Pros Looks slick
Cons Firmware updates destroy data
Summary I just read your Drobo review and wanted to share my experience with Drobo. I don't think you should be endorsing it.
I pre-ordered my Drobo, so consider me an early adopter. At first, I *LOVED* it. Innovative, slick, and a worthy alternative to RAID5, I thought. After applying the first firmware update, the Drobo rebooted and my Mac informed me that the connected disk was unformatted and asked what I wanted to do (Initialize, Ignore, Eject). As you can imagine, I was immediately filled with panic and dread.
Over the past five years or more, I've built a huge (legal) music collection. I'm a music freak and buy between 5 and 10 CDs each month. I had painstakingly ripped each and every one of my 2000+ CDs to the Drobo, both in Apple Lossless format for my home stereo and AAC format for my iPod. I can't even imagine how many hours (hundreds?) I spent doing this. I also took the time to verify all of the metadata (artist, album, etc) and correct any tag errors. As you can imagine, this was VERY TEDIOUS!!!
Recently I've been ripping my DVD collection and converting it to MP4 for my Apple TV. Each rip/conversion takes between 3-4 hours. A hundred DVDs or so and you're looking at another 300 hours of time spent.
So, I called Drobo tech support. They walked me through a procedure that involved removing and re-inserting the drives. At first this didn't work. Then the tech told me to change the position of the drives in the Drobo. Voila! It took about three days to "protect" the data. After this process had finished, my data was back and I was much relieved.
Until the next firmware update.
The most recent update completely hosed my data. This time, tech support's procedure didn't work. It took 12 days to "protect" my data and when all was finished, my data was lost. Throughout this experience, I made efforts to contact tech support. I sent them my Drobo's diagnostic files, as requested. Someone from Drobo sent me the occasional terse email saying "This is a high priority case!" or "Please be patient!" A month later, how patient am I supposed to be???
A few months ago, I contributed a review of Drobo to Macintouch.com. I'm a regular contributor. I praised it and encouraged others to give it a shot. Needless to say, after my recent experience, I wrote to retract my recommendation and explain why. I sent a copy to my Drobo contact's email in the hopes that it might inspire Drobo to actually DO SOMETHING about my problem.
Would you care to hazard a guess as to how Drobo responded?
THEY CLOSED MY CASE (on April 10), despite the fact that:
1) I'm a paying customer.
2) I'm under warranty.
3) I was an early adopter who put my faith in them and their product.
They don't care one iota that I lost 2TB of data that took me years to accumulate and organize. At this point, I've accepted that my data is gone. However, I'm DEEPLY DISAPPOINTED in the utterly pathetic response I've received from customer service.
As you can well imagine, I'm very angry and frustrated. My experience is not unique either. There are others on DroboSpace.com and various forums (I've been searching!) who have all encountered the same problem.
Thanks for listening. I hope my experience has provided another perspective on this troublesome product. More importantly, I hope that it has demonstrated how insincere Drobo is about customer service.
Pros Uses ALL the space on different harddrives from different manufacturers
Cons Is NOT network-attached (similarly priced NAS support networked servers/applications)
Summary I own a Drobo and 2 ReadyNAS NVs (what some would cite as a competitor). Both are great storage solutions that support automatic RAID expansion as drives are inserted. What makes the Drobo unique is its ability to USE ALL of the space on different sized drives: On every home-qualtiy NAS unit that exists today, you can stick in 2x 500GB drives and 2x 1TB drives and get 1.5 TB of RAID protected space. What happens to the remaining 500GB on each 1TB disk?... it's wasted. On the Drobo, this space is still accessible, just NOT RAID protected. This might sound like a loss, but let's say you own a NON-Drobo NAS with drive bays occupied by 500GB disks and you want to increase the storage, to do so you would need to buy FOUR** larger disks, before any RAID expansion occured.
The Drobo's firmware also supports 1TB SATA drives out of the box (and provided the LB Addressing scheme doesn't change I think* it can support even larger drives without firmware update). Currently the competitor's firmware (v3) only allows up to 750GB drives, with 1TB support promised in the next firmware release.
The Drobo's file transfer speeds are also better than the (ahem*) competitors.
A disadvantage of the Drobo is that it is NOT networked and is just a storage unit. The similarly priced ReadyNAS supports a variety of network based applications including FTP, UPnP streaming, auto USB-backup, and includes decent backup software.
Which one you should buy is up to your storage, access, and spending habits.
Pros Looks cool, but so what.
Cons Version 1.0, unresponsive tech support, no recovery options, do you need more?
Summary Our Drobo failed within three days taking all of our data with it. After a frustrating experience with tech support, it was determined that the data was unrecoverable. Use this product at your own risk. Make sure that you back it up. When it failed for us, it failed completely. Fortunately we were able to recover from backups. This device is slow and unreliable. I should have known better not to purchase a version 1.0 product. Use this product at your own risk. If you are a consultant, do not recommend this product to your clients.
Pros The packaging is attractive.
Cons Does not really perform as advertized.
Summary After purchasing a drobo and equiping it with 500 gig drives I was quite impressed. Then, when I purchased a second drobo, and added 750 gig drives to drobo 1, the trouble began. Drobo 1 failed completely, causing a 1.5 terabyte data loss and drobo 2 takes 10 to 15 minutes to boot, during which time the computer is frozen. I'm sorry I switched from raid. I am going back. Additionally tech support in slow answering the phones, and seeming incompetent.
Pros Dead simple, future oriented concept, nice device.
Cons Does not replace a backup strategy, but pretends to.
