Have you ever gotten excited by reading a spec sheet?
I have, particularly when I’m in the market for a certain product and the spec sheet ticks all the boxes. Such was the case before I received the latest external hard drive from Apricorn.
Wait, you say, getting turned on by a hard drive? Yes, and it’s not even a full Terabyte...but wait till you see how it is packaged! I’m talking about the Apricorn Aegis BIO Encrypted Biometric 640MB drive.
So what’s so great about this product?
For starters, let’s recognise the problem with UNsecured data. It’s bad enough when it’s your own personal details that gets swiped but if you realise the risks that corporations run when laptops or hard drives get stolen or lost, we’re talking about a whole other dimension of consequences. So how best to secure your data with maximum efficiency and effectiveness? It has to have biometrics login. Fingerprints are the easiest to implement, the most proven technology and now also much more refined with UPEK’s 3D Sensing technology. Case in point: my latest ASUS business notebook comes with a facial login through the webcam. No fingerprint swipe mechanism any more. Good move? NO! The camera does not always recognise me or confuses me with my business partner who also has access to this computer.It would have been faster and more secure with the fingerprint swipe. Good news: the Bio drive can also serve as a secure login for this computer when it is connected to it.
And while we’re on the business of swiping: wouldn’t it be nice if a simple swipe could generate any userid and password for any site you’re re-visiting? Good thinking as the Aegis Bio can indeed remember all you logins very securely. And no datalogger can intercept these details. The PStoken software includes a password bank and the Windows Logon feature. Security is so important with this device that they use a very strong 128bit encryption. So everything gets encrypted on the fly by hardware, not software, right up to the equivalent of Secret level. There are stronger encryption algorithms out there for Top Secret stuff but there’s a penalty in encryption time. There are more details I could mention on both the Biometrics and Encryption aspects but let’s just highlight one more feature that makes this drive not only very secure but rugged: it has a 16 point omni-directional shock mounting system. So an accidental bump, knock or drop should not damage the drive...
Unboxing, Installation and Testing
While the Aegis Bio series from Apricorn has been around for a good while already, the 640MB unit is the latest to be released. We like the small form factor of the 2.5 inch drive with in-built USB cable. No separate power cable is needed. Just in case there’s not enough power supplied from one USB port the extra Y extension cable included allows you to draw power from two ports simultaneously.
The blue colour of the top of the unit fits well in the corporate world where it certainly will find its niche. A simple neoprene sleeve gives added padding whilst travelling.
Installation of the Bio threw up one curly for me: the software to install onto the host system is written for 32bit systems only! A bit of a disappointment as most new Windows installations are for 64bit platforms. This does not mean you can’t use the Bio as you can still activate the drive for finger swiping. First you have a couple of test runs to finetune your swiping technique and then you select which of your digits will be given the honour to say “Open Sesame!” I chose my two index fingers and voila! After formatting I now have an ENCRYPTED drive. You can rename that drive of course but now you’re in business. The green LED also indicates its readiness after it turned from red before the swipe. It’s interesting that your fingerprints are not stored on the device. Instead, specific points of your fingerprint are captured and mapped into a profile. Pretty smart and secure!
Testing the Windows Logon feature could not been done as you need to install the host software first on a 32bit system... Hopefully Apricorn will make a software upgrade available soon for the 64bitters among us.
Are there any concerns with this concept of storing your data on the Aegis Bio? Not that we found out in our testing but any hard drive can fail. So a backup drive or NAS would be a good investment. Apricorn doesn’t mention in the specs what drive make they’ve put in, only the RPM (5400). Not every drive is created equal when it comes to failure rates... To ease your mind Apricorn chucked the SMART-ER utility on the CD as well. This simple program monitors the health of the drives in your system. Sounds good and works well BUT it does not check the health of any attached drives such as the Bio! That’s the one I’m most interested in as the SSD in my notebook seems robust enough. It’s not a superfast drive and that’s OK as long as it is reliable. A couple of minutes to transfer a 2GB file is a bit tedious. On speeds: I’m really looking forward to seeing this product in a USB 3.0 model and perhaps a SSD version as well. I’d be happy to pay a premium price to get this kind of security, ease of use and speed! Oh wait! They already have an SSD model! Stay tuned for some findings on that one...
It just might be the perfect answer for the small concerns I just mentioned!
We seldom award our highest commendation, our Editor’s Choice Award, let alone twice in a row to the same manufacturer! Yet if the Aegis Bio 640MB drive not only ticks all the boxes when just reading the spec sheet but also when testing and using the product, it deserves this accolade well and truly. Even more so because it fulfils a real need enabling everybody to secure their personal and corporate data. When I say everybody I mean exactly that because the Aegis Bio is priced at a value-for-money USD159 for the 640MB. Lower capacities are also available at an equivalent lower price, down to $119 for the smallest one (250GB). Grab one today!
Data Transfer Rate: USB 2.0 - up to 480mbps
Power Supply: 100% Bus Powered
Interface: Hi-Speed USB 2.0
Average seek time: 12 ms
Shock - non operating: 1000G 1ms
Shock - operating: 300G 2ms
Dimensions & Weight: 19mm X 84.5mm X 120mm (0.75” X 3.3” X 4.7”) weight: 5.5oz.
Warranty: 3 year limited
Approvals: FCC & CE
System Requirements: Hardware: Pentium CPU, Apple G3 or later, 128MBs RAM, USB, FireWire,
CD ROM or CD-R/RW drive.
Software: Fingerprint enrollment software is only compatible with Windows OS
Windows 2000, XP, Vista and 7 (32-bit systems only)
NOTE: For use with a MAC system, enroll your fingerprints on a system with a Windows OS. Once your fingerprints are registerd your Aegis Bio will work with your MAC OS.