ioSafe Rugged Portable USB 3.0: Road Warrior Backup Drive

Backing up images while on the road makes sense; having a backup drive that can take the rigors of the road seems to make even more sense. That’s the idea behind the ioSafe Rugged Portable USB 3.0, available in various configurations, including SSD (Solid State Drive) and HDD (Hard Disk Drive), capacities, and aluminum or titanium covers. Regardless of the enclosure, the unit is dubbed shockproof (drops from 20 feet with the SSD and titanium enclosure with the optional “skin”), waterproof (submersible up to 10 feet for three days in aluminum, or 30 feet in titanium), and dustproof even in sandstorms, and even during ice storms for 24 hours. And, you’re also covered if you happen to drop it into a barrel of oil (up to 12 feet for an hour) or climb above 15,000 feet (aluminum) or 30,000 feet (titanium). To back up their guarantees the company includes a one-year replacement and one-time data recovery guarantee (up to $5000 on the data side).


The unit comes formatted for PC but it’s a simple matter to switch it over to Mac format using the disk utility program built into the Mac on-board apps and following the easy path given in the accompanying instruction book. However, Mac users will not be able to use the USB 3.0 speeds, at least for now, and the claimed transfer rates for PC (max is 5Gbps—gigabits per second, which translates to about 0.6GB, or gigabytes per second) drop down when you use USB 2.0 hubs (like on the Mac). I transferred a 6GB folder from my MacBook Pro desktop to the formatted drive and the transfer took 3 minutes, 30 seconds, not very speedy, but as with all these connections the slowest pipeline determines the flow. You can of course use the connection with USB 2.0 and USB 1.0 ports.

It should also be noted that if you are plugging into the main body of the computer you should have no trouble with the powering of the connection, but if you are porting through a keyboard or other type of hub you might get a low power signal. If you do the company has thoughtfully supplied a USB 2.0 low power cable in the packaging. This is a “Y” cable that requires two USB ports; download speed was the same on the 6GB file from the desktop folder.

My basic tests of the ruggedness of the unit were considerably less romantic than rafting down the Orinoco and were more on the order of leaving the unit submerged in the kitchen sink for a few hours, standing on it to see if the skin reacted, and dropping it from my height onto a concrete sidewalk, probably more typical hazards that most of us would submit the unit to than those whose work brings them into a more apt use of these units. Spilling coffee onto it is more the danger posed by the typical user than dropping it down an ice crevasse while scaling glaciers, but hey, you never know. And knowing that the unit is roadworthy in all respects certainly does instill a certain peace of mind, especially for those who might want to take it as a backup while rafting or climbing. (And all the above tests did not affect the unit in the least.)

The base price difference between the SSD and HDD versions is about $300, with lower capacities in the SSD, and choosing between the two is a matter of the conditions you anticipate in your working environment. The non-moving parts of the SSD eliminate any problems of using the unit when you’re bumping along the road. If you operate the HDD in similar conditions there is a chance the spinning disk might collide with the drive head. I must say that this limitation does not exist when the drive is not active, so normal operations should not affect your decision one way or the other.

The next decision comes in casings, aluminum or titanium, and again the conditions under which you work will determine the best course. The double-drop protection, high altitude protection, and even the crushproof protection of the titanium (5000 lbs vs. 2500 lbs for aluminum) suggests that only those carrying the unit on the most hazardous of assignments need the titanium. The SSD vs. HDD debate will not be settled here, although we’re certainly going to see more and more solid state drives coming down the pike.

As mentioned, the drive comes in numerous configurations. As an example, the aluminum drive with 250GB space, cables, and data recovery warranty and unit guarantee is listed at $149, about $300 for the 750GB, and $400 for the 1TB capacity. For the SSD it’s $499 for the 120GB and $2000 for the 512GB. Want the titanium? Add $1000 to the package. For my money and usage the 750GB aluminum fills the bill; for those whose lifestyle and assignments are considerably more harrowing the titanium SSD package might be more apt.

For more information on pricing, configurations, and specs, visit ioSafe at:

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