I have always heard good things about the Drobo by Data Robotics, Inc. and I finally decided to purchase it to use as my main storage backup device. I previously had a Yellow Machine 1TB Nas Server with four hard drives and a RAID5 setting. One of the hard drives failed however, and the network was not 100% reliable so I decided to abandon it and try the Drobo. I went with the Drobo 2nd gen because I am not a fan of 1st gen products so I spent $150 more. The features of the Drobo include:
- FireWire 800
- Enhanced USB 2.0 performance
- Quieter, cooler operation
- Redundant data protection
- Hot expandable up to 16TB
- Mix and match drive capacities
The best thing about the Drobo to me is the fact that you can mix and match hard drives. It takes SATA hard drives and instead of the standard RAID, it uses a propriety software to automatically store your data among the drives that you have installed. If one drive fails, you simply remove the drive and replace it with a new hard drive of any size. I have used my Drobo for about a month now and I am pretty satisfied with it. I have 2 x 1 TB Western Digital Green Power Drives and 1 x 80 GB hard drive.
Unfortunately, the Drobo uses quite some space for overhead and protection. Out of the 2.08 TB of available hard drive space, I get about 1TB worth of space. Having less than half of the space available versus actual hard drive space is a pretty big sacrifice and is basically along the lines of RAID1. Obviously a RAID5 or 10 would be a lot better. Using a 1TB RAID5 with four hard drives gave me about 750GB of hard drive and is great to only have to give up 1/4 of the available space. The good thing about this versus a RAID1 is that with a RAID1 (mirror) which usually consists of 2 hard drives of the same size, if one drive fails, you have to replace it with the same exact hard drive. You also cannot add more space to the RAID1 configuration. With the Drobo, you can continue to add more space or replace any one of the hard drives at any time if you need more space.
The Drobo Dashboard is pretty easy to use and to configure. Mounting the drive is pretty simple. I did not want to spend the extra $200 for the Drobo Share network attachment. It sort of sucks that they did not build in a network connection which obviously gave them a great reason to sell an addon to make more money. Only being able to connect using FireWire or USB is a little ridiculous and hopefully they will build it into the next version. So in order to share my Drobo among multiple computers, I have to share the mounted drive and it only works if my computer is on. Connecting the Drobo to my Windows computer using USB is fairly reliable but I have noticed a couple things that bug me about it so here are some of the issues that I have with the Drobo.
When the Drobo is connected to the computer, it takes a very long time to boot up the computer. I am running Windows XP on a 2×2.4GHz AMD 4600+ Processor with 4GB of RAM. It is not exactly a slow machine. The way it works is that for every 1TB volume size, it is suppose to take 1 extra minute to boot up. So technically it is only suppose to take 1 extra minute to boot up, but it definitely took longer. It slows down the actual computer BIOS boot up screen and it also slows down the Window startup as well so it affects both the computer BIOS bootup as well as the OS. I also resolved any Legacy USB issues that they suggested, did a XP BIOS update, and the Drobo firmware update. The easy solution to this is to just unplug the USB cable from the computer before you boot up, and it boots up just fine. Once it is fully booted, I plug the USB cable back in, and the computer detects the Drobo and mounts the drive just fine. it does however do an Autoplay almost everytime which gets annoying even after I tried disabling AutoPlay on the mounted drive. The best alternative to this problem would be to get the DroboShare, but spending an extra $200 just for network capability is not worth it to me.
Other issues I have had are that sometimes if I leave my computer on idle or sleep mode and return, the mounted drive gets unmounted and I can’t seem to remount it except to unplug the USB and plug it back in again. Copying and transferring files is pretty good but I do notice that it is slightly slower as opposed to copying between internal hard drives since SATA II is suppose to transfer at 3GB/s and USB 2.0 transfers at 480Mbps.
When the computer is on, the Drobo is on and when the computer is off, the Drobo turns off. I am not sure if this is a good thing or not since normal NAS or storage servers stay on 24/7. Turning the Drobo on and off may make the hard drives more prone to failure but I dont think it makes a significant difference. Overall, I think the Drobo can be a good solution if you need a basic storage device. Depending on your needs, you may be better off with a Storage Server or Media Server if you want something that has more functionality. It is also compatible with different OSes. I am obviously a technical person so it may be a good solution for non technical people or if you just want a basic reliable storage device. I would recommend the Drobo Share to ease some of the issues that i have.