Review: iStorage diskAshur 500GB 256-bit Encrypted Portable USB 3.0 Hard Drive

Whether you’re storing family photos or large quantities of sensitive business data, it’s always sensible to ensure that whatever data you’re storing, is completely secure. iStorage make the ominous sounding task of encrypting your data incredibly easy to do, with their expanding range of diskAshur encrypted portable hard drives. You can reap the benefits of 256-bit encryption for all of your data, whilst making full use of USB 3.0 transfer speeds to/from your 250GB to 2TB portable hard drive!

Features

  • XTS -AES Real Time 128 or 256-bit hardware (FIPS PUB 197 validated) encryption
  • USB 3.0 (backwards compatible to USB 1.1) with integrated USB cable
  • Built-in, wear resistant keypad for PINs
  • Software free – all User/Admin PINs are configured via the keypad
  • Configurable manual self-destruct PIN
  • Brute force self-destruct feature
  • Auto-lock after a period of drive inactivity
  • Ruggedised design for optimal portability
  • USB powered – no need for an additional power supply

What’s in the box & first impressions

Straight out of the box, you notice the diskAshur is fairly weighty (176g/6.21oz), with a decent build quality/feel to it. Size wise, the hard drive is slightly wider than and approximately an inch shorter than an iPhone 7/8 Plus, however it is much thicker. The exact dimensions of the drive are: 120mm X 84.5mm X 19mm (4.7″ X 3.3″ X 0.75″).

In terms of accessories, you get a travel pouch, a USB splitter (more on this later) and your standard quick start guide/warranty information.

Back to the hard drive itself, the diskAshur has a matte black, rubberised-plastic finish and in theory that rubberised finish helps with shock absorption. There are also four small rubber “feet” on the back-side of the drive, resulting in a drive that doesn’t slide around on your desk no matter which way you lay it. The drive has a short, built-in USB 3.0 cable, meaning no fumbling around plugging two ends of a USB cable in – just flick the USB cable out of the side of the diskAshur and plug it in to your computer. On the front of the device, there’s also a small activity indicator LED, which shines red when locked/not in use, green when unlocked and in use or blue when in “admin” mode.

The main attraction of the diskAshur range of products though, is the built-in keypad. This keypad is the method by which you “unlock” or “lock” your data, or setup new user PINs.

Setup/install

The initial setup of the diskAshur is incredibly straight forward. Referring to the included Quick Start Guide, you’ll find it’s as simple as plugging in the hard drive to an available USB port on your PC, typing in 123456 on the keypad and then pressing the “Unlock” button.

If, for whatever reason, your hard drive doesn’t power on when you plug it into the USB port on your machine, try using the included USB splitter (“USB Y-cable”) to plug the drive into two available ports. By doing this, the drive should be able to pull power from both ports, and the LED indicator should shine red.

Before you go about storing your data straight away and carrying on with life, it’s highly recommended you change the admin and user PINs from the default 123456 to something more secure and “personal” to you. After all, what’s the point in buying an encrypted hard drive to secure all of your data, if you’re going to leave the PIN as one of the most common passwords of all time? Referring, once again, to the included Quick Start Guide – you can reconfigure the admin and default user PINs with a few combination key presses. It’s also worth noting that up to 5 user PINs can be created, so you can share the hard drive amongst your family or colleagues/team without needing to share your own PIN.

Performance

I use my drive primarily on a Windows 10 machine day-to-day, but occasionally with other Window’s clients. The drive is formatted (as standard) as an NTFS drive, however if you wanted to use the drive universally (across all OSes), you could quite easily format the drive to use the FAT file system instead.

It’s also worth me highlighting at this point that due to company policy, my drive is also BitLocker encrypted.

