10th February 2010
Data security is a very important issue for some people. For internal hard drives there are many solutions available to ensure your drive cannot be accessed. However, for portable hard drives, there really are very few working solutions. One such apparent solution is iStorage’s diskG*, a hardware encrypted portable hard drive which utilizes secure PIN code access. Let’s see how it performs…
“iStorage Limited provides high performance and ultra secure portable data storage and security products to users who need to protect their data held on PC’s, MACs and portable data storage devices.”
COMPLETE SECURITY with Real Time 256-bit AES Hardware Encryption and Pin Code Access
EASY TO INSTALL and set up as no software needed
CONVENIENCE via integrated USB2 so no extra cables or AC power needed
ROBUST, PORTABLE compact design with shock mounting to protect from knocks
ADMINISTRATION feature allowing up to 10 passkeys and passkey management
COMPATIBILITY with any operating system incl. Windows, Mac, Linux
GUARANTEED with 3 year warranty
The iStorage diskG*
The diskG* arrives in rather simplistic box with a clean color scheme. Adorning the front is a photo of the product with all the features listed and also a sticker stating the capacity of the drive in question. The rear of the box too is very informative and gives an explanation of the product and lists the benefits from all the features offered.
Along with the iStorage disk Genie itself, there are a number of useful accessories included. Firstly, a wetsuit-material pouch to help keep the drive well protected and clean when travelling about. Also, a double-ended-male USB extension cable for when the inbuilt cable isn’t long enough or for systems which’s USB ports don’t quite meet the power specifications (such as some laptops). Lastly, there’s a ‘Quick Start Guide’ to ensure you correctly set the iStorage diskG* up quickly.
The external hard drive enclosure design itself is rather simplistic. It measures in at 8.5cm x 12cm and 1.9cm in thickness, therefore utilizing a 2.5″ hard drive enabling it to easily fit in your trouser pocket. As for its design, it boasts a black rubbery textured coating, thus helping it to dampen vibrations and stop slippage when placed on a desk. All the buttons on the device are nice and large and are also rubber coated, so pressing them is easy and comfortable. For imaginative purposes, as well as numbers on the keys, there are also letters, so you could create a pass code based on an alphabetical word fairly simply.
Tucked in on the right side of the iStorage diskG* is a USB cable which sports 10cm of cabling. This is perfectly adequate for most laptops, however, if using on a Desktop PC maybe slightly too short. This isn’t a problem though as an extension cable is included, albeit a small one only measuring 47cm.
Although the bottom of the iStorage diskG* isn’t really interesting at all (simply details the serial number and product name), four rubber feet are evident showing iStorage have clearly tried to implement ways of reducing noise from the hard drive. While this may not be seen as crucial, very few companies who manufacturer computing peripherals ever look at ways of quietening their products, which shows iStorage certainly care about product quality.
Installation and Testing
Following the instructions highlighted in the Quick Start Guide the first process was to change the Admin PIN number from the default 123445 to a unique number. To do this, the diskG* needs firstly to be plugged into your system using the USB cable, then by pressing a certain combination of buttons highlighted in the quick start guide, you are then able to change the PIN. This altogether was very simple and took no longer than 30 seconds. To assist you in changing the PIN more easily there’s an in-built LED in the diskG* which confirms steps in the process by changing colour or by flashing. For multi-user support, the device can store up to 10 different user keys.
The diskG* uses hardware encryption as its method using the AES 256bit standard. This level of encryption has been approved by the US Government to protect classified information so the diskG* is about as secure as external hard drives get. Moreover, to avoid brute force attacks, the drive has an inbuilt security facility which will lock the user out after the 50th incorrect attempt. Simply by unplugging and plugging back in the diskG* will not remove this lock. Instead, you will have to enter a code found in the manual in order to remove this lock. If you do however get the code wrong 100 times, your only way of being able to access the drive again is by resetting it and completely reformatting the drive again.
This shows iStorage have definitely looked at ways of making the driveGenie completely hack proof. Now, let’s conduct some read and write tests and find out whether the encryption affects the performance of the drive…
In order to assess performance we will be using USBDeview to calculate read / write averages. Also for comparison purposes, we have included the results of other secondary storage devices.
As you can see from the results, the encryption facility that the diskG* uses has not greatly affected it’s performance. The drive still manages to score over the average 20MB/s write speed and 30MB/s read speed which most USB drives succeed. Although it’s slightly slower than a couple of the other drives we tested, the margin between the iStorage and the other drives in question is so tiny that it’s hardly noticeable.
The cost of the iStorage obviously varies on the capacity you need: 250GB retails for £115, 320GB for £140 and finally 500GB for £171 respectively.
The iStorage diskG* is an excellent product for users who are concerned or cautious about data security. It’s encryption method is rock solid and will surely mean data cannot be accessed by dubious thieves. Normally with products such as the Disk Genie, we’d expect some sort of flaw – usually in performance – this is not true in the diskG*’s case. It proved to live up to standards set by top performance USB storage devices and secured a 20MB/s write speed and a 30MB/s read speed.
My only gripes about iStorage’s product are its price, £140 for a 320GB USB drive is fairly expensive (you could buy a standard 320GB external hard drive for well under £60). Finally, it’s connectivity, it supports only USB which is a slight let down with most external hard drives now offering the faster eSATA and FireWire.
All in all, this product deserves a solid 4/5.
* Previously known as diskGenie