The two things that attracted me most to DroboPro was its ability to take eight drives and BeyondRAID.
I gave up on Software RAID when I lost almost two terabytes of data simply because I updated the firmware on my motherboard. It was enough to make me switch to a dedicated NAS device and I chose a Buffalo iSCSI 4 bay device. Recently a friend of mine was selling his DroboPro and I decided to pick it up- the two things that attracted me most to DroboPro was its ability to take eight drives for a massive capacity of 16TB and my curiosity to try out BeyondRAID.
Drobo’s BeyondRAID technology is more-or-less your standard RAID with hot-swapping and dynamic resizing in an extremely simply interface. You can specify failure against a single or two disks allowing you to protect your data even if two drives fail simultaneously.
Instead of the usual square looking NAS box, DroboPro is a sleek looking device that is somewhat the size of a small desktop PC from HP or Dell. The front cover magnetically attaches to the device and passes through the lights that are on the system that show the status of each drive bay and the used storage capacity. The light under each drive is green if the drive is working fine or red if it isn’t. On the right side, a a gauge of ten blue lights shows the percentage of data used- so if four lights are on as per the picture on top, that means that you’re using about 40% of the available capacity.
Installing the drives is a tool-less procedure. All you do is remove the magnetic front cover, push a lock handle and slide the drive inside. Removing the drive is also as easy as pushing the lock handle and sliding it back out. This should really be the standard for any storage device- screws get lost, bays sometimes bend and the worst is when you have cables that you need to pull and attach to the power and SATA ports of your hard drives. DroboPro does away with all that bullshit.
The back side is where you find all the connectivity options on the DroboPro and you have three methods- USB 2.0, Firewire 800 or iSCSI. I must say that I’m slightly disappointed by the lack of an eSATA interface which seems to be gaining good ground and is a great deal faster than Firewire 800. Granted you have iSCSI, I think an eSATA connection would’ve been a nice addition. Thus I chose iSCSI, however since I only have one Network interface on my computer, I had to manually assign the Drobo Pro an IP address by initially connecting it though USB. Once this was done, I removed the USB and plugged Drobo into my router and I was good to go.
You access the DroboPro though the Drobo Dashboard application that provides you with fairly useful information about your storage device such as the total capacity broken down into whats available and whats reserved for protection as well the occupied storage bays and the capacity of hard drives in them. You can also shutdown the unit from here and create volumes, however, that’s about as much as you can do. The DroboPro is not a NAS device so you cant create users, shares or servers on it. You’ll need your PC or Mac to assign permissions.
The performance of DroboPro is impressive- using iSCSI, I was getting about 80MB/s for both read and write. That is almost double of what I was getting on the Buffalo TeraStation iSCSI that the DroboPro replaced. Something worth mentioning is that when I got the unit, it had firmware version 1.12 installed which certainly caused me quite a few issues related to the loss of Network connectivity over iSCSI. This resulted in a frequent dip in transfer rates. Luckily 1.13 came out just a week later and my connectivity issues have certainly been sorted.
Interestingly, one of my drives failed a couple of weeks after I switched over to DroboPro but considering it was a first-gen 1TB Seagate drive, I won’t blame Drobo. The red light for that drive bay started blinking and the storage capacity gauge went up expectantly leaving less space available on Drobo. Drobo was completely usable until I replaced the failed drive three days later. Once I got the replacement drive I did what Cali Lewis did- removed the bad drive and replaced it without even powering off the DroboPro. The light turned back to green and my capacity came back to what it was before the drive failure. Simplicity at its finest.
Unfortunately, this review does not have a happy ending. A week back, the ISP guys came over to install Fiber Optic cables at my place and accidentally tripped off the power. This caused corruption on three out of my five directories on DroboPro which, even after three days of disk scanning and repairing was irreparable. I’ve had the power to my Buffalo TeraStation cut off a couple times as well but I have never suffered any data corruption. DroboPro on the other hand, struck out in the first attempt. Drobo recommends a few applications on their website but the cheapest of them was $69. Luckily, I didn’t have anything REALLY important on the DroboPro so I didn’t bother buying any of these applications.
I don’t know if this was a random error or something other Drobo owners have frequently experienced. A quick search on Google didn’t reveal many disgruntled buyers so I am willing to give DroboPro another shot. Its fast and its simple. Its not a NAS device that allows you to create users, shares or websites- its simply an external storage unit with some fancy bells and whistles which is really what I need at the moment. It is also a bit pricey at around US$1000 (AED 3,600)