Drobo vs. Synology/others

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by MacDann, Sep 11, 2010.

  1. macrumors 6502a


    I will be shopping for an ethernet-based NAS for my new house in a few months. While I have some knowledge of the Drobo, I was wondering how a Drobo compared to a Synology or comparable brand NAS.

    I am looking to use this primarily for Time Machine backups and iTunes storage.

    Opinions/suggestions would be appreciated.

  2. macrumors regular

    Mar 13, 2009
    I'm in the same boat. The two I have it narrowed down to are the QNAP TS-219P and the Synology DS210+ for a medium home use server and backup.

    I had considered products from LaCie (personal experience drove me away from them) and Netgear. But the i/o rates and customer reviews for both QNAP and Synology were very positive.
  3. thread starter macrumors 6502a


    I/O isn't going to be a big deal for me - I was wondering more about the Drobo due to the redundancy and apps. I haven't had a chance to look at the Netgear, but I have the Synology. LaCie is not an option, as I had a lot of problems with them in an enterprise environment, and would not consider them for anything based on my personal experience.


  4. macrumors member

    Nov 8, 2005
    I have two 4-bay FW800 drobos - one with 4x1.5TB for my iTunes storage (4GB usable) and one with 1x2TB and 2x1TB (2TB usable) for time machine backup (connected to an Airport Extreme base station)

    Both have been flawless in operation. I like that everything is managed internally, there is absolutely no drama when replacing a dead drive or upgrading (i.e. eject the drive at any time, replace, it rebuilds on its own. The drobo software will email you alerts of a failed drive, low free space (i.e. replace the smallest drive with a larger one) etc. Note that the drobo monitoring software will not work on the one i have connected directly to the router for time machine - however the status lights on the front tell you how much space is being used so this isn't a problem.

    There are a few things that you should be wary of though..

    My drobo doesn't handle simultaneous read/write very well. For example when adding large files like movies to the itunes library, playback may stall briefly. This may have been fixed in their later models. Also, if multiple computers are backing up to the Time Machine drobo at the same time it takes forever for them to finish. I use FW800 on the itunes drobo and USB2.0 on the TM drobo (so that may account for the slow response on the TM drobo) The slowness may not be an issue in the new 5 and 8 bay drobos.

    If you are in a very quiet room and the 4 spinning drives harmonics get out of balance (or rather in sync) you can get a buzzing noise from the vibration. This may be more due to the crap seagate drives than anything, but reading the drobo forums its a common problem. If you can place it off the desk or on something soft (i use a thin sheet of foam) its not as noticeable.

    All that being said, at the time I bought them they were the best option for me. I know there are other enclosures on the market now and some may be better or worse. Also, the new drobos are apparently much faster and have built in NAS support.

    I would say that given the goal as a backup drive for iTunes and TM, you won't be disappointed. However, it isn't fast enough (at least the FW800 model) to be used as an everyday drive for video editing etc.
  5. thread starter macrumors 6502a


    This is great information re: drobos.

    In my case it will be the ethernet model (FS) and it will be located in a secure climate controlled storage area, so noise should not be an issue. Whether or not I go Drobo or another brand, it will be a four drive box. I would rather have potential for future expansion than get stuck with too small of a box. Storage is cheap, so I can always buy more/larger drives.

    I no longer do any video editing, so throughput of that sort isn't a big deal for me, nor is it necessary. As for TM, there are only two desktops (iMacs) that will use it, and they are on at varying times depending on the users.

    I have a gigabit ethernet network, so bandwidth isn't an issue, either.


  6. macrumors 68020

    May 27, 2008
    I just recently purchased a droboFS, and 3 of the WD20EARS drives that they sell (although not from them as they are cheaper else where).

    all of my computers have gig-e-net

    when copying to the drive, i was averaging about 9 MB/s. this would drop considerably when i was trying to do 2 things at once.

    read from a new mac mini using jumbo frames is around 20 MB/s although the speed bounces around a lot.

    on the apps, they are not very user friendly. Drobo's official position is that they are community built, so they don't support them. without a decent knowledge of the linux command line, most of them are unusable. There also isn't much documentation on them at all.

    still as far as raids go, with self healing, the ability to mix and match drives, and grow or shrink the RAID, it's hard to find others that will do the same thing out of the box.
  7. thread starter macrumors 6502a


    I don't really care about the apps, as I have very limited needs as far as what I want to do with it. I did look over the apps they showed on their site, and saw much of what you described. Not a deal breaker.

