DROBO woes

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by whitenoise, Nov 26, 2011.

  1. whitenoise macrumors regular

    Feb 16, 2010
    As you may have noticed from my previous post I've been playing around with my network and DROBO backups lately. I have two DROBO's (ver.2) for data storage and backup.

    I have never had much of a problem with these, though I've seen problems listed on the web. I suppose I have been lucky, for these last few years, until now.....

    I noticed my main DROBO, (connected to win7 desktop), had two corrupted folders. Of course I was in the middle of organising my files and backups, so I hadn't backed up those folders.:rolleyes: Luckily, I have GetDataBack on my windows machine, so after an initial panic, I was actually able to copy the folders over to an external drive. :D

    I do not believe that I was writing to the DROBO or there was a power problem, so I am at a loss to why this happened. It simply seems to have decided not to like those folders anymore.


    I am currently left using any blank HD's I have lying around to make sure I have two copies of all my data. (The second DROBO seems fine, but I'm not going to take that risk.) If I was a millionaire I would run out and buy a few 2TB drives and do a transfer, but I am left using up a mishmash of drives, while keeping a note of where every folder is, (as well as its backup).

    The only thing I can think is that either the DROBO actually was interrupted while writing to those folders, or the drives are starting to get flakey. I have previously purchased SpinRite 6, so I am running a lvl 4 test on the drives, (although this looks like its going to take a lonnnnnng time). From what I can see its going to take, (4*2TB).......37 days to test all 4 drives. lol

    That's really all on the windows side, (basically because I happened to have the tools at hand), but does anyone have DROBO experiences like this, or any suggestions what I can be doing on the mac side, (apart from struggling to organise my data)? With every step taking so long, (DROBO throughput being a problem at times like these), I would like to do more than one job at a time.

    I did get the itch to build a high capacity NAS box and use the DROBO's as backup only, and that's when I discovered the HD price rises. :( Just my luck that this didn't happen six months ago..but at least I'm safe and my data is restored.
  2. jedinite macrumors newbie

    Dec 2, 2011
    whitenoise, I just had my own experience with a failing drive in a Drobo and it took me 2 weeks to diagnose and fix with the kind people at Drobo.

    The customer service is great but I'm worried about the Drobo is a truly reliable backup source. I think it's better than a single external drive as those can fail without redundancy, but Drobo is still prone to a lot of other issues, corrupted file structure, power spikes, fire/flood/theft, multiple hard failures, slow rebuild process.


    Always keep 3 copies of your data - primary copy and two backups. Make sure it's on two different media types (eg. hard drives and discs/cloud/tape). Make sure 1 copy is offsite.

    With backing up to optical discs be careful as they are just as prone to issues as hard drives are unless you can store them in air and temperature environment. Silver they use in discs can oxidize over time and if you go back to a box of DVDs 5-10-20 years in the future you may be disappoint to find that some of these discs are no longer readable.

    So back to your question about file corruption. I've read on some other people's issues with Drobo that sometimes disconnecting the drive first, powering it down, then re-arranging the order of the drives can save the file structure corruption. I have never had this problem so I would use caution if you have files that you really need to make sure you didn't lose.

    There are several file structure recovery programs out there that will help you rebuild a damaged or corrupted file structure and that can help you save your files. As the Drobo's redundancy protects the disk (physical layer issues) you may still run into logical errors like you have in the past. But at least with a file / file structure recovery program, it treats a Drobo as one entire volume and not 4 separate disks (or more if you have newer or larger model Drobos).

    I wanted to get something for my home that would allow me to backup multiple machines without having to think about it so I went with the Synology DiskStation DS1511+ instead of getting the DroboFS as it has better performance, is even more expandable with expansion drive accessories (up to 15 disk array). Anyway, with the DS1511+ it has multiple possibilities of RAID configurations, so if you don't want to use their proprietary SHR (Synology Hybrid RAID) which is a similar RAID to Drobo's BeyondRAID system you can. The performance is better with the Intel Atom processor and expandable RAM (I upgraded the 1GB default to 3GB max) and it runs like a charm. Also it's based on Linux like Drobo is but offers a lot more functionality than the Drobo Apps.

