The simple argument for cloud backup services is that if your house burns down, all your physical backup drives burn with it. The argument against cloud backup services is that they are expensive and slow -- it can take days to upload the contents of a modest computer.
The ioSafe N2 backup drive aims to provide more speed and lower cost than cloud services, while being just as disaster-proof. And to a degree, it succeeds.
The N2 is a 28-pound tank of an external drive, built to protect up to four terabytes of data from fire (or at least 1,550-degree heat) and water (or at least 10 feet of it for up to 72 hours). It puts two drives in a waterproof case that is wrapped in a chemical fire retardant and packed inside a fan-cooled steel case. A black box about 12 inches by 9 inches by 6 inches, it's not exactly a stylish desk accessory.
The backup contains two drives, and each copies the same data, providing another layer of safety. The drives range from one to four terabytes. The N2 plugs into a Wi-Fi router and takes data over the wireless network. That allows remote access to the data.
And that is where the N2 may not appeal to people who worry about hackers compromising their cloud accounts. Putting the backup on your network makes it vulnerable to attack. But ioSafe makes another waterproof and fireproof backup called the Solo (starting at $300 for 2 terabytes of storage), which wires directly to a computer without using a network.
I was able to load 260 gigabytes of files in just under six hours, far less time than it has taken me to test cloud services in the past. But setup required help from the company's tech assistance, as did gaining access to it from another computer.
Whether it is a good deal compared with a cloud service is contingent on the particular service and the amount of data to be stored. The N2, depending on the size of the drives and extras, like extended insurance, can cost $900 to $3,750. By comparison, Carbonite cloud service costs $1,100 a year for a business subscription with 1 terabyte of storage.
If the worst happens and your N2 is burned or drowned, ioSafe includes up to $2,500 worth of data recovery services in its one-year guarantee. ROY FURCHGOTT
This article originally appeared in The New York Times. First Published October 9, 2013 9:06 PM