Drobo questions

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by plaidhippo, Mar 21, 2010.

  1. plaidhippo macrumors member

    Mar 30, 2007
    Hi everyone,
    I had my external fw800 drive fail recently and am looking to replace it with something a bit more redundant. I have heard Drobo is a great way to do it. Can any of you share your experiences with using Drobo on the mac? Specifically, does it support time machine? Do you need to partition it into multiple disks to use time machine? Can you have two time machine backups for two computers onto one drobo? Also, are the new fw800 drobos fast enough to do video editing, or should i get a separate fw800 drive for that? Is Drobo fast at all? Should I invest in fast drives to install, or cheap ones, or low energy ones? Any advice here would be greatly appreciated! I've lost valuable files once and don't want to have it happen again!

  2. Badger^2 macrumors 68000


    Oct 29, 2009
    All you needed was a simple and cheap USB 2 drive and running Carbon Copy Cloner (free) that had your important drive backed up and you would be fine.

    Kinda jumping off the deep end going all the way to a Drobo.

    How much space are we talking about? 1TB? 4? more?

    Again, a simple 2 drive setup should be more than sufficient.
  3. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    Drobos have been known to fail, taking data with them. It isn't a substitute for a backup, especially an offsite backup.
  4. plaidhippo thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 30, 2007
    My goal in getting a drobo is some redundancy in data protection. In my experience, hard drives fail far more often than something like a drobo, which is why I am looking into that solution. I agree that I'm "going off the deep end" in terms of solving the backup issue, but after losing wedding and honeymoon photos, I'm willing to invest a bit more to back up with security. That said, are there many reports of Drobo's failing? Is that common? I've looked a bit but not seen anything like that.

    I agree with the offsite possibility to protect against fire, theft, etc., but I'm far more concerned with a hard drive failing than having it be stolen or burned down.

    So as far as the Drobo is concerned, any suggestions on if it is fast enough for video editing? Or what drives I should put in to it? Any other advice would be helpful as well.

    Thanks again
  5. Darth.Titan macrumors 68030


    Oct 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    All hard drives have been known to fail, taking data with them. A Drobo is no different in this respect. The OP is looking to add redundancy to their backup solution, and the Drobo is a very user-friendly means of accomplishing this.

    I bought my Firewire 800 Drobo when they were first released and it has been trouble free for going on two years now. I've had one hard drive failure in that time and it was simply a matter of ejecting the bum drive, inserting a replacement, and allowing the Drobo to rebuild the RAID array. While it is true that losing more than one drive at the same time will cause a loss of the array, the likelihood of that is fairly low. If the Drobo itself dies your drives will have to be plugged into another Drobo to retrieve your data, but that's pretty much standard for any RAID array.

    As to the OP's questions:
    • Drobo will support Time Machine the same as any other external hard drive.
    • Partitioning the Drobo for multiple backups isn't necessary. Time Machine is smart enough to keep one computer’s backups separate from another’s, even if it’s using the same disk.
    • As to your question about Firewire 800 and video editing with the Drobo, I'm afraid I have no experience with that. I do however feel that the redundancy of the Drobo does come at the expense of speed. It hasn't really been an issue for me, but I'd tend to think that a mirrored array on an external bus wouldn't be the best choice for video.
    • As always when buying hard drives, buy the best that you can afford. I use four of the WD Green 1TB drives myself. I plan to start swapping in 2TB drives sometime this year.

    I love my Drobo.
  6. Quark macrumors regular

    Jan 9, 2002
    Good Experiences

    Hello plaidhippo,

    I have had good experiences with Drobo over the last few years. However, those experiences were in the workplace on Windows XP SP3 and Windows Server 2008.

    I'm not sure that any external device using Firewire 800 may be fast enough for your video needs. BUT, that being said, Drobo has dramatically enhanced the Read/Write speeds to max out Firewire 800 throughput, in their newest versions.

    I'm also considering getting the Drobo for external storage (I currently use wireless TimeCapsule 2TB for my TimeMachine backups on multiple machines and file sharing, it's awesome). The Drobo is fantastic. I'm sure that any solution that you look at will have its ups and downs (referring to the post from "talmy"). I can say for a fact that the Drobo products and their support is exceptional and nearly future-proof. You can expand it at anytime to grow the storage capacity as your needs change.

    So, if I am wrong about my assumption with Firewire 800 speed (as compared to eSATA, which isn't available on iMacs, MacBooks) then you'll not regret getting the Drobo today and definitely won't regret it tomorrow.

    The Drobo IS TimeMachine compatible if it is directly connected to your computer and you will need Mac OS X 10.5.1 or later. if you have the option of using eSATA, then use that route, otherwise FW800 would be great and forget about USB (of course :) ).

    Just FYI, I do not work for Data Robotics, Inc. - the makers of the Drobo. I'm just a very satisfied customer for a few years.

