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NAS Reviews

N2
At a glance
ProductioSafe N22TB1YR N2   [Website]
SummarySynology DS213 in fire and waterproof case with bundled backup recovery service
Pros• Fireproof and waterproof case
• Date recovery costs can be included in initial price
• Great Synology DSM
Cons• Expensive
• USB 3.0 backup performance same as USB 2.0

Typical Price: $651  Check Amazon

Introduction

Updated 4/12/13: Corrected errors regarding data recovery and venting

We have a good backup strategy in our home and it has saved pictures, music and documents many times when drives have crashed without warning. One scenario that I often worry about, however, is fire. The discussion with my wife usually goes along the lines of "make sure the kids and pets are safely out of the house and if it's still safe to return, grab the white Synology box that sits in our network closet".

Needless to say, this isn't the greatest strategy. I've also explored sending all of our backups to the cloud. But the sheer size of pictures, videos, music and documents makes that not so appealing. The expense is also prohibitive and the cap on our bandwidth is another deciding factor. Even if those weren't issues, the security of items in the cloud is always a consideration that makes you feel a little uneasy with all of your personal information out there.

Enter what ioSafe calls the "Private Cloud". Essentially the Private Cloud is a NAS on your network, accessible anywhere via cloud apps. You might be thinking, sure, but that doesn't mitigate the fire risk. In this case it does. ioSafe has been creating products that protect against fire and flood since 2005 and they've put that knowledge in to the ioSafe N2 NAS.

Specifically, ioSafe's new N2 NAS protects data for up to 30 minutes in 1550° F fire and for 72 hours in salt or fresh water up to 10 feet deep. If you purchase a diskful model, you can select one, three or five years of warranty and basic data recovery service. You can also purchase "Pro" level data recovery, which I'll come back to later.

Inside

ioSafe sent two NASes for this review. One went to Tim, who ran the SNB NAS Performance test suite on it and the other came to me for the torture test. I did a post-mortem autopsy of the NAS that was burned and soaked, so I'll speak a little bit to the actual build of the NAS.

To get to the components of the NAS for pictures I would have had to disassemble part of the fireproof enclosure to get to some screws. Since we didn't want to bust up two NASes, I'll simply mention that the NAS core is OEM'd from Synology and is the DS213's board.

The DS213 is based on a 2 GHz Marvell Kirkwood mv6282 ARM processor with 512 GB of DDR3 RAM. We put in a request to Synology for the rest of the component information and were denied on the premise that it could change at any time. So all of the info I have came from Synology's Wiki page.

When we first looked at the NAS, our thought was that the entire NAS was built to survive fire and flood. This is not the case; the motherboard and wiring are not designed to survive. Only the drives are intended to survive the specified fire and water exposure periods.

So how do they do this? From an engineering perspective, I found the approach very impressive. The motherboard and ancillary components are simply mounted to the bottom of the case. I knew these were not fireproof when I saw the honeycomb venting in the bottom of the NAS, which made it rather obvious. What looks to be a galvanized steel plate then separates the motherboard from the fireproof brick, which is where all the magic starts.

The drives themselves sit inside a sealed aluminum enclosure, which has a substantially-thick solid aluminum door. The extruded aluminum enclosure then sits inside the fireproof brick material, separated by a plastic liner that helps with waterproofing. Reading more about it, I saw that the fireproof brick material releases water vapor during fires (at temps above 160° F) to help keep temperature down.

If all this is hard to picture, don't worry, I have full teardown pictures in the Torture Test section later in the article. I don't want to give too much of the torture test info away yet, but you can see the sealed aluminum drive enclosure in the image below.

ioSafe N2 sealed aluminum drive enclosure

ioSafe N2 sealed aluminum drive enclosure

The entire enclosure has one expendable fan in the rear of the case. Before taking it apart, I had a few questions on cooling efficiency with such a setup. I pictured drives sitting inside a fireproof brick getting very hot. To see how hot I could get the drives I ran them full throttle for an entire day. I never saw them get over 30° above ambient. Once I tore down the unit, it became more obvious how the cooling works.

Update 4/12/13

The front and rear of the fireproof brick have vent passages for cooling. These "FloSafe" vents use a labyrinth design to block radiant external heat while still allowing gases to escape during a fire event. The plastic liner appears to be designed to melt and seal the vent passages in case of extreme heat. The drives stay cool during normal operation by using the sealed aluminum drive enclosure as one large heatsink, which works amazingly well. The diagram below explains the multiple methods ioSafe uses to protect the drives and data.

ioSafe N2 data protection features

ioSafe N2 data protection features

Of course, this is only my analysis from tearing it down. The actual technology implemented by ioSafe may be different than my findings. You can see the picture of the drive door and some of the venting in the image below.

ioSafe N2 venting with doors removed

ioSafe N2 venting with doors removed

Power consumption measured just 20 W with the two included Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 1 TB drives (ST31000524AS) spun up and a measly 7 W with them spun down. Fan and drive noise could be classified as very low, since the NAS could not even be heard in my home office due to its robust fire and water proofing.

ioSafe sent its 2 TB model (2 x 1 TB) for review. The N2 is also available in 4, 6, 8 and 0 (diskless) TB versions.

Features

The ioSafe N2 runs Synology's DSM. The version we tested with was 4.2.3202. For a full review of the features, visit the DS1512+ Review or try out the Live Demo online. Additionally, you can reference ioSafe's Synology DSM Highlight page for an idea of the feature set.

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