IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Affordable Security: Encrypted External Hard Drives from Apricorn and iStorage

These cost-effective solutions provide MSPs and their clients with greater peace of mind. By James E. Gaskin

We create more data today than at any time before, and worry more about keeping all that information private—for good reason. Little of what we do on the internet is hidden from view, our smartphones betray us constantly, and financial institutions seem to store our data behind screen doors.

Anyone interested in keeping information away from unscrupulous eyes should check out the encrypted hard drives Apricorn Inc. and iStorage Ltd. offer. We put three of their devices to the test: the iStorage diskAshur2, the Apricorn Aegis Bio 3.0, and the Apricorn Aegis Fortress. If you lose any of these drives, you won’t lose any data or a minute of sleep.

All three units come with 100 percent hardware-based AES-XTS 256-bit encryption that meets Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS). Each is powered by USB ports to give users a wide range of HDD and SSD options. In fact, businesses can use these drives with any OS that supports USB external drives, since encryption isn’t software-based.  

iStorage diskAshur2 2TB HDD

We haven’t reviewed a lot of hardware designed and manufactured in England, but if the iStorage unit we tested is indicative of their quality, we should do it more often. In addition to industry-standard black, the diskAshur2 comes in Ocean Blue (our unit), Fiery Red, and Racing Green. Each device also includes a free license of Nero BackItUp software.

The Quick Start guide is printed in five languages and provides clear and colorful instructions illustrated with red, green, and blue icons.

When starting the unit for the first time, you’re permitted to keep the default admin password, which is a slight failing from a security perspective. Pressing the unlock icon and “1” before typing the admin password puts the unit in Administration mode. You can then add a user with a different password. The keypad of the diskAshur2 uses epoxy-coated individual keys widely spaced to make typing easy.

Spies will love the Self-Destruct PIN setting. Enter that number and the drive wipes your data and removes the disk partition. The unit will also self-destruct if users enter incorrect PINs too many times—administrators can limit attempts anywhere from four to 20. And don’t think that prying the box open and attacking the drive directly will work—the insides are covered by a layer of tough epoxy resin.

Want to make sure no one leaves the drive unlocked and unattended? Simply set the Unattended Auto-Lock feature. After a configurable number of minutes, the drive disconnects from the computer OS and turns off.

The diskAshur2 device is a pleasure to use. The blue rubber matte exterior feels and looks great, the drive works fast and has USB 3.1 support, and if you have a question, a PDF copy of the full manual is included on every drive.

FEATURES AND PRICING (Courtesy of iStorage)

iStorage diskAshur2 2TB HDD

PRICING iStorage diskAshur2 2TB USB 3.1 (tested); capacities from 500GB to 5TB

  • 2TB tested - $372.99 / $310
  • 500GB - $205.99 / $170
  • 5TB - $579.99 / $474
  • Available now


  • HDD: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, 3TB, 4TB, 5TB
  • SSD: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB

DATA TRANSFER SPEED Up to: Read 148 MBps / Write 140 MBps

RPM 5,400


POWER SUPPLY USB bus powered

DIMENSIONS (W, D, H) 500GB/1/2TB: 124 mm x 84 mm x 19 mm; 3/4/5TB: 124 mm x 84 mm x 27 mm

WEIGHT 500GB/1/2TB: max. 216 grams approx.; 3/4/5TB: max. 325 grams approx.

APPROVALS FIPS PUB 197 Validated, FCC, CE, RoHS, WEEE, TAA compliant

INTERFACE Super Speed USB 3.1 - up to 5 Gbps; backward compatible with USB 3.0/2.0/1.1

OPERATING SYSTEM COMPATIBILITY MS Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, Chrome, thin clients, zero clients, embedded systems

HARDWARE DATA ENCRYPTION Real-time military grade AES-XTS 256-bit full-disk hardware encryption

WARRANTY 2 years

About the Author

James E. Gaskin's picture

JAMES E. GASKIN is a ChannelPro contributing editor and former reseller based in Dallas.

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