A Drum Roll for the New Drobos, Please

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Drobo may sound like a faithful canine companion, but it is so much more. It can fetch data, sit and look pretty, and remain faithful to you while it protects your interests. 

Drobo 5D

Let’s talk about why you need a Drobo in your life. The Drobo 5D is more than just a hard-drive enclosure. It’s solid, it’s dependable—and it solidly does the job for which it’s made. Besides just offering room for up to five 3.5" SATA I/II/III drives (sold separately) and one mSATA solid state drive, it now comes equipped with two Thunderbolt ports. And you need that.

Why? You don’t want to suffer through endless minutes (or even hours) when you’re on deadline, waiting for files to transfer. Because you don’t want to obsequiously tell a client, “Our system is slow, you’ll have to give me a minute.” In today’s high tech, high-speed world, that minute could land you a deal, or land you in the street.

Drobo now combines speed and storage capabilities into one simple solution. And you need that, too.

We’ve talked about Thunderbolt here before—it’s 25 times faster than USB 2.0, and the real-world applications are more than just hypothetical.

Imagine a client presentation in your office, as you wait for a 200GB file to upload that has your critical data in it. You’ll be delayed for ten minutes or more, while your client keeps looking at his/her watch. The same crucial information on a Thunderbolt attached drive uploads in—20 seconds. Your client will barely have time to sit down.

Or, imagine you’re a videographer with multiple drives containing hundreds of hours of video, scattered around your work area. Combine all six of those drives into this enclosure, and save yourself the time and anxiety of searching for data.

Here’s a worst-case scenario: you are working on deadline, while your system huffs and puffs and threatens to blow your small business down. You’re wishing you had some kind of backup for the five drives sitting on your desk. Suddenly a drive goes out. You see it wink green, then red. Data lost, dreams crushed. Perhaps that Drobo you buy the next day should have been purchased yesterday?

PC users, fret not. The Drobo 5D also sports USB 3.0 connections, which run 10 times above the transfer rates for USB 2.0, allowing PC users to utilize the power of the Drobo 5D right out of the box.

The Mini’s No Mouse

How about all of that Drobo power in an itty-bitty form factor? The sporty and compact Drobo Mini has all the power of the Drobo 5D, but the unit is no bigger than 7 x 1 x 7", about the size of an external DVD drive. Made of a cutting edge metallic carbon fiber with a soft touch rubberized finish, the unit feels like it’s ready to hit the trenches right from the get-go. And because it uses the 2.5" drives primarily found in laptop computers, the unit is made to be moved, from the studio to the worksite to the client’s office. 

Conceivably, if you’re a designer or artist who can contain all of your work in the 4 x 2.5" SATA I/II/III drives (there’s also an mSata bay for one solid-state drive), then you could take your office with you wherever you go. You won’t be limited by location or encumbered by technology—this portable HD enclosure is a perfect portable solution for your data, and it’s protected by the same data backups and technology of its bigger cousin.

Treats for your Terabytes

The Drobo 5D and Drobo Mini offer specific treats for your terabytes, too.

  • Data-Aware Tiering The Drobo 5D and Drobo Mini are loaded with Drobo’s proprietary Data-Aware Tiering technology, which uses the high-performance flash in SSDs to accelerate performance of the storage array, allowing applications such as Adobe Premiere and Apple Aperture fast access to data.  If you want a total, all-out speed storage solution, you could load all the bays with solid-state drives. Minimal seek time, no drive spinning—pure zoom. You can usually find this kind of technology in high-end business solutions, but Drobo offers this in its Drobo 5D and Drobo Mini.
  • BeyondRAID technology Sounds like sci-fi, but it’s a cool feature that performs single- or dual-drive redundancy, meaning that it will create mirrors of one drive so that you’ll always have a backup.  Paired with the ability to hot-swap drives, this conceivably allows you to formulate a game plan on the fly in the case of a drive failure or power outage.
  • Daisy-chain up to six Thun­derbolt devices and/or a non-Thunderbolt moni­tor at the end of the chain. With six Drobo 5D arrays in a chain, you can have up to 96TB of usable capacity. And, the bi-directional 10 Gbps performance of Thunderbolt allows all devices in the chain to achieve maximum throughput. Included are the Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 cables so Mac and PC users can get started immediately.
  • Battery Backup The Drobo 5D also includes a battery backup for all data in memory or cache—anything on its way to the drives, in other words. The Drobo Mini includes a battery backup for data as well—when power is spontaneously interrupted, the battery keeps the Drobo alive long enough for the data to be written to non-volatile storage. The battery recharges itself and is designed to last for the life of the product.

