Drobo Review – Stuck in Customs

Drobo Review


I have a long history with Drobos now! Here’s the super-short-version. Now, I like Drobo again! They are back on my Nice list and off my Naughty list.

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Quick History

I used to have 3 Drobos with the USB/Firewire connection. They were slow, but I didn’t know any better until I got the Promise Pegasus Thunderbolt drive. That blew me away. The speed, performance, and storage was beyond compare. Just recently, Drobo put out a thunderbolt version too, and they sent me one to play with… And it’s really amazing! It’s fast and stable and all the things I want with a backup system.

What is the Drobo, anyway?

Oh, let’s take a step back here before we get into the full review. I find that a lot of people out there in the world still have not heard of Big External Drives that are easy to use. People are scared by words like “Raid Arrays” and this sort of thing. But, really, you can think of the Drobo as a giant thumb drive that can hold many terabytes of information (instead of the megabytes you used to with a thumb drive).

You will plug this into your computer and it will act as a giant storage device. Now, there are many kinds of Drobos from the ultra-portable Drobo Mini to the sit-on-your-desk-forever Drobo 5D. You can pick and choose one based on your lifestyle.

The portable Mini Drobo can effectively hold about 2.7 TB of data. The bigger Drobo 5D can hold effectively 14.5 TB.

Word to the Wise

Okay, here’s something you won’t want to hear, especially if you are on a budget.

You’ll need to really think about buying not one, but TWO of the Drobos. Here’s the logic. These things have a ton of space – terabytes and terabytes. Chances are that you’ll start to fill up your backup drive over time, and then, it’s not REALLY a backup anymore, is it? We mistakenly call these Drobos a “backup drive” — but that is not accurate if it is actually holding the ONE and ONLY version of a file, right? So, you should really buy TWO of them so that you actually have a backup!

I recommend you bring your second Drobo in once a month and make a new backup, and then take it back off-site. This is really the safest and smartest way to backup your data. Of course, there is an extra expense, but you may just need to get your head around the idea that Your Data Is Worth A Lot of Money.

The Big Drobo

The Drobo 5D (one of the many systems I have) is the perfect workhorse for me. My current one holds up to 16TB, but this is configurable based upon one kind of drives you put inside. And this is one of the cool things about the Drobo. It allows you to swap out and replace drives at any time as your needs change. Also, sometimes 1/5 drives may fail. Your data isn’t gone, because it’s mirrored across the other 4 drives. You can then take out the bad drive and put in another good one. Simple! (and quite satisfying, frankly!)

If you fill your Drobo 5D with 4TB drives, here’s how you end up! It holds 20 TB, but the only space you can actually use is 14.52 TB.

Management Tools

The tools have come a long way too! It’s kind of cool to play with these and check out the status of all your data. Here is an example:

Field Testing

I’ve been using this for about a month. I’ve had no real problems except for one of the 5 hard drives failing. Note that it is not Drobo’s fault — probably just a bad drive. But I simply swap out the bad drive for a good one, then everything is okay again. This is exactly the way things are supposed to work!


As of right now, I am using my Drobo with 5 3TB drives as a Time Machine backup for everything… it’s behaving flawlessly.

Drobo Mini Review by John P.

Go check out my friend John P’s Drobo Mini Review! It’s crazy thorough… and he hits his Drobos much harder than I do!