    Though I'm not trying to sell you on yet another drive product, you may want to look into it if you are looking at having multiple units on site. And integrating that with an online backup solution such as CrashPlan. Good luck
  3. convergent macrumors 68030


    May 6, 2008
    Just a couple of comments... I've never owned a DROBO because they appeared to be over priced to me, compared to similar products from other vendors. I've had a NAS for many years and had a good experience with them.

    I think that a lot of people look at RAID as their backup, which is not its intended purpose. RAID is a solution for availability or performance, not backup. I initially setup my NAS (Netgear ReadyNAS NV+) with external USB drives for backup. When I bought a new NAS (QNAP TS659), I retasked my ReadyNAS to be backup and set that up to do an rsync nightly.

    I'm protected well against system failures, but have no protection if we had a fire in the house or something. I am not sure its practical to always have 3 backups of everything, and one offsite, as the prior post suggested, but if you can do it then you are very safe. I have close to 100K images, plus lots of other stuff, and trying to back it up to one of the offsite services would be cost prohibitive for me.

    For my Mac, I do have 3 copies of things... the drive itself, a Time Capsule backup, and a SuperDuper bootable clone.
  4. whitenoise, Dec 5, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2011

    whitenoise thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 16, 2010
    After many hours of checking on my pc with various drive checkers, I found that one of the drives was failing, (few bad sectors), 1 delay and 27 bad sectors on one program, Long Test fail on another. The other three past all the tests, so it seems the bad drive was at fault.

    I am looking into another solution, but the main job I have is sorting my data. I have TB's of backed up music and films/tv that I stream around the house, as well as 1000's of photo's. As I still have the cd's/dvd's I don't suppose I "need" that data backed up, (though it would be a massive pain to rerip them), I just need the data that I wouldn't be able to get back.

    So, I will be making sure I use my external drives and my remaining drobo, as well as many dvd's to backup that data first. Then I'll have to backup the media as best as I can with the remaining drive capacity I have.

    I can see I'll be juggling data until I can buy a few extra TB's of hard drives. But at the moment that a long time away, I can't bring myself to pay the current prices, and it's going to get worse. :(

    I'll have to keep my eyes on the remaining drobo, although this is the first problem I have ever had, and I suppose it wasn't the drobo that was at fault, (rather the single drive.) But drobo is supposed to report drive issues? (I'm sure that I have had one drive reported years ago, so it did work then).

    I will be wary about my storage for a while now, but I'm sure in time, I'll become as complacent as ever. :)
  5. jedinite macrumors newbie

    Dec 2, 2011

    Very true that RAID is not a backup solution it is a solution for high availability and/or performance, however, it is far more reliable than storing your data on a single drive or even copies of your files on multiple single drives. Just assume that if I had 2 copies each on single HDD that there is still a high probability to have them both fail at the same time or near the same time. Given that you will probably access your secondary drive just as much. And if you do heavy drive accesses (like when you're restoring gobs of data) your likelihood of a drive failure occurring is higher than normal drive access. Trust me on this one, I've had a drive crash on me during a backup where I was accessing a lot of data at once.

    Since you're in the US it is absolutely affordable to find a cloud storage backup solution. I went with CrashPlan+ Family and it only cost me $50/year on a special. But it's normally $100/year to cover up to 10 computers and unlimited file storage. A single computer plan costs $59/yr and gets cheaper with multi-year plans or discounts (like holiday one that's on now).

    Anyways, I have my DS1511+ NAS backing up to Crashplan with headless client. So I not only have a highly available storage solution I have one that is backed up to the cloud. I have each of my other MBP's backing up to CrashPlan as well. And the service works so well that it de-duplicates data on a per system basis. So I may have multiple copies of a photo on my NAS that I didn't have time to clean up but at least it only gets sent up to the cloud once. It will just upload that file again if I have it on any of my other machines, but I'm ok with that. They don't recommend putting your TimeMachine backup to the cloud however as it would create too many duplicates of the same file as they are hard copies in TimeMachine.

