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The iStorage DiskAshur Pro2 SSD ($479 for the 1TB version we tested) is a worthy solid-state successor to the company’s platter-based line of secure external drives. It’s a sober, good-looking drive
with a solid build, but what really sets it apart is its combination of real-time AES-XTS 256-bit hardware encryption, IP56 and
FIPS 140-2 Level 2 certifications, a tamper-proof case, and onboard PIN
authentication. The drive isn’t cheap and it isn’t all that speedy as SSDs go, but without your PIN, your data might as well be locked up at Fort Knox—simply put, bad guys aren’t getting at it.

What’s in the Box?

We’ll dive into the details of the Pro2’s performance in a minute, but we’ve already revealed the not-cheap part—with a price per gigabyte of about 47.9 cents, the DiskAshur Pro2 drive runs roughly twice what other 1TB external SSDs will cost you. (The company’s website offers capacities ranging from 128GB for $229 to 8TB for a breathtaking $2,269.) That’s not a entirely fair comparison, though: This drive is all about the security features. Before you decide to spring for this Supermax level of lockdown, let’s look at the specifics, so you can see exactly what you’re getting for your money.

The box contains just the exFAT-formatted
drive (in a very nice zippered case) and some setup instructions. The USB 3.1 Type-A cable (no USB-C here, unless you supply your own dongle) is impossible to lose, since it is actually part of the drive. That’s the good
news. The bad news is that the cable is extremely short—not a problem with
most desktop/laptop setups, but possibly an issue when using the drive with a TV, or a PC tower with ports available only on the back. (Yes, you can use the drive with devices like TVs or even game consoles, if that odd whim takes you, because there’s no software to set up and nothing for your
device to recognize, other than the fact that there’s now a drive
connected.)

iStorage DiskAshur Pro2 SSD USB cable

The zippered case is worth commenting on for a couple
of reasons. First, it’s very attractive and quite well-made. As a way of
protecting your drive further against the elements (the DiskAshur Pro2 SSD is
IP56-rated, so it’s already dust- and water-resistant), it’s hard to beat.
Second, you might well need the case, because this drive is larger than any
SSD you might have used in the past. It’s a somewhat bulky 0.59 by 3.2 by 4.7
inches, and it weighs half a pound. This is not something you drop into your
shirt pocket while taking photos at the park. It’s big and heavy, and the case,
with its attached lanyard, is a welcome addition.

Setting Up: Put a PIN on It

As we mentioned, in terms of software, there is no setup—no
drivers and no onboard apps. If it weren’t for the security-related
intricacies, using the Pro2 would be a simple plug-and-play experience, like most other external drives. However, the DiskAshur is not like most
other drives. First, you must use a PIN between seven and 15
characters in length to access the unit; the drive can be
programmed to allow either full access or read-only access depending on the
PIN. Further, there is an Admin PIN and one or more User PINs, the
former of which (not surprisingly) allows more control over the drive and
its users. (Out of the box, no User PIN has been set, and the Admin PIN is 11223344; change that as soon as you can, and then begin adding User PINs.)

Once you have a PIN, accessing the drive is
simple enough: Enter the PIN using the keypad on the face of the
drive, and press the Unlock button. The drive’s LEDs will flicker, and the
green one will remain lit, signifying that the drive is now accessible. Press
the Lock button (or disconnect the drive) to lock it again. You can also enable an unattended auto-lock feature so the drive locks
after so many minutes of inactivity. It will also lock if your
computer or other device goes to sleep or shuts down, so you may wish to
disable that on your system.

Creating a PIN is by no means intuitive; you
must follow the steps in the five-page manual to create Admin or User PINs,
and you must follow them closely. Pressing the wrong button or pressing them
out of order will mean starting over. You know how, when you purchase an SSD,
you usually throw away the mostly useless instruction sheet or
mini-manual? Don’t do that here. You’ll end up tearing your hair out
and then going to the iStorage website to find instructions.

Once you do set up a PIN, be sure to remember
it. Without it, there is no way anyone (including you and the folks at iStorage) can access any data you’ve stored on the drive.

Just How Secure Is This Thing?

The DiskAshur Pro2 SSD is as solid as a rock,
both physically and otherwise, and your data is as safe as if it were embedded
in solid granite. There are multiple layers of security at work here.

