Feed the Drobo

Like most nerds, I need more hard drive space. Right now, I bet you need more drive space too. If you’re reading this blog, odds on you’re a nerd, and nerds can’t get enough drive space.

So over the years, I’ve collected a few USB external drives, two hanging off the back of the media centre Mac Mini, and the third out the Airport Extreme. 1.75TB. Three separate hard drives. Three separate power supplies. And I need more space…

Dammit, I don’t want to buy *another* USB drive and add it to the collection, and I don’t want to have to swap in a bigger drive and spend a few days doing the data shuffle and risk forgetting some really important data. So what’s a nerd to do?

Enter the Drobo.

The Drobo is a big black box, with a smooth black plastic face with a few coloured lights. It has four SATA/eSATA drive bays, and you simply plug and play. Bang in at least two drives, and Drobo automates the formatting/initialising, allowing you to choose your maximum “imaginary” drive size. The larger the drive size you choose, the longer Drobo takes to boot, so it’s bit of a trade off. I chose 8TB, room for four 2TB drives!

If you fear that the Drobo is running low on space, you can drop in another drive at any time, and Drobo will do the rest. If all four bays are full, just take out the smallest drive and slap in a bigger one. While the Drobo is on… and connected… and copying data… WTF!!?

Yes, the Drobo is the closest thing to digital magic I’ve witnessed in my many years as a geek. You can take out a drive at any time, and all your data is still there and accessible. Drobo does this so if a drive dies, or is on it’s way out, you can swap in a new one and you don’t lose anything. The online demo will do it more justice than I can.

The data security is massive plus point for me, as I now have GBs of data I really can’t afford to lose. A full NIN lossless discography, lots of rare Cable demos and unreleased tracks… and err, pics of my first born and stuff.

Performance wise, I’m using it for storage rather than speed-intensive tasks. Having said that, iTunes runs fine and movies stream in Front Row and Boxee without a hitch. I’m using USB2 at the moment, as the Mac Mini doesn’t have a FW800 port. I have a FW400->FW800 lead, but am unsure if there will be a speed bump. While copying from one external USB to the Drobo, I was getting a sustained write speed of 20MB/sec, pretty sure that’s sufficient for most uses.

The drive is pretty quiet too. Though there is a belting big fan at he back, it doesn’t spin up often and the unit is well damped, with solid rubber feet and a good weight to it all.

So the Drobo’s replaced three external drives, and I found myself scoping out new drives and cannabalising USB drives to rip out the innards and feed the Drobo. The Drobo demanded more drive space!

The Drobo is a bit of an outlay, especially when you might have to buy new drives at the same time, but ultimately, I would pay anything to get back some of my data that the Drobo should now keep safe.