    Good luck!


    PS - I'm very curious to hear/read what other people say based on their personal experiences and not just passing remarks based on second hand information.
  7. bheckman macrumors newbie

    Aug 13, 2007
    Drobo Advice

    If you are looking to get a Drobo as a Time Machine backup for your two computers, it would work great. I would definitely NOT use it for video editing. Not fast enough. I ordered one specifically for this reason and ended up ditching it because it just simply does not have the throughput. However, the DroboPro hooked up via iSCSI or the new Drobo S, which adds an extra drive slot and an eSATA connection, would be fast enough to do a stream or two of ProRes 422. We currently use the DroboPro for archiving projects that we still need light access to. If you are really looking at doing some video editing, I would highly recommend getting an all-inclusive external raid enclosure, like a Mercury Elite from OWC configured as a RAID 5. This will give you 3-4 times the R/W of an internal drive. Make sure you have this backed up for sure. Let me know if you have further questions.

    BTW. You will have to partition, or limit the size of the volume when you initialize the Drobo. The only difference this makes is that if you partition it so that the volume size is at the max size, the Drobo will take longer to start up and you might take a little speed hit. Obviously that means if you set it to a smaller volume like 1TB, start up is faster, but once you have more than 1TB worth of drives stuffed in there, multiple volumes will show on your desktop. Time machine definitely does work as advertised on their web site. You might have to have a separate partition for each computer you want to back up though. Not sure about that one.
  8. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California

    The beast thing to do is multiple independent external drives. The drives ina Drobo have a common failure point, the drobo box it self.

    The reason you go to RAID is because you can't buy a disk of the size you need, not becuase it is more resistanct to failure. RAID only, at best makes up for the added pobibilty of failure when you have many drives.

    So, in terms of data security, think of a RID unit as a large disk, not as a failure resistant disk. If you need a large disk buy it.

    Follow all of there rules and you will be fine:

    1) data must always be stored on three differnt physical devices (A raid counds as one physical device)
    2) data must always be stored at two different geographical locations.

    in the above "always" means always, even durring a backup. Some backups system erase old data befor writing new. So this means you need one extra copy. The off site requirement means "always too" so you need two so you can rotate. Any plan that follows the above will work. Simply buying a RAID box might make you feel good.

    You also have to test your abilty to restore from a backup periodcally

    You need to do what people suggest or you will loose data again, either tomorrow or in 15 years
  9. Badger^2 macrumors 68000


    Oct 29, 2009
  10. John Kotches macrumors 6502

    Jan 19, 2010
    Troy, IL (STL Area)
    That hardware has no mechanical parts, its likelihood of failure is dramatically smaller than the drives.

    No, RAID allows you time to rebuild a failed drive for full redundancy even in the event of a single drive failure. Larger storage units allow for RAID 6 (two "parity disks" and RAID 7 (three parity disks). So it's anywhere from 2 to 4 failed drives simultaneously when using a parity scheme.

    For RAID 0+1 configurations, you could theoretically withstand more drive failures but you have to "lose" the right drives for that. Also, your storage cost per GB is literally doubled.

    Why? The likelihood of 2+ drive failures before you can rebuild the data (whether mirrored or parity) is quite small. Not zero, but still quite small.

    This is overkill for normal desktop users. For enterprise data, that's a whole different kettle of fish.

    A RAID box will protect most end users from the most common mode of hardware failure -- the loss of a single drive. So will a simple spindle to spindle backup for that matter.

    Okay, but best to back up what you already have before you restore. Best to restore to pristine hardware, ie a different drive that way you're really really safe.

    Your suggestions are overkill for an individual. Halfway decent for a small business but nowhere near what's needed for anything beyond that.
  11. wysinawyg macrumors member

    Aug 3, 2009
    You really should use multiple partitiions on a Drobo if combining it with Time Machine.

    If you aren't using Time Machine the usual advice on a Drobo is a single partition of 16TB which then means you have a single volume to store everything on more or less regardless of how big the storage gets.

    However if you do that and use it with Time Machine, Drobo will keep telling Time Machine it has 16TB on board and Time Machine will keep writing new files to it even past the point where your actual storage has been exceeded.

    If you're backing up say a 160GB MacBook, much better to create a sub-partition of say 500GB so you know Time Machine won't go on writing files forever and will manage the old backups to stay within your allocated 500B. You could then create a bigger sub-partition later if you wanted to go beyond 500GB, but at least in the mean time Time Machine has been given a number to work with and keep things under control.
  12. Black&Tan macrumors 6502a


    Mar 4, 2004
  13. mcnallym macrumors 6502a

    Oct 28, 2008
    I personally love my Drobo, at the end of January had the experience of accidently hitting the wrong off switch at the wall and shutdown the mac mini and drobo.