    The self healing/mix & match/grow & shrink functions are the things that appealed to me regarding the Drobo. I see it as more of an appliance than just a box with a RAID controller and some drives, which is what I liked about it over the others.

  8. macrumors newbie

    Sep 10, 2010
    Well I am going to suggest you look at Thecus. They do the time machine backups and are full network. I am on my second right now as I ran out of space on the first.
  9. macrumors 6502

    Jul 22, 2009
    NJ, USA
    Thanks for all that great info, I'm in a similar situation as the OP so that was very helpful. If anyone could chime in with other comparable set ups and stories that would be great too.
  10. macrumors 68030


    Dec 18, 2007
    NY State of mind
    I second the Thecus....I've had a 2100 for years now with no problems sharing between Mac and PC.
  11. macrumors newbie

    Sep 16, 2010
  12. macrumors 68030


    Sep 15, 2006
    New York City, NY
    I also have two 4 bay FW800 Drobos. They are connected to a Mac mini and I regularly access the Drobos from my Mac Pro via File Sharing. Write speeds I've seen are usually around 16-20MB/s. Read speeds are around 23-24MB/s. These figures are for large files (think 1GB+). Figures will probably be lower when moving lots of small files. Not great but, for my needs, acceptable. Write speeds drop when the Drobos are getting full. Every single one of the drives in both Drobos have been upgraded since purchasing them and I've never lost any data on them. The larger the drive you are upgrading to, the longer the rebuilding process takes. If I recall correctly, upgrading a 1.5TB drive to a 2TB drive took close to 2 days for the rebuild to complete.

    I don't have any personal experience with any of the other models that Drobo offers but, from what I've read, the newer models include faster CPUs and more memory which should help performance.

    I also have an 8 drive unRAID NAS array. I've seen write speeds of approx 30MB/s and read speeds of around 64-70MB/s (again, these figures are when moving large files). I recently upgraded one of its 1TB drives to a 2TB drive and it took approx 18 hours to finish the rebuild.

    When I purchased my Drobos, I was unaware of other products that allowed for the mixing and matching of drives with the ability to dynamically upgrade any of the drives. Plus, at about $320, the Drobos seemed reasonably priced for the peace of mind that the redundancy would offer me. Overall, I've been very happy with them.

    When I found out about unRAID and realized that it offered the same abilities to mix and match drives and dynamically upgrade any of the drives like the Drobos, I was intrigued. Since it involves building and configuring the NAS yourself, it can be as cheap or as expensive as you decide to make it. I started off with a 4 bay Intel SS4200 NAS that I got for $135 and later added an external 4 bay eSATA enclosure for $110 to upgrade the array from 4 drives to 8 drives. So, my 8 drive array actually cost less than either of my Drobos! But, again, it involves rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands a little dirty to get it all up and running.

    When upgrading drives, it involves clicking a few buttons on the web-based GUI whereas nothing needs to be done on the Drobos other than swapping out the drives. Also, currently, AFP is not built-in and needs to be added-on manually by the users. Lime-Technology is working on having AFP built-in and I'm expecting a beta any day now.
  13. thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Talked to a Drobo (factory) person today and got a lot of questions answered. Also got a promo code worth $100 off. I am placing my order for an FS tonight.

    I'll buy the drives myself and save a few bucks in the process.

  14. thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Bought 4 - Seagate 1.0TB Barracudas in OWC's garage sale today - $59.00/each. The Drobo shipped last night. Should have everything up and running by the middle of the week.

    Thanks to everyone who offered their experience with these devices.

  15. Moderator emeritus


    Jul 19, 2002
    The Drobo seems like a good solution.

    The main concern I have, as I understand, is if your Drobo device fails, you must get another Drobo to read the hard drives. You cannot read them directly via other devices/methods.

    Is this correct?
  16. thread starter macrumors 6502a


    I believe so, especially if you have the dual drive redundancy enabled.

    That being said, I have worked with a number of RAID arrays where you could not "swap in" drives from another device unless they had the same controller, so I don't see this as being an issue.

    For that matter, anyone who relies solely on a single backup point (if you're using this for backups) is courting trouble as it is, no matter what the device. Stuff breaks, drives fail, etc.

    Good point, however.

