Drobo nas - thoughts/comments/alternatives?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by jamesraward, Jan 20, 2010.

  1. jamesraward macrumors regular


    May 18, 2009
    We're networking a house with a central repository for music and films (we're shelving all the DVDs and bulk ripping them - not sure how yet) so need a lot of space - I have about 2000 CDs and 600 DVDs.

    Until about 2 hours ago I was going to get a Drobo http://www.drobo.com/ but have been told some bad things about it from someone who's owned one. On paper it seems brilliant, any size disks, spanned storage, upgradable; but I've been told it loses files, fails regularly and sounds like a Tractor.

    Any thoughts?

    I need a big storage centre that ISN'T a pc so that it can run 24/7 at 15W as opposed to the computer running at 150W.
  2. misterredman macrumors 6502a


    Oct 3, 2007
  3. prostuff1 macrumors 65816


    Jul 29, 2005
    Don't step into the kawoosh...
    Can I ask why you need it to run at 15W? I have actually done the calculations the the difference in price over a years time between the two is not all that grate (usually coming to less then $100)

    Now with that said there are a few other things you are going to have to keep in mind and I want to ask you some questions so I can get a better idea of how you plan on storing the data.

    1. Do you want to store the DVD at there full quaility (either in Video_TS folder format or as an ISO file)?

    2. For the CD what quality do you want to rip them at?

    3. How much storage do you think you are going to need?

    4. Does it need to be easily expandable?

    5. Does it need to be a true NAS (Network attached storage) device? or can it just be a really big external attached to a computer?

    6. Would you be willing to build your own server from parts?

    And maybe most important:

    7. How much do you want to spend/are willing to spend?

    If you can answer those I might be able to help you a little more. With that being said I will point you to what I use and like. I use a server OS called unRAID that runs from a flash drive. It offers most of the same benefits as the drobo but has the added value of being much more expandable. There is the unRAID forum and unRAID wiki that should answer some questions should you have some.

    If your willing to put together a system you can build a full computer out that uses half of the 150W you specified above while still containing more then 4 drives like the drobo.
  4. jtara macrumors 65816

    Mar 23, 2009
    There are motherboards (typically small form-factors such as Mini-ITX, etc.) that use mobile CPU chips or other low-power CPUs that would be perfectly suitable for this. You don't need a current-generation desktop chip for a home file server. You should be able to easily meet your power requirement.

    A good place to start is linuxdevices.com which has news and articles on these sort of devices. You can get bare boards, fully enclosed systems, etc. at reasonable prices, perhaps as low as, say, $200.

    Another good starting point is to search for "short depth rackmount server low power". For example, you will find small, low-power servers using a Celeron, VIA C7, VIA Nano, Atom, etc. chip for <$500. (I wouldn't pay too much attention to the power supply size on these - they may need, say, 150w peak, but during typical operation these chips can use very little power.)

    I'd also search for Mini-ITX boards and systems using Celeron, C7, or Atom, as well as mobile processors.

    Here's a random Core 2 duo Mobile board as an example:


    Of course, a Mac Mini should do the job quite nicely, as well. For a file server, the crappy video on the older ones should not be an issue, and you should be able to pick these up cheaply on Craigslist or EBay.

    BTW, should you choose to "build your own" making it not "sound like a tractor" is really quite simple. Bigger (larger diameter) fans = lower RPMs = less noise. (So, you do need to be careful with any 1u rack-mount system. They tend to use tiny little buzz-bombs at high RPMs. Some do have large diameter fans, and are marketed for audio/video production applications, etc.)
  5. ZachsMacDaddy macrumors 6502


    Dec 24, 2007
    I just got an Intel SS4200-E and I love it. Going for $135 on ebay right now and you put in the drives. RAID1/5/10. It's quiet and quick.
  6. SpeedFleX macrumors 6502

    Apr 22, 2009
    Have you thought about looking at the Windows Home Server market for example the Acer Aspire h340?

    I love mine it has 10 Terabyte and is connect to a dlna TV appletv and server 4 computers all day and night
  7. OddyOh macrumors 6502


    Nov 29, 2005
    Regina, SK, Canada
    Drobo is nice

    I bought a 2nd gen (the current model) Drobo over Christmas, and happily discovered it's much quieter than my 1st gen Drobo. Love not having to deal with RAID. Depends how convenient you want a solution to be.

    I've got my DVDs ripped to VIDEO_TS folders. Next step is getting Plex all set up, but Apple DVD Player works great in the meantime.

