Review: A NAS to survive the apocalypse

The IoSafe 214 wraps a speedy, feature-rich Synology storage server in a fireproof, waterproof, and shock-resistant shell

Fire 89709166
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At a Glance
  • IoSafe 214 NAS RAID

    InfoWorld Rating

    Synology makes a great line of network-attached storage devices. IoSafe makes them fireproof and waterproof for on-site, disaster-proof storage.

Editor's Choice

Do I even need to mention the insane demos? IoSafe NAS devices have famously survived being crushed, burned, soaked with high-pressure fire hoses, shocked, and even blasted by a shotgun. IoSafe’s technology isn’t the NAS operating system or the drives, but the cases. The company's ablative ceramic housings can survive heat up to 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit for half an hour, or a dunking in 10 feet of salty or fresh water for 72 hours. 

With insane capabilities to match the insane antics, IoSafe has become the darling of the CES demo crowd. But getting past the glitzy demos and beneath IoSafe's patented ablative armor and water-sealing technology, you'll find that the IoSafe is not only durable but also a first-rate NAS -- in fact, it's a Synology DiskStation under the hood. In other words, IoSafe has taken a great NAS device and wrapped it in a casing that will survive a flood or a fire or a 20-foot drop. Even if you can’t read the drives after the mishap, IoSafe guarantees you up to $5,000 per terabyte for forensic recovery of your data. 

IoSafe has found a niche and taken the industry by storm, but it has taken several tempests to create true believers. I first started looking for a solution after the October 2004 floods at the University of Hawaii Manoa campus, when a blocked streambed created a wall of water that crashed through campus and destroyed a huge number of irreplaceable research projects. I spent the following week poking into the mud looking for servers, disks, and tapes. If only I had been using the IoSafe then. 

IoSafe 214

Based on the Synology DiskStation 214, the IoSafe 214 is a fast, flexible, and feature-rich NAS box.

My first use case for the IoSafe was as a backup target for CAD files. With a typical Revit building model coming in around 60GB, backing up to a cloud storage solution like Dropbox or OneDrive over a cable modem wasn't going to cut it. Transferring the data is too slow, and the recurring costs quickly spin out of control.

The solution was to use a small-business NAS from Netgear for primary storage and attach an IoSafe Solo to the USB port to back up the data to a fire- and water-proof storage medium. It was clumsy and not very good at notifying the users when the external drive started filling up, but it worked and the insurance company liked it.

Today, having replaced the Netgear, the IoSafe 214 gives us is the same disaster-proof protection for primary storage in a single package that can more easily be locked down to the floor. It also offers better support for a mixed group of Mac and Windows machines. 

What kind of performance can you expect from this network storage device? To find out, I used the Intel NAS Performance Toolkit, which runs a suite of tests based on the functions that small- or home-office users might expect their storage units to perform. The NAS Performance Toolkit is getting a bit old (it requires Windows XP), but the test profiles are good and it’s a tool nearly anyone could run. 

As the results in the table below show, the IoSafe 214 is 15 to 20 percent faster than its predecessor, the IoSafe N2, depending on file size and type. Further, although the IoSafe 214 is a two-drive RAID 0/1 NAS, I found that it even held its own against a few NAS systems with four drives in a RAID5 configuration (the RAID5 striping makes a huge difference in performance). 

Performance of the IoSafe 214 is 15 to 20 percent faster than its predecessor, the N2
Intel NASPT test IoSafe 214 IoSafe N2
HD video playback 52.2MBps 45.5MBps
2x HD playback 52.2MBps 46.1MBps
4x HD playback 52.5MBps 46.2MBps
HD video record 31.3MBps 35.9MBps
HD playback and record 67.8MBps 56.1MBps
Content creation 15.6MBps 8.6MBps
Office productivity 31.3MBps 34.4MBps
File copy to NAS 46.6MBps 37.2MBps
File copy from NAS 52.4MBps 46.7MBps
Dir copy to NAS 11.2MBps 13.7MBps
Dir copy from NAS 20.1MBps 16.1MBps
Photo album 12.7MBps 9.8MBps

Clearly you can expect the IoSafe 214 to give you snappy performance and in a package that won't turn into a puddle of goo in a fire. It’s also won't die if you have a flood. And if you bolt it down, you may find your office gone, but the drive should still be sitting in the middle of your foundation. I for one don’t want to have to consider running back into a burning house. I say let the fire squad do its thing and I’ll get my IoSafe after the flames are extinguished. 

To round this out, I'll highlight some of the enterprise features included as part of the Synology firmware:

  • Supports Amazon Glacier for cloud archiving and backups
  • Includes Synology QuickConnect private cloud storage for remote users (with mobile device support)
  • Supports iSCSI both as a LUN (server) and consumer (target)
  • Supports Bluetooth using a third-party USB adapter
  • Provides mirroring/synchronization with another Synology NAS
  • SNMP v1, v2, and v3 support
  • SMS notifications through Clickatell or Orange
  • Email notifications via TLS/SSL with SMTP login support
  • Push notifications using Skype and Live Messenger 
  • Rich set of built-in features, including a Web file system, calendar server, and folder encryption
  • Amazing collection of installable packages, including Asterisk, RADIUS, Drupal, LDAP, Git Server, DocuWiki, Amazon Glacier backup, and many more

The Synology system at the heart of the IoSafe 214 could potentially replace your home router, firewall, VPN appliance, backup device, print server, and media server, and IoSafe has packaged all of that into a case that should survive fire or flood. The Synology DNA gives you a Dropbox-like private cloud storage solution that allows you to upload and download content from just about anywhere, with even limited support for my Windows Phone. IoSafe has chosen its NAS partner extremely well -- and taken a great NAS and made it even better.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Availability (20%)
Management (20%)
Performance (20%)
Scalability (20%)
Interoperability (10%)
Value (10%)
Overall Score
IoSafe 214 NAS RAID 9 9 9 8 9 8 8.7
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At a Glance
  • InfoWorld Rating

    Synology makes a great line of network-attached storage devices. IoSafe makes them fireproof and waterproof for on-site, disaster-proof storage.

    Pros

    • Waterproof and fireproof
    • Warranty includes $5,000 per terabyte Drive Savers data recovery just in case
    • Sold with drives included or chassis-only
    • Lockdown kit and Kensington lock port to prevent theft
    • Windows Active Directory and LDAP integration
    • Companion mobile applications for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone
    • Management tools available for Windows, Mac, and Web browser
    • 15 to 20 percent faster than predecessor (N2 model) depending upon file size and type

    Cons

    • Man, this unit is heavy
    • You pay a slight premium for the disaster proofing
    • Setting up the private cloud storage is convoluted unless you have a PnP router
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