Product Review – Drobo FS

Starting about a month ago, I started overhauling my office and lab to be able to do what I am anticipating for the website you are reading now and the podcasts that I will be posting in the coming weeks and months. In the process of doing this I also made the change to a MacBook Pro to add to my Mac Mini that is used for my podcast work. I knew that I needed some type of backup system and didnt really want to go to a newer tape backup system with the capacity I would need to cover the collection of computers I have in the lab and office.

After searching for several weeks of searching and reading, I decided to go with the Drobo FS. I could have gone with cheaper options. What I was looking for was a storage system that could be used as a backup to disk system while giving me the ability to treat it like a very large external hard drive. Having network connectivity was an absolute requirement. With the change to the Mac platform that I had made, I needed an option that would support backing up to it that was supported by Time Machine but still be usable by other OS’s. The Drobo FS seemed to fit this to a T.

Having run one of the longest lived BBS’s back in the pre-internet days when I lived in the east and suffered a drive failure, I wanted to make sure that I could have as much protection was would be considered reasonable. This is where the Drobo FS offered an option that I had a hard time finding on the other options I researched. In addition to operating in a RAID-5 configuration where you could sustain a single drive failure, there was also the option of loosing two drivers at the same and still be functional. While to you pay a price (storage wise) in the reduced amount of disk space available to get the additional level of redundancy. Being able to do this with using a set of drives of different sizes in the same cabinet was almost too good to be true. The ability to setup the Drobo FS with the drives I had on hand reduced the startup cost I was looking at to get Drobo FS up and running.

The cost of the product is one thing. The real proof in the pudding is what costs you have or quality of support after the company has your money. I ran into a slight problem where my Mac Mini (running Snow Leopard) wouldnt see the Drobo FS to the point where Time Machine could be configured to use it as a backup source. A email exchange with support soon had me up and running. They sent me the direct link to the latest Drobo Dashboard which was all that I needed to get things to work. While the Drobo FS is a little more expensive than a USB external hard drive, I think you will find the versatility to be well worth it. Several of the drive systems I looked at were drive capacity systems, the Drobo FS as a 5 drive cabinet. Granted it is only one more drive but as my storage needs grow (and they will), it can grow with me a little longer before I have to upgrade to a higher capacity unit (assuming it may be a while before the 3 TB drives are shipping).

If you will be using this in a mission critical situation to where you absolutely cant be down any longer than possible, you will be well served buy the support agreement for the Drobo otherwise as DroboCare. It gives you advance shipping of a replacement unit if yours fails or has problems that cant be resolved without sending the unit in. This also keeps the door open to being able to get Support involved when you need help. I have been very pleased with the Drobo FS in the short time I have had it. As your needs grow beyond what a single external drive can handle, you will find that Drobo FS can grow with you.

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