LaCie 500GB Portable Hard Drive Secures Data with Style

Review: LaCie's shockproof Rugged Safe data storage drive with built-in 128-bit AES encryption and easy-to-use fingerprint reader connects to your PC or Mac via USB 2.0 or FireWire.

Every road warrior needs rugged and encrypted storage. Intellectual property, client lists and contracts could fall into the wrong hands if stored on a removable device that gets lost. It goes without saying that every corporate data asset in the field today should be encrypted at the very least. Earlier in 2010 I reviewed rugged and encrypted USB flash memory from BlockMaster, Lexar and IronKey. I was impressed by the products' ruggedness, performance and security, but what if I want to store and transport hundreds of gigabytes of data rather than several?

LaCie stepped up to fill the gap in my life with the recent Rugged Safe 500GB portable hard drive. This MIL-STD 810F Shock Proof 128-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) hardware-encrypted hard drive with USB 2.0 and FireWire 800 connections resembles a metal box wrapped in soft silicone with a fingerprint reader in a perfectly ergonomic groove on top. Designed by Neil Poulton of "Ageing Pens" fame, the only thing that gives it away as a hard drive is the presence of USB, power and two FireWire ports on the back (oh, and that it says LaCie on the bottom).

This is a secure, able and good-looking portable hard drive with very easy-to-use biometric authentication and strong encryption. It's not a centrally managed, enterprise-level device; for example, this would be an entirely manual provisioning process. There's no remote destruct feature or way to apply security policies other than through the included software. The included Genie Backup software does a good-enough job if you're backing up a single workstation.

As far as ruggedness goes, this is almost certainly rugged enough to survive the typical crashes and bounces that it would encounter in the briefcase of a corporate road warrior, but I have my doubts about how it would survive the all-out assault to which I subjected the flash memory. To be more specific, dropping it off the desk is no problem, throwing it down a flight of stairs could be and throwing it off the roof would probably destroy it.

Pricing for the unit is $189.99 for the 500GB model and $299.99 for the 1TB version.