We’ve seen a range of solutions for keeping sensitive data safe on the move in recent times, but for those who would leave a drive unattended at a workstation for any length of time, standard encryption may not be the most effective solution.
Biometric drives offer a fast and easy alternative and LaCie’s Rugged Safe provides this along with 128-bit AES encryption and a ruggedised exterior.
Though it’s not quite as portable as recent offerings like the Iomega eGo, it offers a similar level of external protection through a rubberised guard that surrounds the enclosure and shock-proof rubber bumpers that protect the drive on the inside, offering good protection against drops and knocks.
LaCie offers a choice of USB2.0 or FireWire 800 for access, and an additional USB cable is provided to offer extra power if needed during initial setup.
The headline protection comes via the built-in fingerprint reader and this is very easy to configure and use thanks to the LaCie Safe Manager software provided.
This comes preinstalled along with the documentation and is displayed in a read-only session when the Rugged Safe is first connected.
A simple wizard then walks you through the process of creating user accounts and adding fingerprints to grant access. Specific users can be created as administrators and up to 10 fingerprints can be recorded.
Once this process is complete, access is granted by simply swiping a finger over the built-in sensor, with a corresponding LED changing from red, to orange, to green to show that access has been granted. We were very pleased by how quickly and easily this worked, and in our tests it correctly allowed access to authorised users every time, and more imporantly, denied access to others.
During our random read and write tests the Rugged Safe initially appeared to be rather slow, achieving speeds of just over 14MB/s through the USB2.0 interface (compared to 23MB/s on the USB2.0 version of the aforementioned Iomega eGo).
However, this can be explained by the fact that data copied to the drive is automatically encrypted, so even if the drive is removed and broken into, all saved files, along with the fingerprint database are safe from prying eyes.
To handle day-to-day backup tasks LaCie provides Genie Backup Assistant, a comprehensive and easy to use suite of tools that will help you schedule and manage backups quickly, as well as offering the facility to compress files and use encryption for added security.
This is very easy to use and is capable of automatically collating a range of filetypes or categories such as email, Windows settings and My Documents and also offers network support.
Overall we were very pleased by the smooth setup and operation of the Rugged Safe, which should offer plenty of peace of mind with its layered security and toughened exterior. However, it’s quite a bit more expensive (around twice the price in fact) than conventional alternatives at £160 for a 500GB model, so anyone considering a purchase should make sure they really do need the biometric security feature.