Well, today my Drobo arrived. If you’ve not seen one before, it looks like this:
It is a beautiful piece of technology, and makes the average Western Digital/Seagate unit look like a piece of crap. Of the JBOD/RAID desktop providers, so far only LaCie seem to have come close to developing something that even looks as nice as a Drobo.
Well, didn’t so much as arrive as I organised to pick it up from the courier depot. This is one thing that shits me about a lot of Australian courier services. Let me give you a counter example. On a Friday afternoon, Australian time, I can order parts from Other World Computing, in Cary, Illinois. I pay for standard international FedEx, and a nice friendly FedEx person drops off the parts for me on Tuesday morning. During that time I’ve watched the equipment travel around the globe. That’s around 15,000 kilometres.
I ordered the Drobo from Melbourne on Monday, it was picked up on Monday, and it took until Wednesday to arrive in Tuggerah. That’s a distance of around 1000 kilometres, maybe less. I would have been waiting until late tomorrow afternoon (or, I’m told, perhaps Tuesday afternoon) for it to arrive at my place.
This isn’t unusual. I can order equipment from Sydney on Monday and I’m lucky for it to arrive on Friday.
That’s why I send my money overseas a lot of the time when I’m buying computer parts: it’s faster to get it delivered from the US than it is from Sydney or Melbourne.
OK, so my little rant aside…
I got the Drobo this afternoon and had 2 x 1TB drives, as well as 2 x 1.5TB drives available to put into it. This gives formatted protected space of 3.17TB – and I can expand it if that starts to fill, without reformatting the filesystem. I elected, due to price differences, to go with the 4-drive Drobo FW800 unit, rather than the 5-drive Drobo-S unit that can work via eSATA.
Why did I go with direct attach rather than NAS? I’m not convinced of the virtue of home NAS for a few different reasons:
- I’ve got an all-Mac desktop environment; this makes file sharing between machines at home easy anyway.
- I dislike the performance issues associated with ext3, a format commonly used in home NAS units that are run by mini-Linux systems.
- I’m not all that keen on NTFS, though I’ll admit that’s just sheer antipathy to running anything that smells like Windows in any primary way at home.
- I feel I have more visibility over direct attach storage than NAS at home.
- My computer is on all the time anyway.
Other than the fact that my bloody Western Digital Time Machine drive borked just as I was installing the Drobo (not the Drobo’s fault), the entire installation process was, on reflection, seamless and straight forward. Plug drives in. Install dashboard software. Plug Drobo in. Format. Upgrade unit firmware. Done and dusted.
When I subtract all the issues caused by a borked drive throwing up spurious errors on my system, I’d say it took less than 30 minutes to get the Drobo installed and data copying. And that included pulling the 2 x 1.5TB drives from their external casings.
Would I have preferred eSATA? Yes and no. This isn’t meant to be a performance beast; it’s primarily going to be holding my media file. Being able to read at 50+MB/s is more than sufficient for playing back movies, etc. Going to eSATA would have cost me another $400 for the unit, then say, $150 or so for an eSATA card. That’s a lot of extra money that I’d prefer over time to invest in additional hard drives for the Drobo.
What do I like most about the Drobo so far?
It’s difficult to say. I’m of course pleased about having 3.17TB of protected storage – protected from drive failure. (I still have backups for multiple drive failure of filesystem corruption). I’m equally pleased about the build quality and engineering that’s gone into this baby though. Seriously, it’s like Apple spawned Data Robotics or something. The facia for the unit is magnetically attached, meaning you literally just pull it off, no clips involved. The drives plug in without any caddies, making insertion easy. The lights on the unit are designed for ease of interpretation. The unit has no flex and feels physically secure, adding to my confidence levels.
In short: I’m already very happy with this baby.
Maybe in a couple of years time I’ll have filled it up, having upgraded the internal hard drives to 2TB each or something, but for the moment, I’ve generated a nice chunk of protected storage that leaves me feeling quite secure.
Go Drobo, Go.