Should photographers buy Drobos?
Drobos are marketed as an efficient, flexible, easy to use file storage solution. They look good, but looks can be deceiving.
What’s a Drobo?
A Drobo is basically a combination of an external hard drive and a NAS – a network attached storage device. You attach it to your computer/network, and fill it with hard drives. Drobo’s software then fairly seamlessly builds a RAID – a redundant array of inexpensive devices – that you mount in your computer just like a ‘normal’ hard drive.
Drobo software uses this proprietary RAID to ‘protect’ your data by providing a local redundant backup for files stored on the Drobo – every file you save on the Drobo is backed up across the other hard drives in the Drobo, so if one of your hard-drives in the Drobo fails, you don’t lose any data.
- They are easy to set up and adding extra disks/storage space is extremely simple
- They’re designed for non-tecchies
- The are very expensive for what you get – it’s basically an external hard drive with some added bells and whistles
- Extremely slow read/write performance, regardless of how you’re connected
- Customer support was mixed – at one point my Drobo had a complete set of flashing blue lights, but there was nothing on their website to explain what that meant…
- Once you add extra disks it takes a surprisingly long time for the Drobo to adopt them and create backup copies of your files – I’m talking days, not hours. (At one point my drobo said it’d be 5 days before my files were ‘fully protected’.)
I found my Drobo exceptionally frustrating to use and own. When it worked, the value added was limited, and when I wanted to make major changes to my setup (e.g. by adding significantly larger new hard drives) it took days for the Drobo to re-configure itself.
If you wanted to make significant changes, it was quicker to wipe the Drobo and then copy everything across to it – which is counter-intuitive, but which shows what a weak solution a Drobo is.
If you want redundant backup, build your own RAID or use an online backup service – preferably BOTH.
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