"Great so far, do think twice though"4.0 starson by sneeka2
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.