replied to your photo
: Today I replaced four 500 GB drives with four 2 TB…
I need me some RAID one of these days. I’ve been eyeing the Drobo for a while now, do you recommend it? And can it be used with ethernet or only USB or Firewire?
Are you seated comfortably? Do you have a beverage nearby? Is your bladder empty?
If you answered “yes” to all those questions, you may be able to read this entire post.
Summary: Drobo is a mixed blessing. If you understand the limitations and drawbacks, it is a great device. But that is a big If.
Long nerdy answer follows. You were warned.
First, for the “Normals” in our audience:
"What is a Drobo?" — a Drobo is a device for your computer where you put in multiple hard drives (usually 4, but there are larger ones), and the Drobo automatically takes those 4 hard drives, and sets it up so that it becomes one REALLY BIG drive. It also does this in such a way that if one of the drives DIES, you can replace it and not lose any information. The advantage here is obvious. You could not buy a 5TB drive, but if you buy a Drobo + a bunch of 2TB drives, you can have what appears to be a 5TB drive and trust that even if a hard drive dies, your data is safe. You could even take out one of the drives and replace it with a larger drive while it is running. You also don’t need to have exactly the same drives, or same drive sizes, or any of that stuff.
The Drobo sounds perfect. And when nothing goes wrong, it’s pretty damn close to magic.
IF something bad happens and the Drobo does not work, you’re pretty much screwed.
None of the standard hard drive tools work on a Drobo, so you can’t use Disk Utility, or DiskWarrior, or DiskRescue, or any of those other “OSHITHELP” apps.
If your Drobo dies (i.e. the thing you physically put the drives into), you pretty much have to buy another Drobo to get your data back. If you take the drives out of a Drobo, they will be unreadable unless you reformat them (and, obviously, lose any data which had been stored on them).
That means you either:
* use Drobo as a backup drive, or
* you have to backup your Drobo to something else (i.e. don’t have the only copy of anything be on the Drobo).
It’s loud. It has to cool (at least) 4 drives, so it’s not unusual for the fans to run all the time.
It’s slow. Every time you write to the disk, it is actually doing multiple writes.
You only get a portion of the space of your drives.
Did you notice that I have 4x2.0 TB drives, but it only shows that I have 5.42 TB of usable space? Remember how I said that even if a drive dies, the Drobo won’t lose your data? Well, it does that by duplicating information across all of the drives, but obviously it can’t duplicate more data than it could hold if one of the drives died.
(Note: this is especially problematic in the “low end” Drobos like the one I have, which only holds 4 drives… if you bought one of the larger ones which can hold 8 drives, you could put 8x2TB = 16 TB minus one drive would be 14 TB… so you’re still losing 2 TB, but you aren’t losing 25% of the space. However, the Drobo that can hold 8 drives is $1,309.97. There is a 5-bay model which is only $700.)
So if you have 4x2TB drives, it has to be able to deal with the potential for one of those 2TB drives to die at any moment, so it can only hold a maximum of 6 TB… but because of the necessary duplication, it’s actually less than 6 TB. Also, when the Drobo gets to be about 85% full (in my case, that would be 85% of 5.42 TB), it starts to complain about being “low on space”. So you are getting even less space than the 5.42 TB.
"Why am I still reading this? It’s so boring…"
If you are thinking about a Drobo, it’s important to understand the trade-offs.
If you want to rip a bunch of DVDs and have them all available in one place, a Drobo is perfect. The physical DVDs then become “backups” in case anything happens to the Drobo. You don’t risk losing anything you can’t replace (although obviously it will cost you time to re-rip them all, etc).
The same goes for music that you have purchased from iTunes or Amazon or anywhere else you can re-download it, or if you are one of those people who still buys CDs (like me), then the same principle applies: the CD becomes your backup in case anything happens to your Drobo.
It is not a great place to store your iPhoto library unless you also have the pictures backed-up somewhere else.
can it be used with ethernet or only USB or Firewire?
The 5-bay Drobo FS ($600) can do Ethernet. That’s probably the model I would get today if I didn’t already have one. I believe there are other models which can do Ethernet with some sort of hardware add-on, but I’m not sure.
(Of course if you have an AirPort Extreme you can share a Drobo or any other USB drive over the network just by plugging it in to the AirPort.)
I love my Drobo. I would buy one again if I didn’t have one. But there are important details to understand before committing to one.