A little while ago, I wrote a short article on the drobo, from Digital Robotics (as compared to all those analog ones floating around), and how I was debating switching my “redundant mass storage” options.
The short story is that so far, I’ve had a server on a local gigabit network where I have a RAID 5 array (which uses 4 drives and gives me the storage equivalent of 3 of them, and any 1 of them can die and I’m okay. All drives have to be the same). Anytime I want to upgrade I have to replace all 4 of them, which is a pain. At the least, I have a lot of drives I don’t need right away (I mean, I can use an extra drive now and then but 4 all at once?).
A Drobo unit has a few advantages. First, it gives the best of JBOD (just a bunch of discs, which appears as one big disc) with RAID 5 (some form of redundancy where one drive can fail and it’s okay). Second, it connects directly to our computer (though there is a network interface unit that is available separately) so I don’t have to push over a network.
The problem was cost – it was $500 new, then I could get a $50 rebate. But for $450, with the parts I have from previous computers I’ve built, I could basically spent about $450 and have 4 hard drives, whereas I would be buying the Drobo, 4 hard drives, and a Firewire 800 card for my computer. All told about $800-900.
Eventually, though, I decided the benefits were worth it. First, I can just slap drives in there as I want. Yes, I decided to buy new 1TB drives, but I “only” bought three and over time as they become full, when the new…1.5, 2, or even 3TB drives become available I can stick one of those in there and I have a whole lot more storage. I don’t have to buy all 3TB drives and then have all these extra drives lying around. Second, even though most reports indicate that firewire 800 cards on Vista 64 bit only run at about Firewire 400 speeds, that’s still pretty fast, and fast enough for me. Afterall, people do full video editing with Firewire 400 external hard drives.
Also, it’s one less computer under my desk, and I can take my server and actually put it in someone else’s apartment and it becomes my remote backup. I could do this with a new local machine, too, but each time I run out of storage on the array I’d have to buy _2_ sets of new drives. Overtime it makes sense.
FWIW, I’m already at 1.7TB of storage for just my photos. I am well into “big storage” range.