Drobo: a better way to serve your stuff

Thomas Hawk raves about his Drobo. At PodTech we have one too and did an interview yesterday with the folks who make Drobo which won’t be up for a few weeks. I plan on buying a LOT more for our video editors because it ensures our data is safely stored on multiple disk drives, which will protect us if a drive dies. I’ll try to get the video up cause it’s a lot better to have a discussion about this thing after you see video of it working, but Thomas does a good job of explaining what it does.

UPDATE: I just was reading my feeds and found Sal Cangeloso, who links to a bunch of Drobo stuff (now you can see why it’s important to read my feeds, Sal’s post and Engadget’s “must read” review wasn’t on TechMeme or Digg yet — Sal said it was must read, I agree).

Of course I put the best posts up on my link blog.

38 thoughts on “Drobo: a better way to serve your stuff

  1. Video editors need a firewire connection for video editing. USB2 is faster, in theory, yes, but it is only in burst speeds. Compare this to the constant high-speed of firewire which will keep our editing programs from slowing to a crawl.

  2. Video editors need a firewire connection for video editing. USB2 is faster, in theory, yes, but it is only in burst speeds. Compare this to the constant high-speed of firewire which will keep our editing programs from slowing to a crawl.

  3. I got excited once I saw Drobo, was ready to buy a few to play with, until I realized it was USB only. D’oh! Where’s my GigE?

    Interestingly, with ZFS, you could build a box that would “automatically” do Drobo’s neatest trick – storaage resizing. Apparently they didn’t use ZFS, but anyone else mildly technical could…

    So instead of buying Drobos, which I’d rather do if they had GigE, we’ll be building a few ZFS boxes. Oh well.

  4. I got excited once I saw Drobo, was ready to buy a few to play with, until I realized it was USB only. D’oh! Where’s my GigE?

    Interestingly, with ZFS, you could build a box that would “automatically” do Drobo’s neatest trick – storaage resizing. Apparently they didn’t use ZFS, but anyone else mildly technical could…

    So instead of buying Drobos, which I’d rather do if they had GigE, we’ll be building a few ZFS boxes. Oh well.

  5. Okay, that makes sense – I guess I didn’t understand your requirements. I still think the Infrant is a better bet for those of us who don’t move the device once it’s plugged in!

  6. Okay, that makes sense – I guess I didn’t understand your requirements. I still think the Infrant is a better bet for those of us who don’t move the device once it’s plugged in!

  7. Mack: I disagree. I need local storage, not network storage. Why? Because we often move our machines to different locations. For instance, the CES BlogHaus, or Rocky’s house, or mine. We have VERY FEW network resources that we need too.

  8. Mack: I disagree. I need local storage, not network storage. Why? Because we often move our machines to different locations. For instance, the CES BlogHaus, or Rocky’s house, or mine. We have VERY FEW network resources that we need too.

  9. From what I have read so far Microsoft have said that WHS is going to be OEM only? So you have to buy a machine with it on, or find a company that resells OEM licenses.

    I don’t see that WHS & Drobo cover the same market. WHS aiming for simple backup for non-techies vs Drobo which requires you to install your own drives?

  10. From what I have read so far Microsoft have said that WHS is going to be OEM only? So you have to buy a machine with it on, or find a company that resells OEM licenses.

    I don’t see that WHS & Drobo cover the same market. WHS aiming for simple backup for non-techies vs Drobo which requires you to install your own drives?

  11. WHS might be nice for a small home network, if it ever ships, but it does nothing for giving you fast access to resilient desktop storage.

  12. Chris, yes, these are home products. Small Biz or Big Biz have different requirements.

    Regarding the OS X issue. In both cases, the net is the same. You have to run software on your Mac to backup to the drives/server.

  13. WHS might be nice for a small home network, if it ever ships, but it does nothing for giving you fast access to resilient desktop storage.

  14. Chris, yes, these are home products. Small Biz or Big Biz have different requirements.

    Regarding the OS X issue. In both cases, the net is the same. You have to run software on your Mac to backup to the drives/server.