Write speeds

C:\ to DiskAshur large file copy
Moving a large (40GB) file from C:\Temp to the diskAshur
diskAshur speed testing high quantity of files
Moving a large quantity of small files (5000 totalling 32MB) from C:\Temp to the diskAshur

Read speeds

diskAshur to C large file copy
Moving a large (40GB) file from the diskAshur to C:\Temp
diskAshur speed testing high quantity of files stats2
Moving a large quantity of small files (5000 totalling 32MB) from the diskAshur to C:\Temp

Read + Write (on the drive)

diskAshur to diskAshur on drive large file copy
Making a copy of a large (40GB) file (diskAshur->diskAshur)
diskAshur speed testing high quantity of files on-drive
Moving a large quantity of small files (5000 totalling 32MB) (diskAshur -> diskAshur)

CrystalDiskMark 6.0

diskAshur CrystalDiskMark results

Note: My C:\ is a SK Hyinx SC308 128GB SSD

As you can see from the above screenshots, this drive isn’t going to break any speed records, however I personally feel that the level of security I’m getting with this drive more than makes up for the slightly lower transfer speeds. With peaks up to 74MB/s (592mbps), you’re still getting significantly higher transfer speeds than the old USB 2.0 standard.

Summary

Whilst this drive is no speed demon, what it lacks in performance it more than makes up for in security for the average every day user, IT professional or even small business! That being said, the implementation of these security controls definitely affects the pricing of this product. The pricing model is as follows:

Capacity128-bit price256-bit price
250GB£119£139
320GB£129£149
500GB£139£159
640GB£159£179
750GB£179£199
1TB£219
1.5TB£249£269
2TB£269£289

Compared to generic, well known, consumer-grade portable hard drives (WD Elements, Seagate Expansion etc.) that you can pick up off of the shelf at your local electronics shop, the iStorage diskAshur drives are incredibly expensive. For example: the 2TB 256-bit diskAshur sets you back around £289(~$400), compared to a bog-standard WD Elements 2TB which costs only £65(~$70). As you can see, there’s a significant price difference there, however with a bog-standard, off-the-shelf hard drive you don’t get the level of security/encryption the iStorage hard drives offer. Having said that, you have to ask yourself: “What is my data security worth to me?”.

If you’re looking at a drive that offers this level of security, chances are you’re not looking for your typical portable hard drive. You’re looking for something that is going to keep your data secure in the event you lose the drive, or it gets stolen. If you’re storing family photos, then this may not be the drive for you. However if you’re storing company information, documents/work that is critical for your company to retain, storing personal information (I know plenty of people that store their finances, passwords (*sigh*), contractual information etc. on a USB stick) or even storing archived content – then it’s essential for you to ensure that the data you’re transporting around is secure.

The iStorage diskAshur offers you local, server-grade encryption on-the-go. You’re not tied to a particular office, or only accessing your documents whilst you’re at home. The next best option, compared to the diskAshur (in my opinion) would be a NAS box, but this negates the portability element. I’ve recommended this drive to every IT Professional I know that travels both regularly and irregularly.

If performance is the an important element for you, iStorage now offer an SSD variant of this drive (“diskAshur2”) that iStorage claims runs at 294 MB/s (2352 mbps) read and 319 MB/s (2552 mbps) write. Assuming that’s a synthetic workload, the new SSD diskAshur2 could offer you 2.5x the performance of the original diskAshur I’ve reviewed today!

Useful links

iStorage website: https://istorage-uk.com/

diskAshur product page: https://istorage-uk.com/product/diskashur/

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/iStorage-DG3-256-1000-diskAshur-256-bit-Portable/dp/B007RZG1YK/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/iStorage-DAP2-256-500-C-G-diskAshur-portable-encrypted/dp/B071DGR6W5/

Will Stocks

As a career "IT person" and technology enthusiast, I've been around technology for over 8 years now. From enterprise-grade hardware to consumer equipment, IT Support to Systems Administrator - I'm passionate about all forms of tech, learning how it works, integrates and the scenarios in which different people would use them. I started willstocks.co.uk in 2017 and have also contributed to other websites around the Internet.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.