Can they keep you safe without being a pain in your butt?
Back in early January, before CES slammed my face into a wall of tablets, I dropped by the annual Storage Visions convention and met with a rep from Imation. The company was there to show off its new line of encrypted, "Wikileaks-proof" flash drives and hard drives. The Defender series is primarily aimed at enterprise and government clients.
But Uncle Sam and Apple Inc. aren't the only ones concerned with their privacy. Data holds power, and more and more normal people every day have "data" they want to hold onto without necessarily disseminating it to YouTube. Simply trusting that your "home movies" and banking documents are safe because you hid the CD or the flash drive or password protected the folder is about as naive as trusting the law of surface tension to stop your car from hydroplaning.
At some point, we all want real data security. Since Imation was good enough to send over two biometric drives, I decided to see if their products fit the bill.
The F200 may be the sturdiest flash drive I've ever encountered. It has a tough outer case of aluminum that has no give at all. The drive itself is constructed from rugged plastic. The F200 comes with a screw-together metal "lanyard" that allows it to attach easily to anything from a keychain and a necklace.
The H200 is about the size of a GPS unit. It has a tough aluminum frame with big plastic bumpers on each end and a connection cable that, curiously, has a data USB connector and a power-only USB connector. Apparently, this drive has a tendency to pull more power than some single USB slots will support.
The Biometric Reader:
Plugging in either drive gives you the same application prompt. You'll be asked to register one (or more) fingers. Each finger takes about a dozen swipes to register, as the reader has to compile a complete picture of the print.
Once set up, the reader generally works well. OS X devices will not auto-launch the scanning app, and a number of Windows machines I tried had issues as well. Multiple removals and plugins were occasionally necessary to start the application. I took the F200 to school with me and tried it on a variety of older machines- it always worked, but not always right away.
The F200 generally worked well once the reader app launched, but the H200 has had two weird spasms of pique since I started using it. Both times, it would refuse to recognize my fingerprint until a few dozen failed passes. It is possible the issue lies with me, but it seems far too infrequent to be a result of my poor finger-form.
Managing Your Security: Both of these drives come with a wide variety of administrator options. You can set a max number of swipe attempts before the drive locks up and requires a password. Or you can require dual biometric and password entry for truly valuable data. Imation also allows you (the administrator) to set different permission levels for each user.
Pros (F200): Small, tough outer shell, good security and not too much of a hassle.
Cons: Pricey for a flash drive. With the outer shell off, the F200 switches from "impervious" to "another plastic flash drive".
Pros (H200): Wide variety of storage options, compact form-factor, secure and tough enough to survive most drops, falls and other Acts of Clumsiness.
Cons: Expensive. The sensor seems to act a little wonky at times, which means more time before you can access your data.
Both these Defender drives have the 256-bit encryption, password protection and biometric functionality to keep your data safe. Neither of them is cheap though, and you'll pay a price in time for the added safety. For 99% of you, the F200 is an ideal secure storage solution. It is small, not wildly expensive and capable of storing enough (16 GB or 32 GB) data to keep all of your non-1080p exploits well hidden.