Auburn's ioSafe aims for invulnerable data storage

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Auburn's ioSafe aims for invulnerable data storage

By Mark Glover
Published: Sunday, Mar. 21, 2010 - 12:00 am | Page 1D =

 Robb Moore, CEO of Auburn-based ioSafe Inc., certainly has a flair
for the dramatic.

To demonstrate the quality of his company's "disaster-proof," toaster-
size external hard drive enclosure, Moore recently traveled to Las
Vegas, where the British Broadcasting Corp. filmed him putting a torch
to it, submerging it in water, dropping it from more than 20 feet and
finally crushing it under the treads of a massive excavator.

On the video, Moore digs through a pile of dust and removes the
central hard drive protected by steel and armor plating and plugs
it into a computer.

Presto, the photos he previously loaded are still crisp and clear.

For Moore, this is a no-brainer presentation to prospective clients:
"The choice is, if you're buying an external hard drive, do you want
the pretty red one or one that's super-safe?"

Just five years after Moore founded ioSafe, more than 10,000 clients
worldwide have opted for what he calls "an aircraft black box for your
digital data."

The company employs 17 people to manufacture its product in a facility
adjacent to Auburn Municipal Airport.

Moore, 42, declined to reveal the annual sales of his privately held
company. He said about 60 percent of his clients are businesses
mostly small- and medium-size and about 40 percent are individual
computer owners.

He said all have a common need: preservation of data they don't want
to lose.

For individuals, that typically means digital photographs and videos
of children and other family members, video of precious memories and
holiday gatherings or family histories saved for future generations.

For companies, the can't-lose-it data might be proprietary
information, credit card transactions, medical records, financial
statements, surveillance video or extensive employee files.

Leakproof coverings

Moore said ioSafe is a byproduct of his own background.

Born in Ohio, Moore moved numerous times before landing in Live Oak.
He earned his mechanical engineering degree at the University of
California, Santa Barbara, and quickly applied his skills to making a

He developed parts for America's aerospace program. In 1996, he formed
Kollabra Consulting Inc., an online product development and
engineering firm. Kollabra, which still operates out of Auburn and
offices in Southern California, serves multiple industries, from
optical to aerospace to toys.

Moore is Kollabra's CEO, but he said most of his attention for the
past five years has been focused on ioSafe.

"I needed an ioSafe," he said. "There really wasn't anything out there
to protect data from disaster. The old idea was to put (a hard drive)
inside a safe and shut the door. But when you shut the door, you end
up with an oven."

Moore went to work on building a better system, employing leakproof
hard drive coverings, air-flow channels, super-strong materials and
high-water-content insulating materials that vent steam away from a
drive in a fire.

The basic ioSafe Solo external hard drive is the company's most
popular product. Starting at $150, it's billed to protect data in
fires up to 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. It can be
submerged in up to 10 feet of fresh or salt water for three days
without data loss.

Solo drives can hold from 500 gigabytes to 2 terabytes of data (a
terabyte equals 1 trillion bytes). ioSafe internal hard drives start
at $200, and product offerings range up to network-attached storage
servers starting at nearly $13,000.

Skeptics might ask: Why buy an ioSafe hard drive when you can just
back up your data online?

Moore replied that, for starters, many people who intend to back up
their data never do it. Also, there are time and capacity challenges.

"Online backup is a great way to protect data as long as you only have
20 or 30 gigabytes of data," he said. "If you need to protect
terabytes of data or protect an entire computer and the operating
system, online backup strategies start to break down.

"It can take up to 10 months to upload a terabyte of data. Getting
your data back quickly is also an issue if you have a complete
disaster. It's faster to have FedEx ship a hard drive back from across
the country than it would be to try and download a terabyte.

"Transferring a terabyte from an external hard drive can be done
within hours, not weeks or months."

A household use

To date, most sales of ioSafe products have been processed through
online outlets that include, and

By the end of this year or early next year, Moore said he hopes to
make it onto the shelves of big-box retailers.

Moore envisions a not-too-distant day when a typical household will
demand storage for 12 terabytes of data, everything from photos to
video to music files.

"That one video they made of the kids might be 30 gigabytes," he said.

Moore predicts businesses and organizations also will have a growing
appetite for storage. Potential growth areas for ioSafe include
medical records, banks, surveillance businesses, digital video
recorder manufacturers, credit card companies, security companies and

Jerome Wendt, a national technology expert and president of Austin,
Texas-based Data Center Infrastructure Group, called ioSafe external
hard drives "a revolutionary concept Before I talked to Robb, I
never really considered this approach to data protection. I know
that's really a challenge with external hard drives, the whole idea
(that) he's come up with of putting it in a lockbox."

Wendt said the ioSafe demonstrations are impressive, but "the big
burden of proof going forward will be how well they hold up in a real
major disaster."

Mike Smith of Severna Park, Md., doesn't need to wait; he said the
ioSafe external hard drive he bought last year proved its worth when
his home burned down Feb. 19.

"We had family pictures, including some we scanned of my mom and dad,"
Smith said. "It's the sort of thing that if you think about, if you
lose it, it really hurts."

Smith said he was walking through the post-fire mess of his home "when
I remembered (the hard drive) was under my desk. I dug down through
all the debris, and there it was. It was scorched, all right I
shipped it back to (ioSafe), and they recovered everything, our
pictures and tax records, everything."

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