAS (a DS1511+) in the lab which I used to see if I could still access the data from the disks on the N2 after it was soaked. Sure enough, I was able to read and access the data without incident.
Next, the N2 was placed into a 500 degree oven for two hours. After removing from the heat and taking off the two doors that protect the drives, I was able to see the cooling mechanisms take place. The ceramic plates had water bubbles that formed to counter the high heat and protect the drives.
Again, the drives were removed and placed in the DS1511+. Although the Synology software issued a critical warning that the volume had crashed after the drives were inserted into the NAS, I was still able to read, access and download the data from the oven-baked drives.
The protection level is impressive and coupled with Synology’s recovery ability within the DSM software, provides unparalleled data protection.
A Safe Vault for Data
Yes, the ioSafe N2 is a more expensive solution that your typical two-bay NAS for business. However, if losing data in an emergency situation like a hurricane or fire would be even more expensive for your business, the N2 is the way to go. Many businesses are still leery about trusting data to the cloud, and in some situations, uploading terabytes of data to cloud storage is inefficient.
The partnership of ioSafe and Synology has yielded a true data-protection champ. The N2 is the ultimate vault for valuable data and while the N2 may be too pricy for some businesses and can be a bit of a hassle to get the data recovered because you do need to ship the N2 back to ioSafe (or take your chances and recover to another Synology NAS or Linux machine), it’s an easy 4.5 out of 5 stars and an Editors’ Choice for business NASes.
More NAS Reviews:
|Maximum Storage Capacity||8 GB|
|Operating System||Embedded Linux|
|Hard Disk Configuration||RAID|
|Connection Type||USB 2.0, USB 3.0|
|Rack-mount or Standalone||Standalone|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc