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Review: ioSafe SoloPRO fireproof external hard drive

If there's one thing I always tell people who work with valuable, irreplaceable data it's "back up your files!" Thankfully most of us do back up our data. We usually use an external hard drive. Or sometimes, we only rely on cloud-based storage, like Dropbox or Apple's soon to be defunct iDisk. However, if any of you work with very valuable data -- data which would leave your business or family in dire straits if lost -- I highly recommend you buy an ioSafe SoloPRO external hard drive.

I've been testing out the 1 terabyte USB 3.0 version ioSafe SoloPRO for about a week and I can't imagine carrying out future data backups without it now. You see, the ioSafe SoloPRO isn't your typical external hard drive. For one thing, it weighs almost 18 pounds. That's because it's built like a tank and it's the size of a small printer. I know, I know, people like their external hard drive sleek and sexy. And actually, the ioSafe SoloPRO is rather sexy looking. But it has its mass and bulk because the drive is built for one thing and one thing only – protecting your data from physical harm.

Data protection: Cloud storage versus physical storage.

This week I've debated with a friend of mine who says people who want true security for their data should just back it up to a cloud-based service. That way no matter what happens at their location, their files are always secure elsewhere. While my friend does have a point to some extent, there are some very important facts people should consider before thinking cloud-based backups are the best way to go for their most important data.

First off, people need to think about cost and speed. I have another friend who produces videos for a living. For him, backing up hundreds of gigabytes of video to a cloud-based solution would be both time consuming (for the upload) and costly (hundreds of gigabytes of cloud storage costs a lot in annual fees). For huge file backups, external hard drives are the way to go.

Second: easy access. I'm also a big fan of externals for sensitive data like wills and contracts. If you've got such data saved to an online storage solution and something should happen to you, would your friends, coworkers, or family know how to access it? If all they have to do is plug in an external, there's really not many accessibility problems that could arise. But as my video producing friend found out, your data on those hard drives is only as safe as the hard drives themselves. Even though he backed up his video files to three different drives, everything was lost when his studio caught fire.

The drive.

The ioSafe SoloPRO is both fireproof and waterproof – and when looking for the ultimate in data protection, you want both of those. If your office or house catches fire, the ioSafe SoloPRO enclosure can be engulfed in flames and hit head on with a fire hose. The hard drive that resides inside will come out without a scratch on it. As a matter of fact, the "fireproofed computer" mentioned in this article was actually an ioSafe drive, according to the company.

The ioSafe SoloPRO I tested was the 1 terabyte USB 3.0 version (it also comes in eSATA and USB 2.0 flavors up to 3TBs). It worked fine on my MacBook Pro's USB 2.0 ports and will work on any Mac running all the way back to OS 8.6 or later. As for the beating the drive can take, it can survive in temperatures as high as 1550°F for up to 30 minutes. It can also survive submerged in ten feet of water for up to three days. Also, the drive includes up to $2500 in forensic recovery services should such services be required. Best of all, the SoloPRO is Time Machine compatible, and using it with Apple's backup software is like encasing your Mac in an armored safe each night.

This obviously isn't a drive for everyone, especially those that need to transport a lot of data from one location to another. As I've said, the drive weighs almost 18 pounds and won't exactly fit into a pocket. However, if you run a business where your digital files are of the utmost importance, or if you simply want to ensure that all your family's documents and photos can survive almost anything, I highly recommend the ioSafe SoloPRO.

ioSafe is a relatively new company in the storage scene, only having been around since 2005. However, its hard drives are some of the best I've ever tried (I'm also testing out a bullet-proof, portable dual-Firewire 800 external of theirs).

Since it's at the higher-end of the hard drive world, you won't find the ioSafe SoloPRO in Apple Stores just yet, but you can buy the 1 TB USB 3.0 version that I tried directly from ioSafe and also on Amazon for US$249.