Is the Drobo 5N overkill for a Time Machine Backup for my Macs?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by AndrewMRiv, Jan 6, 2014.

  1. AndrewMRiv macrumors regular


    Oct 29, 2013
    I am interested in a NAS to be my Time Machine backup for my MacBook (512gb SSD) and iMac (256gb SSD and 4tb External HDD). I want it to be large enough for both. Also, it would be nice since it would be plugged into my Airport Extreme and I would not have to use a USB or Thunderbolt port to connect my Macs every time I want to backup.

    I realize that the Drobo uses their own proprietary raid (BeyondRaid) which offers many drawbacks (if it breaks I can't access it until a new one is sent to me, a bit slower, no freedom for other raid configurations, etc) and that is why I am only considering it for my time machine backup only.

    Is there a cheaper option than this? I like that it is expandable. So if there is nothing else that is this convenient out there, I am willing to pay.

    Thank you.
  2. blueroom macrumors 603


    Feb 15, 2009
    Toronto, Canada
  3. John Kotches macrumors 6502

    Jan 19, 2010
    Troy, IL (STL Area)
    The truth is that even if you use a "standard" RAID level, you can't just mix and match. To a certain extent everybody's RAID is proprietary.

    Why do I say this? Because each manufacturer implements a small segment of the disk for Identification data. Try taking a RAID5 set from a Synology and put it in a Ready NAS. It won't work

    FWIW, Synology has an analog to Drobo's Beyond RAID. They call it Synology Hybrid RAID and it is functionally similar to Beyond RAID.

    In the end you will be limited to wire speed on Gigabit Ethernet or whatever wireless speed you connect with.

    Either would be equally effective for the job...

    I own Synology and setup a couple of Drobos for friends. Either one is good.
  4. FreakinEurekan macrumors 68040


    Sep 8, 2011
    Eureka Springs, Arkansas
    I'd look at the 5D instead of the 5N - attach it to your iMac, and get OS X Server ($19.99 from the App Store) to allow your MacBook to back up to it also.

    • Drobo 5N requires a dedicated share for each computer you're backing up (per data sheet) - you can simply allow all machines to share the space using OS X Server
    • Backing up via Time Machine to NAS is not supported by Apple & as OS X updates come out, you're relying on Drobo to maintain support on the 5N. The 5D is simply presented as a "Disk" to OS X, no compatibility concerns in the future.
  5. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    If you're looking at the 5N (for NAS) then I'd recommend a Synology or Qnap as I think they have better services and apps with their NAS, you can choose a standard RAID configuration (though Synology has their own proprietary RAID but you're not compelled to use it).

    Since you're connecting two Macs a NAS is a better choice then a DAS but you'll get better performance out of the DAS at least for the computer that its connected too.

    I'd say when dealing with multiple computers, a NAS is a better choice and out of that Synology is the favorite product here at MR, though I have a qnap and I'm happy with it.
  6. priitv8 macrumors 68040

    Jan 13, 2011
    In my experience, the OS X server running on a proper Mac hardware outperforms any of those low-end NAS-es. Even using USB drives, let alone ThunderBolt drive. A Mac has more horsepower, more RAM and as a full computer, you even can't compare the availabiltiy of apps on both platforms to render network services.
    If one has a computer that one is willing to deploy a full-time server, then a DAS+OS X Server is certainly a configuration with more possibilities than a NAS.
  7. AndrewMRiv thread starter macrumors regular


    Oct 29, 2013
    Thank you. That is a very great point that I would be at Drobo's mercy and they could lag with their updates at any time which could ruin my backup.

    As much as I would love to run OS X server on my iMac with a Drobo 5D attached to it, I was hoping to have my backup in a different location (my Airport Extreme is in my brother's room in my house while my iMac is in my garage) in case maybe a fire happened in my garage. Then my backup would be safe.

    I am very torn! You have all given me great suggestions. The synology products look great too. It is very tough narrowing it down to one product that I like and want 100%.
  8. giffut macrumors 6502

    Apr 28, 2003
    Don´t ...