Summary I only had my Drobo for a little while (< 1 week), so I can not comment on the long-term reliability just yet. I can only say so far so good. My first impressions are perfectly positive. The unit works 100% as advertised, is dead simple to set up, looks nice, comes in great packaging and has overall great perceived value.I have read many opinions about this device in the last week, and initially this made me feel really bad about my purchase. For every positive opinion, there seems to be an equally bad. Here's my opinion on the situation:
The only negative thing I'd have to say about the hardware so far is, that since the drives simply slide in, they tend to vibrate slightly and hum if they're not seated in the 100% correct spot. Turning the unit off and re-seating them took care of that for now. YMMV.
What sold me on the Drobo is the future proof concept. However well you plan your data storage and backup strategy now, three years down the road all bets are off again, since the amount of data you need to store will simply have surpassed the capacity of whatever system you set up now. It's simply the way it works, data grows and grows. So you'll end up buying another disk/setting up another RAID/copying your data back and forth again. This is where Drobo exceeds, with it's ability to keep expanding by simply buying disks with the best GB/$ value when you need them. There may be a few other systems who offer the same advantage, but not at a consumer price point like the Drobo.
What you must not forget though is this:
With JBODs (Just a Bunch Of Drives) you data is gone if the drive fails. Drobo can protect you from exactly that, drive failures. Any RAID protects you from that and only that. It introduces a new problem though: It does not protect you from a failing Drobo itself (no RAID does). If you're lucky you can pop your disks into another Drobo/RAID unit and it will be able to read the data again. If you're unlucky, the unit will have eaten your data while failing.
This is inherent with ANY data storage: You entrust your data to a system (hard disk or RAID or tape or offsite storage or anything else), if the system fails, your data may or may not be gone. Drobo protects you from drive failures, which is a lot better than what JBODs do, but that's it.
If you are paranoid about your data, do not stop there. Get a second, different system to backup your data to. I use a cheap old, slow Buffalo external RAID enclosure stored in a closed that I run backups of my most critical data to on a regular schedule (standard Windows backup tool works fine here). If a hard disk inside the Drobo fails, Drobo will protect me from it. If the Drobo fails, I still have the backup. If my backup fails, I can replace it and copy the data from the Drobo again. If both systems fail at the same time... Well, that's unlikely enough that I don't bother thinking about it, but you may want to.
Keep in mind that this is a relatively new product. It's promise is great and I believe the concept of ever expandable storage is the way to go. But one single system is inherently untrustworthy, new systems on the market even more so. So far I love my Drobo and I'd heartily recommend it. It did make me doubly paranoid about data backup though, and in the end it is not an end-all-be-all solution, whatever their marketing is trying to tell.
If expandable storage + drive failure protection + simplicity + good design is worth the price for you, go for it.
Updated on Mar 15, 2009
- There's some serious FUD being spread about this device by people either out to slander or simply really uninformed and/or ignorant users*. Ignore.
*) Quite a number don't even *use* a Drobo.
- There's some half-valid criticism like complaints about transfer speed or lack of Ethernet port. To me the speed seems about average for an external drive, the feature set may or may not fit your needs. Consider before buying.
- There're a certain number of people who've had genuinely bad experiences (occasional outages, data loss). A lot of these can be seen as normal growing pains every new product goes through. By now the Drobo is in generation 2 and the firmware at 1.3.0 and seems stable enough.
Which leaves only a small, very vocal number of people with failed units.
Updated on Mar 15, 2009Looking around for genuinely failed units, with complete, unrecoverable data loss, doesn't actually turn up too many results. There's a few handful out there, and I really feel bad for those guys.
What one needs to consider is that people become very vocal when they lose all their data. You can be pretty sure that close to 100% of all failed Drobos have been reported on the internet. Especially since Data Robotics' marketing department is going all out with Drobo hype, people will go all out with negative feedback as well.
Simply content and happy users on the other hand won't report how happy they are all the time. If you figure this all in, it seems the Drobo is about on par with other products in terms of failed units. At least as of Gen2 and going forward.
One should be as suspicious of the Drobo as of any other product (ALWAYS have a backup, see above), but so far it seems to be holding up to Data Robotics' claims pretty well.
Not a single hickup for me so far. Knock on wood.
Updated on Mar 23, 2009One comment about noise:
The Drobo's noise level is mainly determined by the drives you put in it. It does dampen the drive sounds a bit, but not much. I have two older drives in there that I used before in another enclosure, and they were and remain pretty audible. A third brand new drive is almost completely quite.
The fan of the Drobo spins up sometimes and does so in stages, it is pretty quiet overall.
Especially since the Drobo sometimes starts to rattle away by itself, you'll really want to make sure you put the quietest drives you can get in there, or have it somewhere were noise doesn't matter.
Updated on Mar 23, 2009A thought on cost vs. convenience:
As written above, I am backing the Drobo up onto a secondary RAID 0 system. Right now I have 2x750GB (old) and 3x1TB drives (new, ~$80 each) in use across these two systems, which gives me 1.5TB of doubly protected storage (1.5TB in the Drobo, 2TB for backups).
By the time I run out of space, 2TB drives should have become very affordable. Buying two of those and swapping disks around would give me a configuration with 2.75TB of storage and 4TB for backups. Close to a doubling of storage space, for about $150(?), and almost no work (put new drives in backup system, let a complete backup finish, slide old backup drives into Drobo).
For the next round I'll look at two 4TB drives, giving me 5TB of storage, again nearly doubled, with virtually no work at all.
The initial cost for the setup wasn't cheap, but the fact that it's expandable without having to copy data back and forth and still having everything in two places at all times is worth it IMHO.