When I am on the road I am terribly paranoid about data loss. Here’s a nightmare scene – you travel to Italy from the U.S., you take your old laptop because you’ve heard horror stories about Customs arbitrarily seizing and holding for ransom various computers, your old hard drive fails with all of your cool new Italy images onboard. Life as you know it ends.

This could have been me…but because I am extra anal about backup…it wasn’t.

I’ve used dozens of different portable hard drive solutions to store, backup and archive my digital photographs in the field, but after extensive testing, I am switching to the ioSafe.

The ioSafe Rugged Portable 500 GB drive costs less than $200 most places. It’s a 5400 RPM 500 GB drive made of billet-machined aluminum and titanium. It’s compact, beefy, well-built, reliable and comes with a Kensington® Lock compatible slot. It weighs two pounds and connects to my MacBookPro with a Firewire 800 or USB 2.0 cable.

The company advertises this as a rugged, go-anywhere drive that’s perfect for harsh environments. Based on my experience, that’s accurate. They boast that it’s even waterproof. I haven’t tested that claim but based on everything else I’ve seen, I’d believe it.

During my testing, I filled the drive with data, then, in a real-world situation, knocked it off my desk onto a carpeted floor. No damage – no data loss. I then got a bit tougher. I took it out into the studio, held it over my head and let go onto the tile floor. Some cosmetic damage to the drive, but no data loss. I am convinced.

The company says that the drive is “crush protected” up to 5,000 pounds. I don’t know what that means but it sounds good. They also offer a data warranty and recovery service which you have to activate when you purchase the drive.

ioSafe specializes in what they call “disaster-proof hardware.” They have made bigger versions of this drive and a version that is USB 3.0 only. All are reasonably-priced given their speed, build-quality and performance. But they are NOT the cheapest portable drives you can buy – not by a long shot. But as my dad used to say, “If you have a $10 head, buy a $10 motorcycle helmet. I consider my photographic data to be my prize possession so I don’t want the cheapest portable drive. I want the best. I was particularly drawn to these drives because of my intended use, i.e., when I am on the road.

While ioSafe seems more well-known in the Mac community, this drive works on our lone Windows PC test machines with no problem.

No drive is perfect and they all fail eventually, but I think the ioSafe is about as reliable as they come.

Highly recommended.

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