Unveiled at CES 2013, the N2 NAS server from IoSafe is the first network-attached storage device that offers data protection against both hard-drive failure and disasters.
The device is a combined effort of Synology, the maker of several award-winning NAS servers on the market, and IoSafe, the storage vendor known for disaster-proof storage products.
That said, the N2 itself is basically a Synology DS213NAS server housed inside a waterproof, fire-proof, super-rugged 30-pound chassis. In my testing, the server indeed offered about the same performance and features as the recently reviewed Synology DS213air (the Wi-Fi-enabled version of the DS213), which was excellent for an entry-level dual-bay server.
While the N2 might be a little overkill for some users, those looking for a robust network storage product that can also keep critical data safe no matter what will find the N2 more than worth its not-so-budget-friendly price tag of about $600 (no hard drive included).
The N2 is a dual-bay storage device, capable of hosting two standard SATA drives of either 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch design. With current 3.5-inch hard drives capping at 4TB capacity, the server is able to offer up to 8TB of storage space in RAID 0 or 4TB of protected storage space in RAID 1. Considering the server is designed to be a storage vault, RAID 1, which guards the data against the event that one of the hard drives fails, is the most suitable way to set up the N2's internal drives.
Note that the N2 also supports Synology Hybrid RAID, which automatically sets up the internal drives with a balance between performance, storage space, and data security, based on how many drives being used. Since the N2 is a dual-bay server, if you choose Hybrid RAID, the setup would be similar to a RAID 1. However, in this case you can later upgrade the internal drive to larger capacities without having to rebuild the RAID from scratch.
First user-serviceable storage vault
The N2 is not the first disaster-proof storage product from IoSafe, but it's the first that allows users to replace the internal drives. This is significant since it's hard to make something user-serviceable while still keeping the internal drive well protected. The N2 is also the first storage device from IoSafe I've seen that offers RAIDs. This means, apart from being able to survive a catastrophe, the N2 can also survive single-drive failure when used in RAID 1 configuration as mentioned above.
The server's front-facing drive bays are covered by layers of protection. The N2 comes with a hex driver designed to undo the two tamper-resistant screws on its front. This will detach the first, heavily reinforced fireproof drive door -- which resembles one you might find on a vault -- revealing another door on the inside. This second door protects the internal drive from water and can be removed using the same hex driver. Finally, the two hard drives are secured to the server with a latch that can also be removed using the same tool. All in all, the entire process of installing or replacing hard drives took me just about 5 minutes, and turned out much easier than I had expected. Note that without a correct hex driver, it's just not possible to do this at all.
A standard, entry-level server in a nonstandard physical form
On the front, the server has one USB 2.0 port, an SD card slot, and a Quick Backup button. Using this button, you can quickly back up an entire portable storage device, such as a thumbdrive, an SD card, or a portable drive, onto the server's internal storage. There are indicator lights that show the status of the internal hard drive, the network connection, and the power state.
On the back the N2 has one Gigabit Ethernet port and two USB 3.0 ports. These USB ports can be used to host more storage or printers, or to back up the server's internal data to an external storage device. This is rather limited; other dual-bay NAS servers have more USB ports and also eSATA ports and even dual Ethernet ports. You can't use the N2 with Synology's expansion to scale up storage space the way you can the DS712+ with a DX510 DiskStation Expansion Unit, either.
Also on the back, the N2 has a larger fan that manages to remain very silent even during heavy operations.
The N2 is very similar to other disaster-proof storage devices from IoSafe, such as the G3 and the Pro Solo, in terms of physical size. It's huge. Measuring 5.9x9.06x11.5 inches, it's the biggest dual-bay server I've seen and it's heavy, too -- around 30 pounds. However, since this is a NAS server, its size and weight don't bother me the way the size and weight of the G3 do. You don't really carry a NAS server around, after all.
Best of both worlds: Over my years of reviewing storage devices, I have found that Synology NAS servers are among the best on the market, thanks to Synology's robust NAS operating system, DiskStation Manager (or DSM). On the other hand, IoSafe is the only company that offers truly disaster-proof storage devices.
The N2 is a combination of both. In fact, as mentioned above, as a NAS server, it's basically the same as the recently reviewed DS213air. For this reason you can expect all that the DS213air has to offer (save for the built-in Wi-Fi) and at the same time rest assured that your data will survive should disaster strike, which the DS213air can't do for you.
Per IoSafe, the N2 comes with enough protection to keep its two internal drives safe from heat of up to 1,550 degrees for up to 30 minutes, and submersion in up to 10 feet of water (including salt water) for up to three days.