Since burning and drowning an expensive NAS is sort of a one-time deal, we wanted to get it right, i.e. within spec, the first time. So before running the torture test, we drew up a test plan (below) and got ioSafe to sign off on it.
ioSafe N2 test procedures
When we ran the idea of both burning and submerging the N2 past ioSafe, they responded that usually you don't have a fire followed by a fully submersing flood. The more typical scenario is that the product is in a fire and at some point gets hosed down along with the structure. But ioSafe was confident in its design and told us to knock ourselves out.
The other thing we would be doing differently than a normal ioSafe customer was that we would be moving drives to a known good NAS to recover the data ourselves. Since all diskful ioSafes come with a 1, 3 or 5 year warranty and data recovery service subscription, customers are usually encouraged to send drives back to ioSafe for data recovery.
If you're considering an ioSafe, you should read the Data Recovery Service (DRS) page and understand what you're buying, since ioSafe doesn't guarantee that they can recover your data. If they can't, they'll have DriveSavers take a shot at it
but that will probably cost you extra.. Basic DRS covers data recovery costs up to $2500 per Terabyte for diskful models and you can increase coverage to $5,000 / Terabyte by opting for the more expensive DRS Pro service. ioSafe says not a single customer has had to contribute towards recovery costs so far. Any third-party costs have been entirely covered by the DRS. I'll come back to this in the Closing thoughts.
I've included many of the carnage pictures in the gallery at the end of the article. But I have included some of the teardown pictures here as I feel they are relevant to understanding of how the NAS is designed to be fire and water resistant.
With the test procedures ironed out, I started the fire. In case you are wondering, I used a combination of pine and birch woods, as well as some scrap 2x4s. I got the fire good and hot, then placed the ioSafe onto it.
The case fan was one of the first things to disappear. After 10 minutes of burning I heard a loud pop, which I wasn't able to identify. I expected the case to warp and deform over the burn period, but it really didn't. The paint did flake and burn off and the metal deformed slightly, but mostly the N2 just sat there.
ioSafe N2 trial by fire
Here's a short video of the N2 burning if you're into that sort of thing.
The sheer mass of the ioSafe nearly smothered the fire at times and I kept piling small tinder on it to keep it hot and concentrated on the NAS.
Once 30 minutes has passed, I lifted the NAS out of the fire and ran it to the garden hose. I then sprayed if off for several minutes until the exterior was cool to the touch. I then placed it in a tub of water deep enough to fully submerge it. For several minutes after being submerged what appeared to be smoke or steam rose out of the NAS. Although it was cool to the touch on the outside, it looks like it was still pretty hot on the inside!
Then I waited, for three days (72 hours) to be exact. To be honest, it was hard to wait. I love tearing stuff apart and I wanted to see if the drives made it. The case, now sans paint, rusted more and more with each passing day, turning the water into what appeared to be a toxic concoction of burned plastic and oxidized metal.
The first thing when the soak time was up was remove the outer door of the NAS. In the image below, you can see that fire and heat moved past the venting and started to char some of the inside up to the aluminum drive enclosure door. The door was very much intact despite the burn marks.
ioSafe N2 outer door removed, showing burn marks
I let this sit for a hour to drain any water that may have gotten inside. I then removed the inner drive cover. The inner drive enclosure should have been waterproof, but when I opened it some water did come out. Upon further examination, it wasn't apparent to me where the water got in. The rubberized seal on the drive door did not show water markings past the seal and the circuit board on the rear of the enclosure appeared to have the seals intact. You can see that the drives look just fine sitting in there in the image below.