Imation has announced another version of the evergreen IronKey FIPS 140-2 level 3 flash drive that now packs USB 3.0 into a design that is, amazingly, more or less the same product launched in far off 2008.

Few tech products survive unchanged for so long, least of all USB sticks selling to a picky enterprise market that is supposed to be abandoning physical storage in favour of the secure cloud. But something about the IronKey design still appeals to its buyers.

IK S1000 laying

The USB 3.0 upgrade boosts read speeds to a claimed 400Mbytes/s and writes to 300Mbytes/s while the maximum storage is now 128GB, up from 64GB on the USB 2.0 line which will, to be clear, remain on sale.

There are two versions, the cheaper IronKey Basic S1000 and a centrally-managed IronKey Enterprise S1000. Cheaper perhaps but not exactly cheap – the 4GB Basic version starts at $139 (£90) while the top-of-the-range 128GB stick is advertised at $849.

The firm does make cheaper consumer-oriented drives too with the 8GB IronKey D80 selling for under $50.

Behind the long, thin toughened steel exterior, the IronKey S1000 comes with the sort of security - XTS-AES 256-bit encryption, tamper-proofing and security accreditations - that go a long way to explaining why it remains so popular.

But this is still a big metal stick, one of the biggest USB sticks out there, a relic of past design ideas surely.

“You don’t change the shape of the wheel. We consider it the best on the market,” said Imation’s EMEA vice president, Nick Banks, taking a swipe at the idea that physical drives are obsolete.

The firm’s customers like the form factor and the fact it is a physical drive with a lifetime warranty and not a remote cloud service.

“Many enterprise and government-focussed customers still do not want to get involved with the cloud. We still have countries that don’t want to put their data into what they perceive as an American cloud. They still trust an encrypted portable drive.”

IronKeys are all digitally-signed at firmware level which gave them an extra layer of security against attacks such as the reported to have been used by US intelligence against hard drives, he added.

On-premises management of the Enterprise S1000 using the IronKey Enterprise Management Server will be available during the second quarter of 2015. 

IronKey started out as a startup partly funded by the Feds before it sold out to Imation in 2012 as prices started to plunge. Imation's cleverest move has been not to tinker too much with the successful formula. Is this the world's best but most expensive enterprise USB stick?