  15. I apologize. I think the disconnect here is that the drobo and WHS is for home use. At work you need to share and back up certain files, such as video in this case. Such is not the case with home users, where they want their whole computer backed up and updated as soon as there is a file system notification.

  16. I apologize. I think the disconnect here is that the drobo and WHS is for home use. At work you need to share and back up certain files, such as video in this case. Such is not the case with home users, where they want their whole computer backed up and updated as soon as there is a file system notification.

  17. Omar,
    Scoble’s on OSX, so how could he possibly get an advantage out of home server over simply mounting a location on his already running Ubuntu server from his Mac?

    So instead of popping a couple more SATAs into the office server and mounting it from the Mac work stations. They have to
    A. Buy another server
    B. install Windows software on it
    C. Deal with BSOD and all the other nicities of Microsoft, plus it’s still beta?

    That seems like a raw deal to me. He’d almost be better off with the drobos.

  18. Omar,
    Scoble’s on OSX, so how could he possibly get an advantage out of home server over simply mounting a location on his already running Ubuntu server from his Mac?

    So instead of popping a couple more SATAs into the office server and mounting it from the Mac work stations. They have to
    A. Buy another server
    B. install Windows software on it
    C. Deal with BSOD and all the other nicities of Microsoft, plus it’s still beta?

    That seems like a raw deal to me. He’d almost be better off with the drobos.

  19. Thomas, the whole point of WHS is to offer a non technical user a headless device to install on the network.

    WHS does not require a monitor and keyboard. It’s more like an appliance. You just install some client software on each machine you want backed up and you are done.

    Take a look at the HP MediaSmart server I referenced above as an example.

    How exactly does the Drobo get information from each PC to the server? Do consumers understand file shares and drag and drop? My parents don’t. WHS just backs things up automatgically.

    Of course, this explains it much better than my geek view of things:

    http://www.winsupersite.com/reviews/whs_preview.asp

  20. Thomas, the whole point of WHS is to offer a non technical user a headless device to install on the network.

    WHS does not require a monitor and keyboard. It’s more like an appliance. You just install some client software on each machine you want backed up and you are done.

    Take a look at the HP MediaSmart server I referenced above as an example.

    How exactly does the Drobo get information from each PC to the server? Do consumers understand file shares and drag and drop? My parents don’t. WHS just backs things up automatgically.

    Of course, this explains it much better than my geek view of things:

    http://www.winsupersite.com/reviews/whs_preview.asp

  21. Robert, Home Server is currently in beta (and yes, you can download and install it). It runs on very low end hardware. For example, I have it running on a PC at home and I just tossed in two 500GB drives and it’s been running since w/o any down time. Each night between 12 and 5 am it backs up all three of my computers.

    HP has announced a Home Server which you can see here:

    http://h71036.www7.hp.com/hho/cache/447351-0-0-225-121.html

  22. I think that what makes the Drobo appealing to me is it’s relatively inexpensive price and simplicity comparred to other server alternatives.

    Most servers cost more money than the Drobo and require some level of technical expertise to configure and get up and running.

    The Drobo is more like an external hard drive that you just plug in with a USB cable and you’re pretty much good to go. Nothing to set up or configure.

    While there may be better server sort of alternatives for hardcore geeks, I’m guessing that this product will fill a gap for those non geeks who simply want to easily plug something in and have it work.

    To this end it kind of reminds me of a TiVo vs. my Microsoft Media Center PC. The Media Center PC can record TV like the TiVo and in fact do a heck of a lot more. But it’s more expensive and ends up being much more trouble (crashes, things not working right, restarts etc.) to me than my TiVo which I’ve had plugged in now for probably a year and a half with never so much as a glitch.

    It’s not that TiVo does something (read record TV) any better than Microsoft Media Center does, it’s just that the TiVo is cheaper and far, far, simplier to use and for some consumers this is going to be more important.

    Omar, you probably make some excellent points about why your own server might be better, but I bet you that 95% of consumers would have no idea what you are saying when they read your points.

    Consumers do understand though the need for their photos to be safe and backed up and this is what the Drobo promises them in a super simple way.

