Drobo to the Rescue

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Though hardware is replaceable, the same can't always be said for the data on a hard drive. That's why a robust data storage system attached to your network can make the difference between disaster and recovery. Whether you run a small business or want to protect your family's digital  memories, the Drobo series of hard-drive arrays from Data Robotics goes a long way to giving you peace of mind.

A Drobo is essentially a foot-stool size cabinet that houses multiple hard drives each removable. Drobo spreads data across the drive array, so that if a single drive fails, the data is mirrored elsewhere. Unlike traditional RAID systems, Drobo allows you to add or replace drives as your storage needs increase without having to reformat or migrate data to another device. There are now several different Drobo units to choose from depending on your storage needs.

Drobo FS

The newest model is the Drobo FS, a 5-drive bay enclosure designed specifically for the purpose of file sharing. The all-in-one Drobo FS is a perfect centerpiece for the connected home, home office, or small office environment requiring a simple, safe device for sharing and backing up files over a local area network (LAN)..

Data on the Drobo FS is accessible from any Windows, Mac, or Linux computer on your network. The FS connects directly to your LAN at up to Gigabit Ethernet speed. You can insert up to 5 drives (see the open cabinet, right), making capacity expansion quick and easy. Occupied by 2-terrabyte drives, the Drobo FS holds up to 10TB of data. The BeyondRAID technology manages the system and provides protection from up to two simultaneous hard drive failures. The FS is configurable and customizable with DroboApps.

Drobo S

The Drobo S boasts 5 drive bays, and adds eSATA to its port selection, which also includes USB 2.0 and FireWire 800. It can be configured to sustain either one or two individual drive failures and, like the FS, features self-healing technology to help prolong hard drive life. With 5 drive bays, the model affords instant capacity expansion to at least 10TB. The Drobo S  is compatible with  Windows-, Mac-, and  Linux-based computers.

DroboElite

The top-end Drobo system, the DroboElite, is an 8-bay enclosure with dual iSCSI connections for use in SAN environments. It supports single-drive or dual-drive redundancy, and can be used in VMware virtual server environments. Perfect for Enterprise-level environments, the DroboElite can be installed in an equipment rack via an optional kit. The array is currently available through Data Robotics’ 30 Day Risk Free Eval program. Purchase a DroboElite and you’ll be able to use it for up to 30-days, risk free. If you don’t like it, it can be returned for a full refund. Features include:

  • Multi-host connectivity with LUN affinity
  • Up to 8 disks of instant expansion to 16TB and beyond
  • Dual high-speed iSCSI interfaces
  • Support for up to 255 Smart Volumes

Like the original Drobo and DroboPro, all Drobo models embed Data Robotics' BeyondRAID technology for data protection you can count on.

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I have had a four-bay Drobo for two years, now configured with four one-TB drives. It was simple to set up, is extremely easy to use (with free back-up software from Microsoft) and lives up to all of its promises. I was alerted to it by This Week in Photography (TWIP), a weekly podcast. I could not recommend the Drobo (or, for that matter, TWIP) more highly.

 I just got the Drobo S installed two weeks ago in fact - already really happy with it!

now i can put my externals in the drawer!

I just finished the setup for my Drobo S two minutes ago. It was very easy and I look forward to no longer seeing warnings that my hard drive is full!

When I was looking for external storage for HD video, I very seriously considered Drobo. Automatic redundancy is a very valuable feature. But from internet research, I concluded that Drobo was probably too slow to provide acceptable performance for ProRes files in Final Cut. The least expensive model, which cost about half as much per drive as the newer models, had a particularly bad reputation for slow access.

I ended up getting several MacAlly firewire drives, and I manually ensure that all my original files are saved on more than one drive. The big prores files can always be regenerated if necessary.

I am sure that any Drobo would be just fine for system backup and for big Photoshop files. But has anyone had good results with it for video?

Al_from_Ottawa wrote:

When I was looking for external storage for HD video, I very seriously considered Drobo. Automatic redundancy is a very valuable feature. But from internet research, I concluded that Drobo was probably too slow to provide acceptable performance for ProRes files in Final Cut. The least expensive model, which cost about half as much per drive as the newer models, had a particularly bad reputation for slow access.

I ended up getting several MacAlly firewire drives, and I manually ensure that all my original files are saved on more than one drive. The big prores files can always be regenerated if necessary.

I am sure that any Drobo would be just fine for system backup and for big Photoshop files. But has anyone had good results with it for video?

Al,

Your research serves you well -- the figures I have from Data Robotics on the FW-800/USB 2.0 Drobo show it topping out at 40MB/sec via FireWire-800. I don't have benchmarks for the eSATA version, but I wouldn't expect to see a dramatic increase over FW800.

If you ever get tired of manually managing your scratch and backup files, you might want to consider a LaCie 4big Quadra RAID drive -- a coworker has one that he uses for editing on a MacBook Pro -- I know he's worked with footage from the HVX-200, Red, as well as digitized 16mm film -- set it up as RAID 5 and you can sustain a disk failure without data loss.

On their web site, LaCie shows a screenshot of a Blackmagic Disk Speed Test of the drive --  223.9MB/sec read, 181.7MB/sec write sustained via eSATA -- that's probably RAID 0. According to their web specs, RAID 0 is up to 230MB/sec burst, while RAID 5 is 220MB/sec burst.

In short, it should be able to handle a stream of ProRes over eSATA -- definitely more up to the task than the Drobo is. It's cost-competitive with Drobo S -- the LaCie is $799 for a 4TB, the Drobo S $690 without any drives (at the moment -- prices subject to change, yadda yadda yadda). Plus it looks cool, with the giant, blue HAL 9000 eye.

Now let's wait til they release the USB 3 version... cheers

 Question:  Is the Drobo a stripped RAID format?   In any case, how can the FS or S hold "up to 10 TBs of data"?  I thought the point to all this was redundancy?

Re: Actual Data storage capacity.  I looked up the capacity checker and found what I expected; namely that 8TBs yield around 7.4TBs of useable space.  But that has to be due to how bits are calculated on HDDs and not about the actual data that can be stored on Drobos after taking redundancy into consideration.  I don't need a scientific explanation about "beyond RAID" but I do need to know this.

My current RAID setup is 4 TBs set to RAID 1 and yields only 2 TBs of data storage space with 2 TBs used as a mirrored backup of that data.  "Beyond RAID" has to be something very special to escape this basic fact of life.  I really like the idea of having a DROBO but I need to know how many photos my 8TBs are going to store not including the back up so that I can see for myself how much of an advantage DROBO actually is over standard RAID configurations.

 OK, I'll answer my own question:  assuming you have multiple drives, you subtract the biggest one and add the others so that if you have 1  1TB drive, a 750, a 500 and a 250, the non redundant space that you have is 1.5 TBs.  Not bad.  But I've been reading some really bad reviews about data loss and formatting speeds that are quite disturbing.  If one compensates for the fact that people like to whine and rant more than they like to study, much of the negative reviews are hogwash.  But there are too many that remain like the one about data loss due to firmware updates.  One reader retorted that, of course, if you do a firmware update, you back up your data.  Huh?

Would someone who REALLY knows what they're talking about reply please? I'm close to just buying a La Cie Big Quadra.

I have a 4-bay Drobo