I’ve been using my Drobo for a couple of years now, but not for anything “industrial strength.” I’ve had it connected to my desktop as a storage location for music, video, and archiving old website data that I no longer need. But mostly, I just enjoyed looking at the cool black case and watching the lights blink. And even though I have the 2nd gen version with FireWire 800 capability, I only had it connected via USB, which was fine for what I was doing.
After setting up a new Windows 2008 R2 server as a domain controller for the house, however, I decided to use the Drobo for something much more suited to its talents: the primary file repository for everyone on the network. Now that it’s up and running in that role, I figured it was a good time to share my personal review.
Moving the Drobo to the server makes sense. It really was being underutilized as a workstation hard drive. My old server had a 200GB RAID-1 array which I used to store user directory and network shares, but I figured I’d take advantage of the server upgrade to also upgrade the storage space available to everyone in the family. I have three one-terabyte drives in my Drobo, with an empty slot still available for more expansion later. Since everyones data in the house only takes up a few hundred gigs right now, 3 terabytes should be enough for a while.
The Drobo was easy to set up – just plug in a USB or FireWire cable (I switched over to the FireWire 800 on the new server and saw much faster transfer rates). It runs quietly and reliably, and the lights just look cool. Of course, I realize that function should always come before form in the geek’s world, but when the function is rock solid, it’s OK to drool over the shiny finish and memorizing lights and magnetic cover (yes, I know, magnets near a hard drive… but so far, no problems).
So what’s the coolest thing to do with a Drobo? Well, I like to sneak up on it and suddenly pop out one of the drives! In the middle of a write operation!!!!!! It’s a totally weird feeling to do it, but the Drobo doesn’t even hiccup. It just changes the colors of one of its lights to red (akin to rolling its eyes), keeps working, and patiently waits for you to stop giggling and pop the drive back in. The lights change again (orange this time), and the rebuild process starts – which is surprisingly quick. When everything’s copasectic, they all turn green again. I never get bored of the light show.
I’ve still got one open slot in my Drobo, but I’m not coming anywhere near my 3TB limit, and by the time I do I’m hoping that 4TB drives are available, since my Drobo will support up to four of them. Not all 16TB will be available for data, of course, since the Drobo uses some of the space for redundancy. But that will still be a pretty impressive array for a home user, and plenty of space… at least for a while.
So if you want to be the coolest geek on YOUR block, get yourself a Drobo. They have lots more options than when I bought mine a few years ago, including DroboShare (an NAS addon), an eight-drive Pro version, and lots of other cool stuff.
Now please excuse me while I go sneak up on my Drobo.