  23. I think that what makes the Drobo appealing to me is it’s relatively inexpensive price and simplicity comparred to other server alternatives.

    Most servers cost more money than the Drobo and require some level of technical expertise to configure and get up and running.

    The Drobo is more like an external hard drive that you just plug in with a USB cable and you’re pretty much good to go. Nothing to set up or configure.

    While there may be better server sort of alternatives for hardcore geeks, I’m guessing that this product will fill a gap for those non geeks who simply want to easily plug something in and have it work.

    To this end it kind of reminds me of a TiVo vs. my Microsoft Media Center PC. The Media Center PC can record TV like the TiVo and in fact do a heck of a lot more. But it’s more expensive and ends up being much more trouble (crashes, things not working right, restarts etc.) to me than my TiVo which I’ve had plugged in now for probably a year and a half with never so much as a glitch.

    It’s not that TiVo does something (read record TV) any better than Microsoft Media Center does, it’s just that the TiVo is cheaper and far, far, simplier to use and for some consumers this is going to be more important.

    Omar, you probably make some excellent points about why your own server might be better, but I bet you that 95% of consumers would have no idea what you are saying when they read your points.

    Consumers do understand though the need for their photos to be safe and backed up and this is what the Drobo promises them in a super simple way.

  24. “I plan on buying a LOT more for our video editors because it ensures our data is safely stored on multiple disk drives”

    I thought Rocky was your video editor, so why the (s) ??

    “Home Server sounds really great. Can I buy one? How much? How much configuration does it need?”

    I’m fine with the new 24″ iMac I bought at FutureShop.
    I trust it way enough not to buy a drobo and the HDD is plenty big. That and NFS backup to the office server is cheaper and fast. You don’t need home server, you already have Ubuntu. Just hook up a few more IDE or SATA drives and mount the server as NFS from your Mac.

  25. “I plan on buying a LOT more for our video editors because it ensures our data is safely stored on multiple disk drives”

    I thought Rocky was your video editor, so why the (s) ??

    “Home Server sounds really great. Can I buy one? How much? How much configuration does it need?”

    I’m fine with the new 24″ iMac I bought at FutureShop.
    I trust it way enough not to buy a drobo and the HDD is plenty big. That and NFS backup to the office server is cheaper and fast. You don’t need home server, you already have Ubuntu. Just hook up a few more IDE or SATA drives and mount the server as NFS from your Mac.

  26. Drobo seems cool, but given that Windows Home Server does this and more, why use Drobo?

    Advantages to WHS over Drobo:

    1) automated backup of all my machines on my network (all Windows PCs, no mac support). Every single bit on disk… and since it uses Single Instance Store, only a single file is stored even if it exists on more than 2 machine. If you have a Mac, you can still use things like Retrospect to back the data up to the exposed file shares.

    2) Configurable duplication of shares on the drive. I have my pictures duplicated but not my music

    3) add and remove drives at will, all accessible under a single drive letter.

    4) Remote Access to all my computers behind the firewall. This means I can get to my MCE box behind the firewall w/o any complex port forwarding and whatnot.

    5) Relay service so I can access my machine at a given URL regardless of its internal IP address on my network

    6) Configuration of routers via UPnP…

    7) Ability to upload/download/access any files on my server through a secure web site (the server).

  27. Drobo seems cool, but given that Windows Home Server does this and more, why use Drobo?

    Advantages to WHS over Drobo:

    1) automated backup of all my machines on my network (all Windows PCs, no mac support). Every single bit on disk… and since it uses Single Instance Store, only a single file is stored even if it exists on more than 2 machine. If you have a Mac, you can still use things like Retrospect to back the data up to the exposed file shares.

    2) Configurable duplication of shares on the drive. I have my pictures duplicated but not my music

    3) add and remove drives at will, all accessible under a single drive letter.

    4) Remote Access to all my computers behind the firewall. This means I can get to my MCE box behind the firewall w/o any complex port forwarding and whatnot.

    5) Relay service so I can access my machine at a given URL regardless of its internal IP address on my network

    6) Configuration of routers via UPnP…

    7) Ability to upload/download/access any files on my server through a secure web site (the server).

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