Tag Archive: drobo

Drobo-fied…part 2

Quick thoughts on my new drobo:

  • While I want to support TWIP and buy with their coupon from drobo directly, it was way cheaper to buy from newegg with yet another rebate.
  • It really is neat how I can just put a drive in there and suddenly I have more storage.  Or I can take one out and everything is okay and I put in a bigger drive.
  • However…with Vista 64 (yeah!  blazing fast!), I can only do Firewire 400 speeds.  And since Windows handles USB 2.0 at about the same speed as Firewire 400 and I have lots of USB cables around (but not any Firewire 800>Firewire 400 ones), here I am puddling along at USB 2.0 speeds.

This last bit is extremely frustrating.  To find this information, you have to really dig around on the drobo site.  I would link to the knowledge base article except that their site is not designed that way – for direct linking.  I had to dig around as it was to find a Firewire 800 card that even worked in Vista 64, but now I find out that it won’t achieve those speeds.

USB 2.0 is so far doing okay as my primary drive connection.  But I feel that I have been misled by Drobo, to be honest.  The quasi-RAID 5/JBOD config is very nice.  

More of a review forthcoming…

I’ve been drobo-fied

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.

Drobo: my next step up in storage?

Having recently upgraded both my main photo editing machine and my storage server, I have begun thinking about taking my entire backup system a step further.  Bear in mind that I do run a photo business, so this is something in which I need to invest, and I should take my options seriously.  

Right now, I have a separate server, still in my home, that has a RAID 5 array of currently 3 1TB drives.  With RAID 5, I get 2TB of usable space, and 1 drive can fail without the entire array going down.  I can add another 1TB and have 3TB of usable space, but I have to copy the entire contents elsewhere, then add the drive, rebuild the array from scratch, and then copy everything back.  Not difficult, and certainly within my technical capabilities, but it has its downsides.  

Now, I am considering a new option:  the Drobo unit from Data Robotics.  Reviews of some of the earlier, USB versions of the box are available from endgadget and from a particular user.  Both are pretty good, and Drobo has since added a firewire 800 interface and an additional device that turns it essentially into a networked storage device, all on its own.  Otherwise, you have to attach it to a computer.

The reasons why I’m considering the Drobo are:

  • I can attach it as one big honkin’ drive to my main editing machine, and keep my entire catalog on there
  • It’s fast enough with FW 800
  • And yes, the fact that it can take drives of different capacities and dynamically rebuild to maximize capacity yet also be fault-tolerant is kind of the best of RAID 5 and JBOD (which just aggregates a bunch of discs into a giant since drive).

The reason I’m hesitant?  Cost.  $550 with a coupon is a lot when I still have to spend money on drives.

Now, I could just pull the drives out of my existing server but the fact is that one thing I don’t have is a good off-site storage option.  Lots of people just carry external drives with them to, say, work, but now that I’m at about 1.3TB I’m getting beyond the capacity of a single external drive.  Or at least really close to the biggest options available, or I gotta carry multiple drives.

Ideally, I’d like to put my current server off-site, and just connect to it remotely.  Then use the Drobo at home.  But who would let me put a file server on their network…?