    But everybody's setup is different. ;)
  8. CylonGlitch macrumors 68030


    Jul 7, 2009
    I used FreeNAS.org software to build up a home server a few weeks ago after going through the different choices and not finding one that I really liked. It works quite well and it is expandable to keep adding drives and they are all parity checked (backed up, allows for one drive failure without loss of data). It wasn't super cheap ($600 total including drives) but it could be a lot worse.
  9. ksmith80209 macrumors 6502a

    Aug 15, 2007
    Love the Drobo

    I have a 2nd gen Drobo and it's very nice. Super quiet and just works. Upgrading is a no-brainer - I stuck another 1 TB drive in the other day and just let it do its thing - no problems, no hassles.
  10. pastrychef macrumors 601


    Sep 15, 2006
    New York City, NY
    I have two Drobos (4 bay w/ FW800) stacked on top of each other and have never heard a peep from either of them. Also, I've upgraded every drive in both and have never lost a single file.

    As for an alternative, like ZachsMacDaddy, I picked up an Intel SS4200 when they were on sale for $135. I use it with unRAID (mentioned by prostuff1 in post #3). It's physically larger than the Drobos but it's equally as quiet as my Drobos. So far, it has proven to be quite a bargain but requires a bit more work to setup than the Drobos.
  11. Cynicalone macrumors 68040


    Jul 9, 2008
    Okie land
    I've had a Drobo for about a year and half now. It is an amazing product. I can't really find anything wrong with it. I have nearly 3TB's of data on mine and it runs cool and quite 24/7/365.
  12. j2048b macrumors 6502a

    Feb 18, 2009
    how do you use the unraid on the intel item? Do you just plug in your usb stick into it and go from there? it hs to be able to be seen from a computer to set up unraid does it not?

    any instructs on how to do it on this intel nas?


    it can only hold 4 drives correct? if 1 is parity and possibly 1 cache, then you'll only have 2 more for storage?

    is this correct?

    are the drives easy to take out and upgrade?

    got one tonight off ebay for 135, cant wait to set it up! might get another one, or maybe 2?
    cheap and very useful for the price,

    will these two psu's work on them to lower the wattage?

    a guy on tomshardware said they would under the item reviewed! might be worth a look?
  13. jamesraward thread starter macrumors regular


    May 18, 2009
    Did a quick check and it's about 8 times dearer if I use the set up I currently have
    I've started trying both, iso will probably be my weapon of choice as with what I'm using I'll strip down the extras, keeping the movie at full quality
    Not interested in that, I've got all my music at 192 mp3 and I have no intention of re-ripping them!
    I'm going to start with 2TB and expand, but I need to be able to expand without changing the unit
    Indeed it does
    I'd rather it's a combined unit running a server at low power - the alternative I thought of was a NAS with a mac mini running boot camp home server...
    absolutely, most of my previous systems have been obtained like that, costs a little more but the research and building is fun
    Tough one, I'm hoping to have all of my videos mainly hosted on this thing, so I'd budget initially £1k for it.
  14. prostuff1 macrumors 65816


    Jul 29, 2005
    Don't step into the kawoosh...
    Either I am not grasping this sentence or you mistyped something.

    I rip all my DVD's as ISO also because I wanted the ability (if need arose) to rip the entire DVD back to media. Note that each DVD will take anywhere from ~4GB to ~8GB and the space will add up quickly. I currently have about 230 DVD's ripped to ~1.65TB worth of space, and if you do the math that comes to just around 7GB per rip. So if your talking about storing all 600 DVD's in ISO format you are looking at probably around 4.5TB JUST for the movies in your collection. If you were to get a drobo (you would need the drobo NAS addon also) and put 4x2TB drives in it you are looking at about 5.5TB of usable space.

    OK, it is good that it is already ripped! Do you plan to move the collection to the NAS? I store a "server" version om my library that I use when at home and I have a "mobile" version of my library when I am on the road. I use a program called Multitunes to switch back and forth easily and manage the separate playlists for each one.

    Well, the Drobo is fairly easy to do that with (and so in unRAID) though you are limited to the 4/5 bay version of there hardware. I currently have 10 drives in my NAS system and would need 2 (maybe 3) Drobos to do that; not to mention I would have had to buy the Drobo NAS addon.

    Again the Drobo, and the unRAID system are great at this. Drobo and unRAID can both take drives of any size (the largest has to be the parity drive in the unRAID array though).

    then you have 2 "computers" running all the time, which to me defeats the purpose of the NAS. A NAS is supposed to be "self supporting" and not require another computer to "run" it. The Drobo is close to being a NAS but not quite.

    If you are willing to do this then you may just be a candidate for unRAID. Any modern hardware, even an Atom processor should be up to the task of running unRAID. If you are willing to do some searching, digging and researching then you will be rewarded in the end. This is a very promising looking board for use in unRAID as it has 6 SATA built in and allows for expansion via the PCI-E x4 slot. It is an Atom board and therefore the processor will use very little power, the drives will spin down when not in use by unRAID, and it is expandable past the initial 6 SATA drives.

