Drobo update – 5 years in!

Wow,

I’ve just checked my records.  I bought my Drobo 5 years ago, already.  Since then, I’ve probably had, on average, 1 drive failure per year.  That’s pretty scary to think about.  If I hadn’t been using the Drobo (and some of my backup routines), I would have lost a huge amount of data.

My Drobo is the original model, USB 2.0, 4-bay machine.  Over the time I’ve used it, the device cost me about $70 for the initial purchase, but I’m not going to figure out how much additional cost, including power, though.   Not bad.  It would cost about the same, however, to use a more modern online backup system

Surfing around the net, I found that some users haven’t had a good experience with the Drobos.  Indeed, my experience has not been perfect.  First, there seemed to be a promise that I could use much larger drives in my Drobo than in reality.  I’m not sure if that promise came from Data Robitics (makers of Drobo) or other reviewers.  But, in reality, it maxed out at 5.42 TB.  It’s a bit small for my needs these days.  My system at the moment is 88% full and I hesitate to add much more.   So, I’ve been going back to individual drives for my main storage (I forgot how terrible that can be).  Indeed, I had a hard drive failure that didn’t occur in my Drobo (fortunately, it was backed up).  Still, it feels incredibly risky not to have my primary storage on the Drobo.

The second problem with my Drobo (remember, it’s the original) is that it’s very slow.  Much of the data I’ve placed on the machine has become unwieldily to use.  iPhoto, for instance, is now painful to use when the library is on the Drobo (well, it’s also on a remote computer so that’s not entirely fair).  Rebuilding after a drive replacement or failure can easily take a week or two (during all that time the system is not protected – again, scary).

There have been a mess of other small problems as well.  For example, sometimes when my computer reboots, the drobo is not recognized and the only thing I can do is pull the plug (no off switch!).  The worst situation like that I had was when the computer rebooted while the drobo was rebuilding – I didn’t have any access to my files for a week or two.  Scary!

So, my experience was not perfect, but it saved me enough that I decided to buy a new Drobo.  In fact, it’s a Drobo 5N.  Unlike the previous model, this one is ethernet, rather than USB, 5 bays, rather than 4, and it can use much larger hard drives (at least 4 TB).  Importantly, I can use the extra drive bay in two ways – additional storage OR a second drive for protection (should a drive fail, the system will still be protected).  Right now, I’m not using that feature (I need the drives current tied up in the old drobo), but I plan to do so ASAP.   The only problem with that solution is that I’ll be back down to the 5.42 TB I already have in the old drobo.

Given the nature of the two Drobo systems (one being USB and the other Ethernet), I’ll have to rethink some of my workflows.  Right now, I need to test for the ethernet model to preserve file metadata, such as creation dates and tags before some of the workflows are moved.

I haven’t as of yet tested the speed of the 5N.  There are a couple of reasons it doesn’t make sense at the moment.  First, my mSATA drive has not yet arrived.  This drive is a flash drive that will speed the performance of the 5N.  Furthermore, I’m currently working  to transfer data from the old drobo to the new, which will be slow no matter what.  So, no point.

What will happen to the original Drobo?  I’m planning to repurpose it.  It will become a local storage device for one system and will likely contain much smaller drives, at least for a while.

Sadly, I’m expecting my transition from the original Drobo to the 5N to be quite slow.  I suspect at least a couple weeks, although I’m expecting it to be fully useable within a few days.

I’m hoping for another good 5 years with the 5N