Review: The ioSafe N2

Note: ioSafe provided me this unit for review, which included two hard drives.

My Drobo is on its last legs. I loved it, but it’s become frustrating to use (it’s a first-generation model, so it’s not exactly its fault). So I needed to look into a new storage solution that would sport some (or all) of the following:

  1. RAID-type storage so that all of my important data is protected very well.
  2. Allow me to connect with as many of the devices in my house as possible, including peripherals.
  3. Work for Time Machine backups.
  4. Be able to expand in capacity should the need arise.

The ioSafe N2 has all of those…and more.

One of the best features of the ioSafe N2 is the additional protection it offers due to its casing. Its sealed case blocks water up to 10 feet deep, its insulation shields against high temperatures, and its steel shell prevents external damage.

Now that may seem to be more than what I’d need. But having the N2 in my workflow means that I no longer need to bring my external hard drive over to a neighbour’s when my family and I leave town. If a fire was to occur, it’s safe. It weighs a lot, meaning that it’s not exactly going to be at the top of any thief’s list. And all of that protection means I’m more than willing to take the time to put all of my most important stuff on it.

Setting up the N2 was a pretty painless process, and considering I’m not very familiar with setting up networks that is saying something. (Note: It was suggested to me that if this is your first experience with a NAS, use the EZ-Internet wizard to configure remote access — it’s much easier than manually setting up port forwarding, DDNS, etc. That suggestion was spot-on.)

I connected the N2 directly to my router, and using Synology’s Disk Station Manager I was able to connect my MacBook Air and my family’s old MacBook Pro up to the N2. The first thing I did was enable Time Machine backups for both computers, and the documentation to make that happen is easy to follow. I plan on setting up my N2 as a media server as well, but since we just got an LG Smart TV and still need to iron out the rest of my digital media I haven’t done that yet.1

The thing I like best about the N2 is a feature that isn’t really listed as a feature at all. As with many of the apps (OmniFocus, Asana) and services (Evernote) that I use, the ioSafe N2 is very scaleable. It may not be as simple to set up as a Drobo, but I’m thinking that networking is to me what productivity apps are to others: I’m not all that proficient at it, so it seems more complicated to me than, say, productivity apps. The N2 can support up to 8 TB, which is more than I’ll ever need based on my usage. I started out using it for Time Machine backups, and have since gone on to use it for my stored iTunes and iPhoto libraries as I’ve become more comfortable with my level of networking knowledge and skill. Next up (after figuring out my digital media setup) is to migrate the data from my Drobo to it and reallocate the space on my other 1 TB external drive as well. But i’ve got time to do that; the N2 has bought me that time…and more.

The “cloud” isn’t something I’m about abandon altogether either. A lot of what I use has Dropbox and iCloud integration, and I plan on taking advantage of that. But with the N2 as a viable “private cloud” option, I can decide what to protect and where to protect it far easier. The N2 is compatible with the Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android operating systems, which means it scales for me across multiple platforms in a way that my old solution (the Drobo) simply couldn’t.

The N2 might be overkill for some, but at the price of approximately $699 — without any hard drives included — the kind of protection it offers is well worth it, especially considering how much it scales over time and usage.

ioSafe makes some great products, and the N2 is one storage solution that provides me with scaleability and security in spades. That means I can focus on making great stuff and knowing that is stored safe and sound.

(Update: The ioSafe N2 is now known as the ioSafe 214 NAS RAID as it now uses Synology’s DiskStation DS214. While the changes made aren’t extreme when compared to the N2, you can learn more about the ioSafe 214 NAS RAID at the ioSafe website.)

1 I’ll be writing more abut the N2 as I dive deeper into the world of storage solutions and networking. After all, anything that can help make me more effective and efficient is worth exploring, right?