  17. macrumors 68030


    Sep 15, 2006
    New York City, NY
    Yes, if your Drobo fails, you will need to get another Drobo to attempt a recovery.
  18. macrumors 6502

    Jul 22, 2009
    NJ, USA
    Would you guys suggest getting the extra warranty on the drobo?
  19. macrumors 6502

    Oct 7, 2005
    I was really unimpressed with the Drobo FS we got at work recently.

    The lack of Active directory support we could live with, as it was meant to be an interim solutions, as a project needed more storage than our FileServer could offer at the time.

    But the thing is so slow it's untrue, with six macs and six PCs connected to the same subnet (gigabit router) as the Drobo FS the performance is awful, and this is one mac and one PC per user, so no more than six users at the same time.

    For the finder to load a directory with just a few hundred audio files it can take a couple of minutes, and I couldn't believe how long it took to move an active project with under 200GB from our fileserver to the Drobo, it took over one day.

    Also it doesn't like VPN, so now our Fileserver has been upgraded it's being used solely as a backup device for the macs, as for anything else it's not that good.

    I would imagine for home use it'll be fine, for anything more I reckon there must be better solutions.
  20. macrumors 68020


    May 26, 2006
    New York, Baby!
    I wouldn't have a drobo doing it's own fileserving in any corporate environment.

    It would be a lot better to have it in it's own network connected just to the server (or just using eSATA if possible).

    You'd see better performance and also the Active Directory permissions would be better preserved, as it could just be an iSCSI resource connected to your server.
  21. thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Not at their price, unless you want the convenience of it being swapped out in the event of a failure. For $79.00 you can get a three year warranty from SquareTrade, if you're looking for an extended warranty. ST has a 5 day service guarantee, too, so if you can live with that it's a far better deal. Also, if ST decides it's not worth repairing, they just give you the $$ - you won't get your money back from Drobo.

    At $219.00 for a three year extended warranty, I'm not too keen on this. When you're looking at over 1/3 the initial cost for a warranty, there's a lot of profit going in someone's pocket, and it's not mine. I look at extended warranties as a crap shoot between me and the manufacturer. Sure, things do break, but if it's someone with a good reputation who builds a quality product, I'm betting with them.

    Just my $0.02

  22. macrumors 6502

    Jul 22, 2009
    NJ, USA
    Thanks, also if I hook a drobo up to an airport extreme or time capsule, multiple computers will be able to access it wirelessly, right?
  23. thread starter macrumors 6502a


    It will show up on your network like any other shared drive. At least the FS will, as it uses an ethernet connection to connect to the network.

    Understand that there are different models of Drobos that use a wide range of interfaces. The FS is configured as an NAS, where others use interfaces such as FireWire and USB, among others.

    This was the attraction for me, as I was using a single external USB drive on my AE, and was experiencing a lot of issues with dropped connections during the transfer of large files. The AE would completely disappear off the network and I would have to do a hard boot to get it to reappear. With the drive disconnected it worked flawlessly.

    And I needed/wanted a lot more storage space, too....

  24. macrumors newbie

    Oct 17, 2009
    Reston, VA
    I would not recommend a Drobo (2nd gen). I have had nothing but problems since buying one this April, and then another to address issues caused by the first one.

    The problem is that the Drobo randomly unmounts, and this has the potential to cause huge data corruption issues. There are many agonizing wails on the web from other Drobo owners stewing in a similar soup. Support on this issue -- to the extent that you can quickly and easily recover your data -- is almost non-existent, and Drobo has not released any firmware that stops this from happening.

    To be fair, the newer models seems to be getting more updates, and perhaps they are better, but I am now moving to a more robust solution (pro RAID NAS solutions from Netgear or Qnap). Aside from the reliability factor, the speed boost alone can be worth the price of admission. Yes, they are expensive -- but the cost pales in comparison to the effort required to try and recover 4 to 8 TB of data.

    In the end, everything is easily replaceable as long as you have the funds. But data loss in a increasing paperless world can be harrowing experience.

    Oh yes, in case you do use a Drobo, then avoid the Seagate LP drives (the WD Green drives are much more reliable in these devices).

    Hope that helps,
  25. macrumors 68030


    Sep 15, 2006
    New York City, NY
    I've been using two 2nd Gen Drobos for over a year and they have never unmounted on their own. Both run 24/7 and are connected via FireWire.

    I agree, they are not fast.

    I have four Seagate LP drives in one Drobo and two in my other. Never experienced any problems with them. I also have two WD Green drives in the second Drobo. Over the years, I've had much better luck with Seagates than WDs. Of course, ymmv...

Share This Page