    Does that include the price of the SATA drive(s)? If so figure you want to start with 2TB of usable space and need to buy drives that means you are going to need 2x2TB drives in the case of unRAID or 2x2TB drives for a Drobo (used there capacity calculator to get an idea). if you search around you can usually find a 2TB drive for $150 or less, so for 2 drives figure $300 off of the orginal 1K for "parts."

    If your willing to spend a little time unRAID is probably your best bet. It does not use a proprietary file system, it is easy to move drives from one system to another, it does not have the pitfall of RAID5 (lose 2 drives and be screwed), and it is considerable more expandable then something prebuilt like the Drobo
  15. hardax macrumors regular

    Jan 16, 2008
    New Hampshire
    Drobo 2nd Gen works perfectly for me at my job. Storing about 3 TB of customer files (design studio) and never once regretted the purchase.
  16. enberg macrumors regular

    Jan 13, 2010
    The problem with the Drobo is the vendor lockin you get via their proprietary BeyondRAID system. If the device breaks, you have no choice but to buy another Drobo if you want to access your data. With standard RAID you get a plethora of choices.

    There is also the question of data recovery if your disks crash and burn. There are companies out there than can recover standard RAID systems, but I've never heard of one that can do BeyondRAID.
  17. Gav2k macrumors G3


    Jul 24, 2009
    what is the chance of multipul drive failures? Slim to none.

    The drobo has so many advantages over a standard raid setup it's silly. You really can't fault it for what it does.
  18. prostuff1 macrumors 65816


    Jul 29, 2005
    Don't step into the kawoosh...
    No, you can fault it and there is obviously some reason why all these other options exist. I did not like the proprietary nature of the Drobo and it is one of the top three reason why i did not go with it

    If you do the math you will find that, while the percentage is slim of 2 drives failing at once, it is not a slim as you might think. You are even more likely to have a drive fail WHILE the rebuild is happening, because of the inherent need to read and write to all the disks. It stresses the system and can cause issues to rear there ugly head(s).
  19. johnnj macrumors 6502a

    Dec 11, 2008
    Not here
    Is it just me or do the Drobo devices seem a bit overpriced? The 8 bay model retails for $1400, not including any drives.

    If your storage needs are modest (< 5TB), you might want to check out the HP MediaSmart servers. You can get the current higher end model and fill it with 1.5 drives for less than 1000USD, let alone 1000GBP. My old EX470 only drew ~60w/h with the drive bays full. You can expand the current one with an external eSATA-connected 5 bay chassis. It runs WHS, so you can use it for other stuff besides file service.

    I've since upgraded to a home made server that's got 24TB of disk, an i5 CPU, and 4GB 1600MHz memory in a 4u rackmount chassis (and two external disk chassis) and a Bluray drive (for ripping). This loaded up machine only cost about $2500 in parts including the cost of parts I recycled. The 16 1.5TB drives represented the vast majority of the parts bill (over $1700). I went the noise and power consumption is no object route, but as previous posters suggested, if you choose your componentry carefully, you can build yourself a machine with lower power consumption and lower cooling needs at a price that's much less than a system built around a Drobo product and has a good expansion path.

  20. Rich1963 macrumors 6502

    Jul 18, 2008
    Couldn't agree on the Drobo's numerous advantages.

    Also, there is an 8 bay Drobo that allows you to either have 8 bays dedicated to storage, or run it in 'dual disk redundancy', and it operates like two Drobos mirroring each other; thus able to survive a simultaneous drive failure. Then things don't 'rear their ugly head(s)' as easily.
  21. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    If lightning strikes a power line within a mile of your house, ALL of the drives could be going down at the same time. Even if you mirror two raids

    Also a related problem is theft of the equipment. This is actually a leading cause of data loss and more likely than a disk crash as the cause of a loss if you are using RAID

    Some times there are errors in system software that can corrupt a file system. This can take down an entire array. And put you into data recovery mode with out any bad hardware.

    This is why we have backups in a fire safe and another backup in a different building.

    Technically the best solution is a Solaris server running a ZFS file system. That is about as robust as you can get. One thing you always have to ask: "How will I backup up by 10TB RAID? Really there is only one answer - with another array. Then you have to think about synchronization, not copying and selet a RAID system that can sync quickly
  22. ABG macrumors 6502

    Oct 5, 2003
    United Kingdom
    Drobo S & Pro has protection from Two Drive Failures.
  23. prostuff1 macrumors 65816


    Jul 29, 2005
    Don't step into the kawoosh...
    I understand that but the Pro can't be turned into a NAS (the S can with the addon Drobo Share). The gigabit port on the Pro is iSCSI and not for use like a standard NAS (last I checked).
  24. Gav2k macrumors G3


    Jul 24, 2009
    That is correct. You need to plug it in to a mini for example.
  25. j2048b macrumors 6502a

    Feb 18, 2009

    just needin these q's answered if anyone has the time?


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