    ... be too scared about NAS boxes of different vendors.

    We use a Drobo 5N for this exact purpose - and it works wonderfully. The 5N is attached to our AVM Router via Gigabit and TimeMachine backups happen wirelessly. It sits in a cabinet and we would´t know it´s there if we hadn´t set it up ourselves firsthand.

    That said: Anything from Qnap or Synology offer top hardware. Where they come above Drobo the company is communication, especially problem solving. They offer a different subset of functions, though a Drobo can´t deliver. But a Drobo has its merits, too. And you won´t find a dedicated 5 Bay NAS box with its "HD drop in and forget" handling from anyone in its price range.

    My experience so far: I find it unfortunate, that Drobo the company makes using its hardware occasionally an endless quest for wisdom, so to speak. The Drobo behaves exactly like you treat it - but some things are hidden from your view, not mentioned in the manual asf.

    Besides, they fit our purpose perfectly. I am thinking about putting together a two sheet complete manual for the Drobo 5N, where anything relevant is put forth and worth knowing it. Let´s see how that one works out.
  9. ericdano macrumors member

    Apr 29, 2003
    This is exactly why I stayed away from Drobo. It sounds good in theory, but.....

    That being said, Synology makes EXCELLENT devices. Their DSM software is top notch. Free iOS apps to get at videos and audio that are stored on your Synology. Another free app that turns your Synology unit it your own private dropbox. It works with Time Machine. It has multiple network ports. You can create your own quick way to access it via the web using their free Dynamic DNS service. You can stream media to your Apple TV from it.

    Basically, you set it up and it works. And it works fast. No Wizard skills necessary. The software sets this NAS apart. It's hardware is rock solid too.


    More costs too. A Mac with a Thunderbolt RAID (cause you don't want your stuff to sit on a single drive.....unprotected) is easily twice as expensive as a NAS.

    I don't see anything a Synology NAS can't do compared to a Mac OS X setup like you suggest. Synology has all sorts of packages for just about everything, plus it works seamlessly on a Mac network.

    And it would be about half the price of say a Mac Mini with a thunderbolt raid attached to it. Oh, and it would be smaller, probably quieter, and more energy efficient as too.

  10. ColdCase macrumors 68030

    Feb 10, 2008
    Think about a coupe 4TB USB drives connected to your Airport Extreme (using a hub). Pretty soon 5 and 6TB drives will be on the market for reasonable prices. A drive hanging off a AEBS or time capsule works just fine for TimeMachine backups. Think about a time capsule and augment with external drives.

    I have a synology NAS, and if I had to do it over again I'd pickup a refurbished mini and add as many drives as I need. Less trouble, better performance, and the delta in cost is small for doing it right. Products that are not apple approved often corrupt backups when time machine starts pruning. I wouldn't trust a large time machine backup to anything other than an apple approved product, and none of the third party NAS's are approved. If you want to use something like carbon copy cloner for backup instead, no issues.
  11. monsieurpaul macrumors regular

    Oct 8, 2009
    THIS !

    I own a Synology and while it's a really great product, I can't trust it for Time Machine Backup.

    IMHO you can go in 2 opposite directions:

    - You keep Time Machine for backup and you stick to Apple products (Time Capsule for example)

    - You switch to another method of backup (Carbon Copy Cloner, BitTorrent Sync, Crashplan+, etc.) and then you can use a NAS.

    Whatever you choose, you don't need RAID.
  12. priitv8 macrumors 68040

    Jan 13, 2011
    There's actually one road in the middle - OS X Server.
    You can use whatever drive setup you like (internal, external, software or hardware RAID). As long as the volume(s) are mountable and sharable under OS X, you can use them as backup targets.
  13. FireWire2 macrumors 6502


    Oct 12, 2008
    How about just use a 4 bay or 5 bay DAS like:
    Look at the USB3.0 and eSATA model @ $399.00

    Then create a share folder from it.
    here is how:

    You have a fast local back up for iMAC and network backup access for your MacBook

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