July 8, 2009 By Corey McKenna
In 2004, the University of Hawaii experienced a flood that swamped the bottom floors of several buildings. As a result of the flood, the university library science program lost samples used in research projects, which then had to be restarted.
"I was involved with the recovery process for the library school," said Brian Chee, associate director of the University of Hawaii's Advanced Network Computing Laboratory and senior computer scientist at the U.S. General Services Administration's Office of Information Security. "And basically because the drives weren't durable ... every single one of their backups were damaged. They had no backups. [All] the samples, all the things they had been collecting on research projects [were lost]. Several research projects actually had to start from scratch again."
Chee was invited to a demo of a fire- and flood-resistant hard drive at the Consumer Electronics Show 2009 after which he purchased an ioSafe Solo external hard drive for the university.
Backing up his data to a disaster-resistant hard drive has changed Chee's mindset regarding information storage. "It's actually cheaper and faster than tape -- and significantly more reliable," he said. "Now I just drop [the data to be backed up] onto a server or a backup server or something. Previously I had to take a drive out of a fire safe, plug it in, mount it, do the back up, pray nothing happens overnight, next morning dismount it, unplug it and put it back in the safe. Repeat every working day. And in the meantime you're moving the drive around. It gets beat up. Sooner or later the drive stops working, which means you lose one drive out of your backup cycle. You've got to start over again, things like that."
The No. 1 problem Chee faces when it comes to his data is what happens if there's a fire. "I have seen fireproof hard drives in the past, but they are huge and insanely expensive. And this was a very reasonably priced and reasonably sized solution, and it just eliminates all kinds of problems," he said.
Having his data backed up on a flood- and fire-resistant drive gives Chee a greater peace of mind. "Instead of turning around after you've driven half an hour home just because you [thought] 'Did I remember to put something away? Did I remember to turn something off?' Now all of a sudden, I'll just go home," he said.
Disaster-resistant hard drives are replacing data safes at the university. "I've even seen some of those leak," Chee said. "So you end up spending thousands of dollars sending backup tapes out to a drive service just so they can soak it in deionized water, make the copy and then that's it."
The ioSafe Solo external hard drive, which provides 1.5 terabytes of storage, has a casing that will withstand a half hour in a 1,550-degree Fahrenheit fire and being submerged in 10 feet of water for up to 10 days, the company claims.
"[With the ioSafe Solo] we wanted to make sure we covered the typical basement flooding scenario where you know a basement might flood or [the scenario where] you might get the first floor completely flooded," said ioSafe CEO Robb Moore.
The company also produces the ioSafe R4, a network-attached storage device that can remain for up to one hour in a 1,700-degree Fahrenheit fire and be submerged in up to 30 feet of water for 30 days. The R4 is also designed with crush zones and an elastomeric coating to withstand a typical second-story building collapse.
"We primarily use Seagate hard drives for all of our products, but the technology is hard drive agnostic," Moore said.
The time it takes to recover the data from a