First and perhaps most obvious is the PIN setup we’ve discussed. With 10
digits on the keypad, there are literally 10 billion possible PINs, and that’s without counting the upper- and lowercase letters
you might also choose to use. Anyone attempting to guess the code is in for a
long, unpleasant haul—or would be, if the drive didn’t need to be unplugged and reconnected after five failed attempts at entering a
correct PIN. If that happens twice more, the DiskAshur will wipe itself clean, including all PINs and encryption keys.

iStorage DiskAshur Pro2 SSD with box

The case is also hardened, certified as
compliant with Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2. Among
other things, FIPS 140-2 includes tamper-proofing the case; attempting to
physically break into the drive would most likely destroy the case and the
media on which the data is stored.

If someone could somehow get into the
case to access the SSD, they’d find the data itself is protected by
real-time AES-XTS 256-bit hardware encryption. In other words, even if the data could be
accessed, it would require multiple supercomputers working for multiple years to crack it. Let’s just say it’s extremely unlikely that anyone could hack
into your data. (Except possibly the NSA, and if the NSA is hacking
into your drive, you have bigger issues to worry about.)

So, yeah: The DiskAshur Pro2 SSD is about as
tough, as tamper-proof, and as secure as you’re going to find in any
consumer-grade storage device.

Performance Testing

Speed or throughput is not the primary criterion with this drive; it’s all about security, and everything
else is secondary. Nonetheless, we ran the Pro2 through a couple of
our standard tests and confirmed that, while it’s well faster than a hard drive, it won’t set any SSD speed
records.

Crystal DiskMark

Crystal DiskMark is a popular open-source tool that measures sequential and random access on hard drives and SSDs mounted
on Windows systems. (Sorry, Mac dudes. There are macOS clones available, of
course.)

iStorage DiskAshur Pro2 SSD Crystal DiskMark

The DiskAshur Pro2 SSD was sluggish as external SSDs go, on the whole, but it is in line with other security-minded drives we have tested from Apricorn and SecureData. These slower speeds are likely due to their data encryption schemes. With read speeds of 339MB/sec and write speeds of 332MB/sec, it
did beat out both the equally secure Apricorn Aegis Fortress L3 and the
not-quite-as-secure (but even more expensive) SecureData SecureDrive. It came nowhere
near the read/write speeds of the much less expensive CalDigit Tuff Nano or SanDisk Extreme Pro, USB 3.1 Gen 2 drives that are somewhat ruggedized, but only on a physical level; they aren’t government-grade tough at a data level.

PCMark 7

PCMark 7 is an all-around benchmarking tool
that attempts to mimic typical home user workloads. In this case, we’ve used it
to measure secondary storage, and again, the iStorage SSD’s performance
was behind the pack.

iStorage DiskAshur Pro2 SSD PCMark 7

The score was close when comparing the Pro2 to the SecureDrive, but the other three left the DiskAshur in the dust. Speed is simply not what this SSD is all about. Again, this is part of the price you’ll pay for the robust encryption.

So, Is It Worth It?

For some usage cases, the DiskAshur Pro2 SSD is definitely worth the $479 asking price (Amazon shoppers, enjoy your $9 discount) for the 1TB version. If you work in HR,
education, medicine, security, IT, or government, this level of security may in
fact be required. Ditto if you are in a position that requires you to
carry around others’ personally identifiable information, or if you’re in
possession of sensitive corporate data, intellectual property, or confidential info about company products or projects. In situations such as these,
the prime consideration—perhaps the only real consideration—is security,
and the Pro2 has you covered there.

iStorage DiskAshur Pro2 SSD and case

What about those of us who are not in such sensitive
positions? Well, if you have the cash to spare, maybe so—after all, you may carry around data that is worth a great deal to you, including tax documents, receipts, banking info, personal and
business correspondence, and more. That data, though it may not legally require this level of protection, is nonetheless confidential; you wouldn’t want
to see it fall into the wrong hands. There’s no getting around the fact that
the DiskAshur Pro2 SSD is a pricey piece of kit, but it could well be a worthwhile investment in your peace of
mind if your sensitive digital stuff has to reside in a portable format.

iStorage DiskAshur Pro2 SSD Specs

Internal or External external
Interface (Computer Side) USB 3.1
Capacity (Tested) 1 TB
Rated Maximum Sequential Read 294 MBps
Rated Maximum Sequential Write 319 MBps
Warranty Length 3 years

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