We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
 
USB drives Reviews
15,114 Reviews

IronKey S200 review

£55 for 1GB; £99 for 4GB; £119 for 8GB; £199 for 16GB

Manufacturer: Ironkey

Our Rating: We rate this 4 out of 5

The IronKey S200 is still arguably the most secure USB drive in existence.

The IronKey S200 is still arguably the most secure USB drive in existence.

The new S200 IronKey model doubles the maximum capacity of the previous drive to 16GB, and it is now compatible with Windows 7. (The drive was already compatible with Windows Vista, XP, Mac OS X and Linux.)

This is not a drive for the average user. The IronKey S200 is high-end and its price tag reflects that.

The IronKey S200 drive has received validation with the Federal Information Processing Standards 140-2, Level 3, which covers document processing, encryption algorithms and other IT standards for use in non-military government agencies, including their vendors and contractors. IronKey states that it is the world's only FIPS 140-2, Level 3 certified USB drive.

IronKey S200: Speed

What sets the IronKey apart from most other USB drives is that its maker uses high-end single-level cell (SLC) NAND flash memory chips as opposed to multi-level cell, consumer-grade (MLC) NAND. SLC has better native performance over MLC, and, perhaps most importantly, it has as much as 10 times the lifespan, up to 100,000 write/erase cycles.

Because the IronKey S200 uses high-end SLC NAND, its throughput tends to be a bit higher than most MLC-based flash drives, particularly when it comes to write rates. An IronKey representative said this new version is also supposed to be faster than the last model due to improvements in the firmware.

We tested the drive using ATTO Technology's ATTO Disk Benchmark v2.34, and Simpli Software's HD Tach v3.0.4 benchmarking utilities. With the HD Tach utility, the IronKey returned a random access time of 4.2 milliseconds, an average sequential read rate of 25.7MB/sec and a burst rate only slightly higher of 26.9MB/sec. CPU utilisation was a high 19 percent. The ATTO Benchmarking software showed a similar read rate, 24.4MB/sec, and a write rate of 14.8MB/sec.

The tests revealed generally slower I/O throughput rates than the last version of the IronKey drive we tested, but to be fair, the last drive had 5GB of capacity and the one we were testing for this review had only 1GB. Generally speaking, the more capacity a NAND flash drive has, the better the performance.

All the same, the performance results using HD Tach on the last drive came back with 31MB/sec. burst speed and an average read rate of 29.6MB/sec. CPU utilisation rate was higher at 22%.

To compare, we tested SanDisk's Ultra Backup USB flash drive, which is based on consumer-class multi-level cell NAND flash. SanDisk's drive returned a random access time of .8 milliseconds, an average read rate of 24.7MB/sec, a burst rate of 26.4MB/sec and CPU utilisation of 12%.

ATTO's benchmark software showed the greatest disparity between the two drives; SanDisk's drive turned in a respectable 24.2MB/sec average read rate, but a slow 6.7MB/sec write rate. So, there is something to be said for SLC NAND performance.

Business IT reviews and advice

IronKey S200: Security

Apart from the use of SLC NAND flash, what really sets IronKey apart from the vast majority of other USB flash drives is its Cryptochip, an ASIC dedicated to encrypting all data on the drive using 256-bit AES algorithm.

IronKey's online security applications are also pretty impressive. As soon as you plug the IronKey drive into your USB port, a pop up box appears asking you to create a password. What's relatively cool about this password box is that it also automatically rates the security level of the password you create. It also offers the user the opportunity to backup the password on line with IronKey in case you forget it.

The initialisation of the drive takes less than a minute, at which time you're asked to set up an online account with IronKey, which enables certain features included with the drive, such as device and software updates and access to IronKeys encrypted web surfing service. By activating the online account, a secure web browser already installed on the drive opens, taking you to my.ironkey.com.

The online account then sets up a separate username and password to access information on the site. The site requires supplemental authorisation that includes creating three challenge and answer questions based on personal information you provide.

You can securely and directly log into your online IronKey account from within your IronKey Secure Flash Drive. For times where you cannot access your IronKey drive (e.g. you forgot your device password or lost your IronKey), you can log into "Safe Mode" using the credentials you set up online. Also, IronKey will email you with account alerts, such as when there is suspicious activity with your account.

IronKey then sets up anti-phishing protection by using a secret image that is displayed every time you log in to help assure you that you are at the real my.ironkey.com website and not a counterfeit site. You can change your Secret Image at any time in your account settings.

It also has you set up a secret phrase presented to you in the subject line of every email you receive from IronKey regarding your account. It is an anti-phishing technology that helps assure you that the email is legitimate and safe to open. You can change your Secret Phrase at any time in your account settings.

Once you pick and image and secret pass phrase, IronKey asks you to enter activation code that it has emailed to you. Once the activation code is entered, your IronKey is ready to use.

To say that this activation process is highly secure is an understatement - neurotic is probably closer to the truth.

Another safety feature that protects against brute force attacks is the self-destruct mode. If someone does get their hands on your flash drive and they fail to type in the correct password 10 times, on the eleventh attempt, the IronKey drive will self-destruct and permanently lock out users and wipe out all the data on the drive.

One friendly feature of the IronKey drive is the ability to access your password and even data backed up online using the Remote Device Management Manage tool.

IronKey's online Account Dashboard let's you see all your account information at a glance, such as the latest activity on your account as well as the status of all your IronKeys. And, the Account Alerts features will also give you a heads up by email if someone is trying to break into your account, allowing you to change your password.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

Computerworld.com

IronKey S200 Expert Verdict »
Dual-channel SLC Flash, Operating System Encryption Compatability: Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP SP2+, Windows 2000 SP4, Macintosh OS X 10.4+, Linux 2.6+
75x19x9mm
25g
Copy Files and Folders (Write) (s): Up to 24MB/s write
Copy Files and Folders (Read) (s): up to 27MB/s read
up to 16GB
  • Overall: We give this item 8 of 10 overall

All in all, the IronKey is a really great drive. We've had one now for two years and it has never failed me, but beware the price tag. This drive is targeted at people who need to go that extra mile for security and are willing to pay for it, but if you must have the highest possible reliability and encryption, this drive should be at the top of your portable storage list.

There are currently no price comparisons for this product.
  • IronKey Personal 8GB review

    IronKey Personal 8GB

    The IronKey Personal is an 8GB flash drive that encrypts your data and offers password protection.

  • SanDisk Ultra Backup review

    SanDisk Ultra Backup

    The SanDisk Ultra Backup USB Flash Drive is a one-touch backup solution and USB memory stick. We tested the 32GB version.

  • OCZ RevoDrive X2 240GB review

    OCZ RevoDrive X2 240GB

    As an alternative to an SSD in your PC's hard-disk bay, why not try this super-fast PCI Express card SSD, with capacity up to 960GB.

  • Intel Solid State 310 review

    Intel Solid State 310

    The Intel Solid-State Drive 310 Series is a new generation of SSD that reduces the physical size of internal storage for portable computing

  • Netgear WN3000RP Universal Wi-Fi Range Extender review

    Netgear WN3000RP Universal Wi-Fi Range Extender

    The Netgear WN3000RP is a wireless extender that's easy to set up and has excellent range. Read our Netgear WN3000RP Universal Wi-Fi Range Extender review.


IDG UK Sites

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 release date, price and specs 2014

IDG UK Sites

iOS 8 features wishlist: the changes iPhone and iPad users want in Apple's iOS 8

IDG UK Sites

25 Years of the World Wide Web: Happy Birthday, Intenet

IDG UK Sites

Developers get access to more Sony camera features