I said Hello to Drobo

Shortly after Carolin got her Mac Mini, I noticed the need of a central storage solution in our home, both for Time Machine backups and shared files. I shopped around a bit and purchased the Buffalo LinkStation Live with a 1 TB disk. It was inexpensive and offered nice functions like auto-wakeup: the NAS (Network Attached Storage) only goes out of standby mode when there’s a computer active on the network.

But the honeymoon was over when I upgraded to Snow Leopard. That’s when the NAS Navigator Software coming with the LinkStation stopped working — and with it the auto-wakeup function. My support request was answered in the way of “Apple broke it with their OS upgrade, so pester them instead of us”. Take the “inexpensive” and put in “cheap” instead.

The straw that finally broke the camel’s back was when, two weeks ago, the status LED on the LinkStation started blinking frantically and I couldn’t switch the device off any more without yanking out the power cable. Trying to log into the administration interface didn’t work any more either. Looking through the support forum, I found that it’s a common problem that the LinkStation forgets its administrator account! And it seems the support staff couldn’t come up with something other than “Pull the cable out a few times, which will enable emergency mode, then you can do a firmware rewrite”. Well, I value my data. And I value my time as well, so I spent it instead on ordering a Drobo.

Fortunately, Cyberport currently offers a discount on the Drobo bundle which also contains the optional network extension called DroboShare.

First, I have to admit that the Drobo plays in a different league than the LinkStation Live. Since it houses up to four disks, it’s a good deal larger and, of course, more expensive. But you get back a lot more value, too.

Data stored on the Drobo gets replicated across disks (obviously you need at least two then), so if one disk fails, you can replace it without losing any data. What makes Drobo different from the usual RAID storages is that the disks don’t have to be of equal size. If an old 250 GB disk fails, you don’t have to look for a used one on eBay. You just replace it with a 1 TB disk and Drobo uses the additional space. Also, if you run out of space, you simply pull out a disk and put in a bigger one.

After the first week, I can say that it’s working very well. The only thing the storage is missing is a proper standby mode, because the heat generated by the disks is pushed out by a not so quiet fan and the Drobo sits right outside of our bedroom.

But with the good reputation the Drobo has in the tech community and the data security it provides, I might now sleep even better than before.