    Upon hitting the power back on, then found that the drobo had failed. After organising a replacement, then I just had to insert the drives back in the same order as the original drobo and all my data was still there.

    I don't use the Drobo for my TC as I have a seperate TC for that purpose, however I do use it for my iTunes and ElgatoTV drive so my iTunes Library is found on there along with the ElgatoTV recordings.

    I use the WD Green Power 1TB drives the EADS version and works fine for the small amount of editing I do which is just stripping the ads from my recordings.

    However if doing more then that may find a bit slow, of course my Drobo is attached to a mac mini anyway so never going to be fast on the video editing anyway.
  14. jampat macrumors 6502a

    Mar 17, 2008
    I've looked at going down this road and it just wasn't worth it to me. For the OWC or the DROBO, you are looking at ~700+ for ~3 TB of usable space. I buy a pair of 1 TB drives for ~100 each in enclosures and just use half of the drives and mirror the other drives. I get 3 TB of completely redundant storage for ~600 with no single point of failure (assuming I don't get hit by lighting while both drives are connected and mirroring). I never have to worry about a raid failure and subsequent difficulty getting everything back. My way is slightly more work (and much more cluttered), but is much safer as the multiple copies reside in different physical locations and are not normally connected to any wiring which may allow them to be zapped.

    Personally if I had a DROBO and it failed, I would probably not really want to trust it again, but I'd have to buy another one to get my data back.
  15. NorCalLights macrumors 6502a

    Apr 24, 2006
    I have a Drobo that I use to back up 4 machines, all with Time Machine. Works great, even across my network.

    I would not use it for video editing... it is not fast enough.

    Every time I've read someone posting about a Drobo failing, it is because they were not careful enough about starting and stopping the drive (or the power failed during a read/write/format operation). I'm careful with mine, and I have had no problems in the 2 years I've been using it.

    A RAID5 system is far more complicated and powerful than a typical user needs.

    Remember: your Drobo should never be the only place that any one piece of data resides, but it is an effective backup solution that is more reliable and expandable than a single external drive would be.

    Remember that most people only post to forums like these when they have problems, and so judging the quality of a product by the number of negative posts is not exactly wise.
  16. plaidhippo thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 30, 2007
    Thanks everyone!

    Thank you all for your detailed and helpful responses!

    So far, it seems that the best choice for local, backup resistant to a single hard drive crash (assuming simultaneous multiple hard drive crashes are rare) would be a Drobo. I will look for WD green drives with which to populate the device.
    (the suggestion of getting multiple drives and just mirroring them is functional, but I would like to avoid the overhead of work and also physical clutter!)

    For video editing (mostly using imovie, not doing any HD stuff), I will hunt for an external fw800 drive for my mbp. I purchased the wd 2tb mybook studio version yesterday, but after seeing another thread with many complaints, I think Im going to exchange that for a hitachi 2tb version. I am not overly concerned with if this one fails as it is just for editing.

    Any more suggestions or ideas would be appreciated, but I think this is good for now!

    Thanks again everyone!
  17. Cynicalone macrumors 68040


    Jul 9, 2008
    Okie land
    Another Drobo user here.

    I have had my Drobo since October of 2008. It has been absolutely problem free.

    I have 2, 2TB WD Caviar Green Drives installed and 2, 1TB WD Caviar Green Drives. I'm slowly adding in 2TB drives.

    When I replace a 1TB drive with 2TB drive it takes about 36 hours to rebuild 2TB worth of data. I had the power fail during one of these rebuilds. When power was restored the Drobo restarted and kept on rebuilding right where it left off. No data was lost. To me that makes it more than worth the money.

    And for whats it's worth you can access any of your data on the Drobo while the rebuild is going on. It makes the Drobo slower and the rebuild takes longer, but it really is still usable.

    I'm looking at adding a Drobo Pro or Elite by the end of the year. My experience has been very positive with Data Robotics.
  18. Badger^2 macrumors 68000


    Oct 29, 2009
    WD 2TB greens are $130 right now (3-23-2010) at the Dell Home store.

    I have no idea how you came to the "best choice is a Drobo" conclusion, but whatever. Sounds like your mind was really made up to get a Drobo even before you even posted. $300 + $$$ drives, yeowch.

    2 single drives are all you really need. Not much clutter there. And setting up a scheduled backup from one to the other using Superduper or Carbon Copy Cloner might take all of 5 minutes.

    And you keep mentioning FW800 for video, but just now you mentioned a "MBP". Which MBP? Most 15" and all 17" MBPs have an express card slot. Add an eSATA express card and get super fast eSATA storage instead for video.
  19. plaidhippo thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 30, 2007
    Actually Badger, I didn't really give the external drives idea a fair shake. I do think it is a viable solution, especially with the constrained finances I am facing. I really like Drobo for the automation, but I think I may just take up the idea of using multiple external drives for now while I save up and determine if a Drobo is right for me. I already have one external drive that isn't being filled with much. So I can just get a second drive, fill it with the same data (can carbon copy clone one external disk to another?), and for now, have a redundant, albeit far less automated disk array.

