What’s all the fuss about Drobo?

It seems to me that marketing has had its way again. Drobo is a fashionable piece of tech equipment (if there IS such a thing), it looks very nice, and it has some fancy LEDs. But, isn’t the ReadyNAS from Netgear a very credible alternative? I’ve had a ReadyNAS NV now for three years, and I have no complaints, with 2.8TB online with four hard drives. (I started with four 300GB drives, then 500GB, having just upgraded to 1TB drives).

For me, the Drobo has some distinct disadvantages.

Out of the box, you have to connect to USB. This means that it works with the computer it’s attached to, and if you want to share files, the computer must be left on. You can get a network interface, but that connects via USB, again limiting the bandwidth.

Drobo’s advantages are basically that you can throw any size drive into it, and it dynamically manages the disk space. ReadyNAS can hot-swap drives, but the resultant RAID is a multiple of the smallest drive fitted, the drive space expands once the last drive is added.

ReadyNAS however, has some spectacular features over Drobo :

Being network based, you don’t need a host computer. It also has backup scheduling, seeking out connected computers at particular times, and backing up data as required. So, it can look after your backups for you just by leaving computers on overnight for example.

It sends you emails when something happens, power failure (as long as it’s on a UPS – which it controls and supports of course). It will also email you with the status of your backups, and a warning as the drive space fills up, or a hard drive fails.

Then, there’s FTP access, allowing you to access files from anywhere, as well as AFP, SMB etc. Media server facilities too.

You can plug in USB drives into the back, they are shared across the network, plug one into the front, and press the button, it will copy onto the RAID.

Then, there’s user access, so you can give different users access to different areas of the file system.

So, I think Drobo is riding on a wave of popularity, and the ReadyNAS is a little overlooked. As for price, it’s not a lot more expensive, especially if you take into account the networking option.

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2 Responses to What’s all the fuss about Drobo?

  1. Dataguy says:

    I agree that the NV+ is a very good solution, especially if you want a NAS. Drobo was positioned primarily as a DAS. NAS is available with the optional DroboShare add-on sled, which they’ve now opened to third-party development. But in terms of NAS, I wouldn’t put Drobo in the same product space as the ReadyNAS. Overlapping, sure, but Data Robotics didn’t seek to create a NAS, let alone a ReadyNAS competitor.

    Pricing is quite favorable to the Drobo, especially considering how much the price has increased for the ReadyNAS line since Netgear bought Infrant. There’s a fairly compelling TCO argument about the Drobo not having to upgrade all drives at once with the same sized drives to overcome the limitation of RAID. But I see that Netgear is working on that too. Until recent versions of the ReadyNAS firmware, Drobo had an advantage that it rebuilt a failed drive while still allowing full access to the data on the volume.

    Drobo also does bit-error correction checks rather than blindly mirroring or checksumming corrupted data. And the Drobo (with or without the DroboShare) also will e-mail status, provided that the management app is running.

    Personally, I own two Drobos. I think it does a good job in the niche the Data Robotics is targeting, but they’ve made some marketing blunders along the way. And the product has yet to mature.

    Ultimately, I don’t see it as a cut & dry head-to-head between the two products. They have different strengths, weaknesses, and market segments.

  2. simontaylor says:

    New product on the market looks interesting, with Gigabit interface, and using 2.5″ drives, this is a green alternative to BOTH Drobo and ReadyNAS. http://www.synology.com/enu/products/DS409slim/index.php

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