Archive for the ‘Personal Tech’ Category

USB Drive Wrap-Up: The IronKey Rocks for Security

Monday, April 21st, 2008

Back in November I named Lexar’s 4GB JumpDrive Lightning a Scot’s Newsletter Blog Top Product! and I’ve been using it ever since. To give you a sense of how valuable a tool this is for me, I spent a day recently believing I had lost it (the biggest problem with USB memory devices), and just the thought made me feel clammy.

In the same article (scroll down to find it), I also presented the results of my performance testing of four USB devices, including the 4GB IronKey Secure Flash Drive. In my tests, the IronKey was not very fast. In a March 2008 secure USB drive comparison review in Computerworld, the same model IronKey (although, about six months newer than the evaluation unit that I tested), turned in excellent performance.

The Computerworld review tested a much slower Lexar device than the one I’ve recommended. It didn’t compare the JumpDrive Lightning, which has decent software-encryption security. Instead it compared the results of Lexar’s JumpDrive Secure II, a model I rejected because it was much slower and I didn’t believe the security it added was critical to my needs. As the Computerworld article states, “The Lexar JumpDrive Secure II offers three ways to protect data, but two of its methods [are] so awkward that the reviewer found them to be being more trouble than they were worth.”


Lexar’s 4GB JumpDrive Lightning USB Drive Excels | Top Product!

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

After six weeks of everyday usage, I’m decidedly impressed with Lexar’s JumpDrive Lightning USB drive. Back in October I mentioned that I was in the process of evaluating the JumpDrive Lightning among others. But this one really stands out from the pack. It’s fast and rugged, and its software-encrypted vault is easy to use and accessible from both Mac and Windows. It offers better security than the Corsair’s Flash Padlock product I reviewed earlier, and it was literally more than 11 times faster than the Flash Padlock in my real-world tests. I like the idea of hardware-based security, but the Lightning’s ease of use and incredible speed leave the Flash Padlock in the dust.

Shame on both me and Lexar, though, because I looked at the Lightning’s product pages for multi-platform security support before I tested and selected Corsair’s Flash Padlock. In fact, I looked at all the major USB drive products for the ability to support Windows, Mac, and Linux, and also provide security across all three platforms. Very few offer that flexibility (in fact, the Flash Padlock is the only one I’m aware of that does all three OSes).

Initially, I crossed the Lexar off the list because its JumpDrive Lightning product page lists only Windows XP and Vista support; nowhere does it say it supports the Mac. It wasn’t until I went back to Lexar a second time that I learned that the Lightning does support the Mac (though not Linux). I had to resort to contacting the company’s live chat tech support to get that information. I never did receive a response to my inquiry through Lexar’s public relations. Mind you, I’m not beating myself up too much about this, since Lexar’s support area doesn’t list any downloadable software for the JumpDrive Lightning. The software is apparently available only on the USB stick itself, or behind closed doors somewhere on the Lexar website, once you’ve registered your purchased product. It’s almost like Lexar is intentionally hiding the Mac support.

That is, though, the sum total of my criticism about the Lexar JumpDrive Lightning. The product is ideal for my purpose: casual but effective security for a user-selectable portion of the disk, fast performance, and enough GBs you won’t be pressed all the time for storage space. At about $75 including delivery, this drive costs a bit more than some others, but it makes up for that with its smart design (including built-in keychain loop), the ability to store its cap on the other end when its in use (so you don’t lose the cap), and incredible performance.

The JumpDrive Lightning’s superior performance is noticeable in everyday operation compared with some of its competition. To quantify the difference, I set up a collection of 13,500 files displacing 1GB. I timed the process of copying that set of files from my testbed Windows XP PC to each of four USB drives in turn: the Lexar 4GB JumpDrive Lightning, the Corsair 2GB Flash Padlock, the IronKey 4GB Secure Flash Drive, and the Kingston 4GB Data Traveler Secure. The Lexar and Kingston devices were speedy, while the Corsair and IronKey USB drives were markedly slower:

Product 1GB Data-Transfer Time (mins:secs)
Lexar 4GB JumpDrive Lightning   5:38
Kingston 4GB Data Traveler Secure   6:07
IronKey 4GB Secure Flash Drive 46:08
Corsair 2GB Flash Padlock 58:46

You’ll be hearing more about the IronKey from me in the near future. This product may not be that fast, but it’s an incredibly cool device with serious security. It’s the best USB drive I’ve seen for security-conscious enterprises. So don’t cross that one off your list. Currently, though, it supports only Windows XP and Vista, so it’s not ideal for me.

The Kingston product is interesting because it’s nearly as fast as the Lexar product and has similar security. Like most USB devices, Windows, Mac, and Linux can mount them. But the Kingston device offers encryption security software only for Windows. So you won’t be able to access the encrypted space from Mac or Linux.

With it’s multiplatform security support, it’s fast data-transfer rates, and smart design, the Lexar 4GB JumpDrive Lightning is ideal for my needs. It’s clearly a Scot’s Newsletter Top Product! And it’s knocking the Corsair Flash Padlock off that perch.

Corsair Flash Padlock Redux, Lexar, and IronKey

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

Earlier this month I wrote a review of Corsair’s 2GB Flash Padlock USB stick. The USB drive is unique to my knowledge in that it has push-buttons that create a padlock, so the casual data protection it offers comes with a very fast and convenient way to lock and unlock the drive. In fact, it locks automatically whenever it is removed from your computer.

I still like the thinking behind the Flash Padlock, but there are a couple of issues with it. Thanks to SNB (Scot’s Newsletter Blog) reader Jonathan March for writing with his concerns about it, which prompted me to go back to Corsair for more answers.


Review: Corsair 2GB Flash Padlock USB Stick

Monday, September 10th, 2007

Editor’s Note: In a later review of Lexar’s JumpDrive Lightning USB stick, I updated my USB stick recommendation in favor of that product. I also ran into some issues with the Corsair Flash Padlock that caused me to rethink it entirely. From a pure hardware-security standpoint, I now recommend the IronKey Secure Flash Drive.

I’ve been searching for a USB stick with large storage that I can use as my everyday portable storage. I require this device to have security protection. USB sticks are too easy to lose, and I might have sensitive personal or corporate data on it from time to time. I don’t want to worry about prying eyes should the darn thing fall out of my pocket.

For the past few years I’ve been using a highly portable 5GB Seagate USB 2.0 Pocket Hard Drive, which contains a 1-inch mini-drive.

It works with Macs and PCs, but unfortunately the built-in security is software-based, and it requires Windows to run. While almost every USB storage device works on the Mac, most of them are using Windows-based software — not hardware — to encrypt or lock up your data.


IPhone Lust? Get over It

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

Hey, if I were you, I’d buy it. But I’m me, and I have to get over it. I’ve bought one too many things of late. Worse, I was a total iPhone Luddite. What, no 3G? Gawd, who wants that! Besides, it looks huge on in the TV ads. Plus, $60 to $100 a month, for AT&T’s network? I … don’t … think … so.

And then my buddy Ken Mingis placed the one he bought — after pledging with me that he would not buy one, I might add — in my hand. The universe tilted. I entered an altered state of being. And my mouth dropped open. I had to have one. Had to!

So 3G or not, I’d probably be buying one. If I could. But my wife, Cyndy, would probably make me sleep out back in the shed (along with the mystery mammal that’s living beneath it). And she’d have cause. Apple’s iPhone is darn expensive when you consider the two-year contract. And as you’ll see, I haven’t exactly been frugal lately.