    As for the eSata solution, I've heard a bit about it and am not sure how exactly it works. I know firewire and usb devices are plug and play. I assumed esata would work the same way, but I've heard from a frys employee that you need to have it plugged in when the computer is turned on and that esata devices are not hot-swap capable? Is that correct? If so, I'll avoid esata. But otherwise, I do have an express card slot on my macbook pro, so that is a possibility if I don't find a fw800 drive I like.

    Thanks again all for the advice. I know I'm flopping a lot, obviously there are good arguments for both solutions. But money talks a little louder! ;)
  20. MikeDTyke macrumors 6502a

    Sep 7, 2005
    Trouble is the people who have trouble free drobos rarely come on forums to rant about how good they are.

    My own anecdotal experience has been troublefree, but after speaking candidly with one of their support staff i discovered the majority of issues with early drobos were due to inadequate testing with enough drive brands/firmware editions. He told me with the drobo pro's and elites they have doubled up testing efforts across all the major brands and volume failure is no longer an issue.

    The way to view a drobo is for relatively slow, high uptime storage. It's not for AV editing, doesn't replace offsite for irreplaceable data and it is dependant on having another drobo to hand should you have hardware failure. But as mentioned earlier that's typical with a lot of arrays/raid cards, no matter what they say on the marketing blurb.

    Personally i archive lesser accessed material to it and keep a sata dock and 3.5" internal drives in a grandfathering rotation for offsite irreplaceable stuff.
    I just stick them in a toughbox and have them courier'd to another office. Once there they're plugged into a similar dock & we do a file checksum compare across our vpn.

  21. alphaod macrumors Core


    Feb 9, 2008
    Drobo S user here… I feel the device overall is a good product offering a no-frills experience. The S also have a much needed power switch and eSATA. It's significantly faster than the original even with both on FW800. However compared to any other firewire drive, you are will getting sub-par performance, so if a bit less flexibility is needed, I would suggested a RAID solution.

    The biggest problem with the Drobo is the enormous down payment you're making on the enclosure without any drives. For example, for the Drobo S I had to pay around $800 after taxes and shipping which is a lot for just an enclosure. Then add the 5 2TB drives, I was out about $1700. For that kind of money, you could probably get a very good hardware RAID 5 controller with cache, a nice enclosure, all the drives and still have cash to spare.

    As with crashing and such… no problems here and my Drobo is on 24/7. *knock on wood*
  22. GermanSuplex macrumors 6502a


    Aug 26, 2009
    I'm interested in a Drobo as well since the price isn't too bad. I've read tons of mixed reviews. For a couple of years, I used two external drives, mirroring one with the other. Now, I've got an internal 2TB drive that I backed up to two 1TB drives. But this is only temporary, I need something easier to manage and more compact. Drobo's proprietary system worries me, as do the numerous negative reviews I've read, but it also seems like the easiest and most user-friendly device, so I'm really torn.

    One question: other than Drobo's light indicators, how do you know how much usable space you have left if you set Drobo up initially do display its maximum potential capacity (16TB or something like that)?
  23. substeel macrumors member

    Sep 26, 2007
    3 drobos all running great

    I started with a drobo 400 and after 6 months of trouble free-hassle free use I purchased 2 of the 800's and all are great. I highly recommend the drobo as an easy solution for backing up or giving yourself that extra 4tb + of storage. They do work well for production type work and the newer ones are really quiet.
  24. jampat macrumors 6502a

    Mar 17, 2008
    Data Robotics has some cool calculators. Basically it's N-1 if all drives are the same size. If multiple sized drives are used, it is the sum of all drives minus the size of the largest drive.

    Check out http://www.drobo.com/resources/drobolator.php for more configurations.
  25. Badger^2 macrumors 68000


    Oct 29, 2009
    The biggest beef I see with a Drobo on other boards is the fact that its formatting system is proprietary to Drobos only. There is no backup for that.

    Yes, CCC can clone from one external to another. Childs play.

    Please do not listen to the goofballs at Frys.

    eSATA can give you 2X the performance of FW800.

    So if you want to run HD video, then eSATA is the way to go.

    Check the eSATA speeds here: http://www.barefeats.com/note06.html

    Here is an eSATA Express card for your MBP, $20: http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Other World Computing/EXP34SATA2P1/

    Not the fastest (fastest card runs $200), but again, faster than FW800.

    You can add a ton of things to your express card slot, FYI, including more USB or FW ports: http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/notebook_accessories/PCMCIA_Express34_Cardbus

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