    Well with drive prices being at a high, there are still solutions that can help you backup with the 3-2-1 plan. Local HDD + Backup Drive/NAS/Drobo + Online cloud service (CrashPlan+ is my recommendation) and you're set.

    Sorry Whitenoise, not sure if CrashPlan would be the ideal solution for you since you're across the pond but you should call them up and see, or check your local area for cloud storage companies.


    convergent: I re-read your post and like you I have many photos, and most of them in RAW format so I feel your pains on the hard drive costs, but at the very least using CrashPlan's basic free service you can backup to a friend/relative's house but for $59/year of unlimited storage, that's nothing, and certainly worth a lot more than having the headache of losing your memories or having to recover them.

    Remember fires aren't the only things you have to worry about: theft, flood, electrical surges, tornados/hurricanes/earthquakes (depending on your area). Good luck.
  6. convergent macrumors 68030


    May 6, 2008
    I didn't see where CrashPlan would backup a NAS... in fact found a thread in their forum that people were complaining about it. I'm not sure how they could offer that since there is no limit to how much data you could have stored in network NAS boxes. I have 10 bays of NAS storage, which if I populated with 3TB drives would be 30TB.. can't believe that would be covered in one of these home plans. Usually to backup a NAS, you have to get into the per MB prices that are pretty steep.

    On the RAID discussion, there is always a possibility that the RAID volume can become corrupt and then the whole thing goes. I've had it happen, so I know its not that out of the world to consider.

    If you can point me to a CrashPlan url that talks about backing up a NAS, then that would be great.
  7. iPadPublisher macrumors 6502

    Apr 14, 2010
    My Two Cents

    I've been happy with DROBO for about two years now. That all ended this past week. I migrated from a Drobo S to a Drobo PRO (5 bay to the 8 bay unit). The initial copy of all my data to the 8 bay was successful. I loaded it up with 1.5TB drives so I had enough room to copy over all my files. Once the initial copy was done, I replaced each 1.5TB drive with 3TB drives. Each drive swap took a massive 12-14 hours. After the fourth one, I started having some issues. DROBO went into this crazy 23 hour routine, and when it came out, OSx locked the drive as read-only. So now I'd had the misfortune of having to copy everything back out so I can redo the partition and start over.

    I thought I'd be able to plop the five drives from the Drobo S into the Drobo Pro and roll out. No such luck! This has been a multi-week process now that is ongoing. I would no longer suggest DROBO to anyone. Its great while it works, but when you start having problems its scary.
  8. jedinite macrumors newbie

    Dec 2, 2011
    With the Synology NAS that I have it runs a variant of Linux and though CrashPlan won't "support" you if you have troubles backing up your NAS, you can still use the Linux headless client and configure it to back up to CrashPlan. There is documentation on it here:
    and configuring the headless client can be done by following CrashPlan directions after you've installed the headless client: http://support.crashplan.com/doku.php/how_to/configure_a_headless_client

    Also, CrashPlan does not limit you to backing up local system drives, so if you have mounted volumes on your main computer you could use your client machine as the system source with mounted drives being included in the backup policy.

    Before you assume they won't backup all your data, check with their policies because they will backup all your data. They have UNLIMITED storage policy with paid plan. Plus, if you are still skeptical about the whole thing you can use the CrashPlan engine to backup off site to a family or friend's NAS, or better yet, buy a mirror of your setup and place it somewhere safe with good internet connectivity and back it up to that location after you've created your backup set.
  9. jedinite macrumors newbie

    Dec 2, 2011
    Before you start swapping drives from one Drobo to the next realize that the physical hard drives cannot be "swapped" like folders in the OS. The drives are configured to one controller and if you simply swap your drives into a different Drobo unit (same models should be ok) you may lose data.