The Drobo 5D and the Drobo Mini are great solutions for storing your data. They protect, transfer and organize critical components of your office information and they do it with style and portability in mind. And you need that.

  Drobo Mini Drobo 5D
Drives and Capacity Up to four (4) 2.5” SATA I / II / III hard disk drives or solid state drives that are between 7mm and 9mm in height (sold separately) and one (1) mSATA solid state drive in the Drobo Accelerator Bay for increased performance
Drives of any manufacturer, capacity, spindle speed and/or cache
No carriers or tools required
Expandable by adding drives or hot-swapping drives with larger ones
Up to five (5) 3.5” SATA I / II / III hard disk drives or solid state drives (sold separately) and one (1) mSATA solid state drive in the Drobo Accelerator Bay for increased performance
Drives of any manufacturer, capacity, spindle speed, and/or cache
No carriers or tools required
Expandable by adding drives or hot-swapping drives with larger ones
Connectivity  2 x Thunderbolt ports; second port for daisy chaining Thunderbolt devices (Mac OS X only) 1 x USB 3.0 port (Thunderbolt and USB cables included) 2 x Thunderbolt ports; second port for daisy chaining Thunderbolt devices (Mac OS X only) 1 x USB 3.0 port (Thunderbolt and USB cables included)
Operating System Support Mac OS X 10.7.x Lion
Mac OS X 10.8.x Mountain Lion
Windows 7 SP1 32 and 64 bit
Windows 8 32 and 64 bit
Mac OS X 10.7.x Lion
Mac OS X 10.8.x Mountain Lion
Windows 7 SP1 32 and 64 bit
Windows 8 32 and 64 bit
File System Options Mac OS X: HFS+, Windows: NTFS Mac OS X: HFS+, Windows: NTFS
Management Drive bay indicator lights, capacity gauge, status lights, Drobo Dashboard version 2.3 or later Drive bay indicator lights, capacity gauge, status lights, Drobo Dashboard version 2.3 or later
BeyondRAID Features Thin Provisioning
Instant Expansion
Mixed Drive Size Utilization
Automatic Protection Levels
Dual Disk Redundancy
Virtual Hot Spare
Data Aware
Drive Re-ordering
Thin Provisioning
Instant Expansion
Mixed Drive Size Utilization
Automatic Protection Levels
Dual Disk Redundancy
Virtual Hot Spare
Data Aware
Drive Re-ordering
Additional Software Features Data-Aware Tiering, Drive Spin Down, Dim Lights Data-Aware Tiering, Drive Spin Down, Dim Lights
Hardware Features Carrier-less Drive Bays, Power Fail Protection, Kensington Lock Port for Security (lock not included) Carrier-less Drive Bays, Power Fail Protection, Kensington Lock Port for Security (lock not included)
Size & Weight Desktop Form Factor
Width: 7.3 in (187.2mm)
Height: 1.8 in (44.6mm)
Depth: 7.1 in (180.0mm)
Weight: 2.2 lb (without hard drives, power supply or packaging)
Desktop Form Factor
Width: 5.9 in (150.3mm)
Height: 7.3 in (185.4mm)
Depth: 10.3 in (262.3mm)
Weight: 8.5 lb (without hard drives, power supply, or packaging)
Box Contents Drobo Mini
1 m (3.3 ft) Thunderbolt cable
1 m (3.3 ft) USB 3.0 cable
1 m (3.3 ft) power cord with power supply, Quick Start Card
Drobo 5D
2 m (6.6 ft) Thunderbolt cable
2 m (6.6 ft) USB 3.0 cable
1.8 m (6 ft) power cord with power supply, Quick Start Card
Power and Cooling External Power Supply:
AC Input – 100-240VAC~2A,
50-60 Hz
DC Output – 12V, 4.16A, 50W max
Dual, fixed, variable speed cooling fans
External Power Supply:
AC Input – 100-240VAC~2A,
50-60 Hz
DC Output – 12V, 4.16A, 50W max
Single, fixed, variable speed cooling fans

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These features are all very nice, no doubt.

However, the one feature that matters more than all others combined, especially in such a device as this, is reliability. What assurance does the purchaser have that this thing will work as specified, year-in and year-out?

Storage equipment has a very distasteful reputation for failure, particularly the lower-priced alternatives.

One crucial point that no one mentions, not Drobo, not B & H, is that the Drobo 5D will not work via Thunderbolt on Windows, because Drobo have not written a driver for it, and there is no date in sight when it might be available -- it is not promised in the future.

I was very interested in the 5D until I learned that from their tech support.