ioSafe N2 NAS

ioSafe’s N2 NAS will weather any disaster you can throw at it

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ioSafe N2
  • ioSafe N2
  • ioSafe N2
  • ioSafe N2

Pros

  • Sturdy, heavy, incredibly well built
  • Based on Synology’s excellent hardware and software

Cons

  • Paint finish isn’t the best (but who cares?)
  • Only mid-range Synology NAS hardware

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a network-attached storage device to back up your home or business’s important data, it makes sense to pick as robust a backup as possible. It’s hard to get much more robust than the fireproof, waterproof, disaster-proof ioSafe N2, based on Synology’s reliable DS213.

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If you’re running a business, or if you’ve got a couple of computers on your home network, it makes sense that you should keep a backup of your data. There are a few ways you can do this, but storing it all on a NAS is one of the simplest.

If you’re storing your backups locally, though, the issue arises of you losing both your data and your backup in the case of a disaster — whether it’s a house or business fire, a flood, or other unforeseen circumstance. ioSafe’s N2 neatly side-steps that issue by being simply too sturdy to be affected.

ioSafe N2: Design and features

The ioSafe N2 is based on Synology’s DS213. Synology is a company with an illustrious history in NAS devices, and its DiskStations are regarded as some of the best for home and small business use.

ioSafe, on the other hand, is a company with an illustrious history in everything-proof technology. We’ve looked at the Rugged Portable and SoloPro in the past, and found both to be more than able to withstand the harshest punishments we could imagine up. After running over the Rugged Portable with a car, and leaving it out in the rain for a day, and dropping it more times than we can count, we still use it every day for transferring and storing a library of video files.

The water- and fire-proof ioSafe N2.
The water- and fire-proof ioSafe N2.

Put the two together, and you’ve got the ioSafe N2. The N2 we received for testing from Rockingham IT Solutions was pre-packed with two 2TB Seagate hard drives, although you can buy the disk-less version and add hard drives as you desire from a pre-approved list.

The ioSafe N2 is a hulking beast of a device, even compared to other less-than-elegant NASes like the Synology DS412+. Viewed front on, the N2 has a single large, flat, black-painted face secured by two hex bolts, with the ioSafe logo on the lower left corner. Below this removable face are a small array of buttons and ports — power, a direct-copy button, USB 2.0 and SD card slots, and some status lights for those inputs and the N2’s internal disks.

The front ports, buttons and lights of the ioSafe N2.
The front ports, buttons and lights of the ioSafe N2.

We should mention that on our review drive, the N2’s matte black paint finish wasn’t perfect — there were a few bubbles on the front face and side, and some peeling around the top hex bolt. This didn’t bother us in the slightest — it’s a NAS, not a sportscar — but it’s worth mentioning.

The ioSafe N2, with its front panel removed and internal drive bays exposed.
The ioSafe N2, with its front panel removed and internal drive bays exposed.

With two internal 3.5-inch hard drive bays accessible through its front panel, the N2 is made to be used with SATA II hard drives, although 2.5-inch drives (including SSDs) can be used with adapters. A maximum drive size of 4TB per disk applies, so you can have a maximum array size of 8TB if you’re using a RAID 0 setup, writing to both disks in parallel and prioritising speed over reliability and redundancy.

We chose a more sensible approach and opted for RAID 1 (through Synology Hybrid RAID), which mirrors all your data on both disks to provide a secondary backup-within-a-backup.

We find it interesting that the N2 is only based on the garden-variety DS213, rather than the up-scale DS213+, which is a little more powerful and versatile and has a low-power slumber mode. The two are quite similar in terms of features, though, so it’s not a big loss, especially if you’ll be using it regularly rather than letting it coast along in sleep mode.

The rear connectors of the N2 -- Ethernet, USB and power.
The rear connectors of the N2 -- Ethernet, USB and power.

Around the back of the NAS, the ioSafe N2 is quite simple. There’s a power socket for the DC power brick, two USB 3.0 inputs, and a single Gigabit Ethernet connector. Compared to the DS213+, the only thing that’s missing is an eSATA port — not a huge loss. As well as connecting external storage to the USB 3.0 ports, you can also hook up a range of Wi-Fi adapters to connect to a wireless network if you’ve got one.

ioSafe N2: Disaster-proofing and setup

The N2 is very sturdy. If you lose all your other computing equipment in a fire, the N2 should survive — it’s rated to last for half an hour at a fire of 1550 degrees Fahrenheit (about 850 degrees Celsius). House fires can apparently get hotter than this in worst-case scenarios, but it’s far, far better than nothing.

If you manage to find yourself in the middle of a flood, the N2, again, should survive. You can fully submerse it in either salt or fresh water, in up to 10 feet of water, for up to 72 hours. The N2 has a Kensington lock port that can be used to secure it against theft, and an optional floor-mount-and-padlock kit for a further layer of security. One area where the N2 doesn’t have any ruggedised credentials is in shock-proofing — being such a heavy and solidly-constructed piece of technology, you can’t drop it and expect it to survive unscathed, but this is a fanciful scenario considering that at 12.7kg it’s not exactly portable.

Being based on a Synology DS213 NAS, the ioSafe N2 runs an unmodified version of Synology’s DiskStation Manager operating system software. We loaded the latest DSM 4.2 version onto the N2 for our testing, although an updated and more feature-packed DSM 4.3 version should be launching soon. The setup procedure is simple, and instructions are included in the box.

Also included in the box is a hex key for removing the N2’s front panel and internal drive bays, magnets to attach the key to the NAS for safekeeping, a Gigabit Ethernet cable, a power cable and DC power brick, and DSM installation disc.

The ioSafe N2 performed well in our NAS tests, where we connected it to a Gigabit-capable Ethernet router and the Gigabit Ethernet port of a PC running Windows 8 and a high-speed solid-state drive to remove any bottle-necks. The N2 was set up with two 2TB drives in the Synology Hybrid RAID array mode. When we transferred 248GB of video files from the NAS to the PC, we recorded an average read rate of 101MB/sec, and transferring back we recored an average write rate of 63MB/sec — in line with Synology’s claims, and more than fast enough for anything but the most strenuous use cases.

For more information on the ioSafe N2’s operating system, we recommend you read our reviews of the Synology DS212j and Synology DS412+. Since the ioSafe N2 is based on Synology hardware, your experience will be almost identical.

ioSafe N2: Conclusion

The extra price of the ioSafe N2 over a comparable NAS — including the Synology DS213, with which it shares its internal components and software — comes from its disaster-proofing design.

Given that when you’re backing up data, you want those backups to last, we think paying extra is worth it. Setting up the N2 is a similar experience to any other NAS, and it has a similar feature-set and limitations, so it stands alone on the quality of its construction.

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