    I had a similar issue with my Drobo but trust me when I say it will be ok. But for RAID or BeyondRAID recovery you have to have patience, a LOT of it.

    In my situation my Drobo had a drive that was failing but unfortunately it wasn't at full failure yet, so my Drobo went into a perpetual recovery state that I wasn't even able to copy data off of and I was panicking. I had to call into Drobo support for help after going over all the self-help options and it was a lot of waiting. I actually had to bring my Drobo to work so I could get diagnostics off of it when I called Drobo as their support hours aren't the most convenient. And because I left my Drobo at work for rebuilding, I was able to not fiddle with it and interrupt the processes of rebuilding. After the Drobo tech helped me diagnose that the first drive was failing, we powered down the Drobo, ejected all the drives, powered it back up, got another diagnostic report, powered it down again, reinserted the drive and the first drive finally failed after about 10 mins of trying recovery.

    After removing the damaged drive the recovery process worked like a charm. Took 11hours to complete for about 550GB of data. But I would have to agree that Drobo's reporting and interface isn't the most useful for anyone with even a minor technological understanding of RAID systems. If the dashboard told me that one drive was reporting errors but was still running, I would have been able to eject the drive and just let the Drobo failover to recovery mode. But since I couldn't read the log files generated there's no other way but to contact support, though friendly as they are, I wish I could have just done it myself and not had 2 weeks of stress that I lost my data.

    Drobos are good for people with absolutely no understanding of RAID systems or even want to learn about RAID systems and are willing and have time to sit with support in the event of problems. For those of us that are more technical and have little patience, fiddling with the Drobo could potentially break what it's actually trying to fix.
  10. calderone macrumors 68040


    Aug 28, 2009
    I am selling off my DroboPro. Too slow, too proprietary and poor customer support.

    The only thing worse than all of that is they are basically worthless and I will be taking a hit to get rid of it.
  11. whitenoise thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 16, 2010
    UPDATE: Just incase anyone was interested. :)

    I have built a little unraid box, using the working drives that were in the drobo. It was a little scary and took a weekend to get right, but I am getting much better data transfer speeds, (around 35-40mp/s, though I believe this should actually be higher).

    Once I have managed to organise and transfer all my data I will be using the drobo as a backup to the main NAS. Because of the NAS I have been nudged into updating my network, so the transfer speeds of the drobo, (especially when used with a droboshare!), are many times slower than good.

    One lesson I have learned is to make sure my data is kept very well organised, (not just dumped in temp folders until I can deal with it). I have found that much of my data had multiple copies spread across multiple hard drives, but some was just a single copy. Backing up is going to be much easier, (and more effective), when I know where all my important files are. :rolleyes:
  12. iPadPublisher macrumors 6502

    Apr 14, 2010
    You're absolutely right, and I didn't attempt to do that. I just figured their proprietary "better than RAID" would allow such an easy move from one unit to the other. You CAN do it within the same model, but upgrading from the S to the Pro as I did, for example, you cannot. But I learned about that ahead of time so I didn't even try. Was just a bit bummed when I found that out.


    Mine is on eBay as we speak. If anyone wants a sweet deal, it can be had here: http://www.ebay.com/itm/180785969937

    I did wind up losing a few files, though less than 30, in this whole rebuilding process. I'm working on a WHOLE new strategy now for my main storage and backup routines. I have too much to lose, and this put the scare of God into me with respect to how I backup my data. Not entirely sure what the final system will look like -- but I'm adding another layer at the least, and my most precious 256GB of data will also live on a memory stick at my mom's house on the other side of the country. :)
  13. poloponies Suspended

    May 3, 2010
    All Raid 5 is "proprietary" in that the drives can't simply be pulled out singly and used as independent volumes. Every Raid 5 device has its own system and they aren't interchangeable. Drobos are great if you take the minimal amount of time to learn how to use them.

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