IoSafe Fires Up Disaster Protection

Startup touts drive-level disaster protection - and burns up New York with its demo

June 9, 2008

4 Min Read
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Disk backup specialist IoSafe claims to have built the worlds first 3.5-inch hard drive enclosure with toughened internal features, which it says can withstand fire and floods.

IoSafe made it onto our most recent top 10 startups list with its family of NAS devices contained within fire-proof and waterproof enclosures, although the vendor now claims to have pushed its protection into the drive itself with the introduction of the IoSafe 3.5.

“If someone was in the market for a PC, a server, or a storage array, you can purchase this drive and add protection where there was none,” says Robb Moore, the IoSafe CEO. “[It’s a] standard drive form factor that fits into the drive array.”

In an attempt to prove the IoSafe 3.5’s disaster-ready credentials, the startup actually set fire to one of the drives -- a standard, unprotected, 3.5-inch drive -- in a parking lot outside Byte and Switch’s offices last week.

The following pictures tell the story of one of the strangest demos ever seen at Byte and Switch:

Figure 1: Getting set up

Figure 2: Burn, baby, burn!

Figure 3: The cooling down period

Figure 4: The aftermath

Figure 5: The four horsemen of the apocalypse are just outside this shot

The demo, which fascinated a number of passersby (but fortunately avoided the attention of the NYPD), involved a blow-torch used to incinerate the IoSafe 3.5, eventually reaching a temperature of 1,468 degrees. After dousing the device with water, Moore and his pyrotechnic posse connected the drive to a laptop and retrieved a set of data that had been placed on the drive earlier that day.

Despite setting fire to a small corner of Tribeca and grabbing the attention of numerous nosy New Yorkers, 20-person IoSafe still faces stiff competition from a number of established vendors in the data protection space.

CEO Moore told Byte and Switch that the firm’s main rivals are manufacturers of actual lock-box safes, such as Sentry Safe and SchwabCorp., hence the startup’s decision to push into internal, as opposed to just external, disaster protection.

IoSafe was nonetheless unable to offer up any early adopters that are using its latest offering, although Moore says that the firm has around 100 customers for its existing products.

The drive is aimed at what Moore describes as “prosumers”: consumers and small businesses that may need to protect large amounts of video content, for example, or firms that are struggling to implement an elaborate disaster recovery plan.The imaginatively titled IoSafe 3.5 is essentially a 2.5-inch SATA drive built inside a 3.5-inch enclosure, which can slot into a server or storage device.

The space between the drive and the enclosure is filled with a fireproof insulation material called DataCast, which can withstand temperatures well over 1,000 degrees, according to the vendor.

“A standard house fire is 800 to 1,000 degrees -- these drives are rated to withstand 1,400 degrees,” says Moore, who also refused to reveal specific details of the chalk-like DataCast material. “That’s proprietary insulation that we have come up with,” he said.

Another protective feature is the reflective cover on the drive enclosure, which the vendor claims can reflect over 98 percent of the “radiant energy” around the drive.

The IoSafe 3.5 is also waterproofed with a technology called HydroSafe, which is a metallic enclosure with rubber ‘gaskets,’ or seals, to keep the drive dry.“This allows for the heat to be conducted off the drive, but it allows it to be submerged in salt water or fresh water,” says Moore, explaining that the drives can be submerged in 5 feet of water for up to 24 hours.

Recent events, such as Hurricane Katrina have raised user awareness of the need for disaster protection, and third party vendors such as Kroll Ontrack have even built businesses out of restoring data from badly damaged disks and tapes.

Pricing for the IoSafe 3.5, which is available now, starts at $329. The device comes in two versions; a 320-Gigabyte, 1.5-Gbit/s ‘Pilot’ offering a 200-Gigabyte, 3.0-Gbit/s ‘Squadron’ version.

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  • Kroll Ontrack Inc.

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