We’ve looked at encrypted portable drives before, but this one must be the ultimate in security and performance. First there was the numberpad-lockable iStorage diskGenie with a 2.5in hard disk inside. Then, the diskGenie SSD, the same again but with a shockproof SSD in place.
Whichever storage technology is used, the secure enclosure itself is a simple and effective design, initially requiring a six-digit PIN code to first unlock the drive inside. Thereafter you can set up an Admin account and separate User accounts, each with their own PIN code, which can be from six to 16 digits long.
Since all security lockdown is handled on the device, there’s little chance of being compromised by attachment to an insecure computer. Keyloggers can undermine the best PC-hosted encryption software using even the longest passphrases.
The principle reason people opt for solid-state is of course speed. In this application of portable storage, an SSD also confers the great advantage of being shock-proof and able to withstand the elements better. That aspect could prove priceless in a portable drive holding valuable data.
SSDs can be written to and read much faster than most hard disks. However both the first iterations of iStorage diskGenie we tried were slowed down by the USB 2.0 interface. Not so the Apricorn Aegis Pro.
Apricorn, Inc is a specialist in storage technologies, a US-based vendor of these secure keypad drives (also seen in the UK under the Lenovo and iStorage names).
In the case of the high-gloss Pro version of the Apricorn Aegis Pro, an extra eSATA port has been added as an alternative to mini-USB 2.0. You lose the attached USB cable (which was often too short for comfort anyway) and gain a much faster connection standard.
Since eSATA is essentially the same fast pipe used by internal disks, but engineered for outboard use, we should see the same speed as drive mounted inside the PC.
You can still use the mini-USB 2.0 port for connection to the larger number of PCs without eSATA, and a DC power inlet is included for instances when bus power isn’t enough to power the unit.
If your PC or laptop has the powered version of eSATA, sometimes called eSATAp, you can use the faster link without any extra power lead.
The eSATA on the Apricorn Aegis Pro is a worthy option when you need to get data into or out of the drive quickly.
Ready-fitted with a 128GB Kingston SSDNow, the Apricorn Aegis Pro showed peak read speeds in the ATTO benchmark of 227MBps – an incredible result compared to the circa-30MBps speeds of USB-connected SSD versions. Write performance was excellent too at 161MBps.
With an SSD for storage, performance should remain consistent as the drive fills up; hard disks, especially 2.5in notebook drives, see a marked drop in performance as the drive fills up.
The FIPS PUB 197 validated encryption algorithm should assure that security is high. Yet despite the real-time encryption/decryption of data using the respected AES-256 algorithm, we saw no measurable effect on the performance of this secure storage device.
The main downside to eSATA is that it’s not as ubiquitous as USB, and is not always so reliably hot-swappable – some older Windows setups require a reboot when first attached.
Macintosh users are also left out somewhat, with no native eSATA support on Apple hardware, although ExpressCard adaptors can be used with some models of Apple MacBook Pro.