Drobo S for Photographers

Some of you may know that I had my computer and several hard drives stolen. Most of that data was backed up other places, but in a miss mash of backup drives. I had 4 external drives hooked up to my computer. A TimeMachine backup, a main images drive, a drive with video, and a drive of older images. It and the video drive were usually not switched on. They didn’t go to sleep well.

It was a big pain. I decided to upgrade. I would buy one unit that would hold all of my current space needs, and provide some redundancy. I went with a Drobo S. I got it Friday, and went to work getting setup. (It is now Sunday Night and I have it all working. My images are on the Drobo, and my Lightroom and Aperture catalogs are on my desktop and all talking to each other)

The drobo unit is not cheap, but still I was surprised to see that all cable options were included. They have a USB2, a Firewire 800, and an eSATA cable.

I was a little surprised that the drives that I ordered with the unit (Direct from Drobo) didn’t come preinstalled. They are in very generic, straight out of a bulk shipment, from Western Digital. The drives come out of their boxes and insert easily with no cables to attach. Just drop them in. The cover on the Drobo S at least, is magnetic. That’s right, no tools required to put drives in or out. I like that a lot.

I also noticed that it does have the little lock slot on the back, which I intend to use. However, because the drives are so easy to get in, there is no way to lock the drives into the device. I guess I will be hoping that the next idiots that break in, if it happens, just get frustrated when the device is locked, and leave it with the drives still inside.

I hooked the Drobo up using the supplied firewire 800 cable. I will see how that is working out speed wise over the next couple of weeks. I will store my images in the Drobo, so it will be interesting to see how it works out. I have done this in the past with USB2.0 only, but I have another option in mind. OWC has an upgrade option, where you send in your computer and they upgrade it to have an eSATA port. It would be underneath where the vents are. This might be tempting, but then I would have to be without the computer for awhile again.

I had 4 different external hard drives that my data was scattered over, 3 of which had a backup. They are all getting combined into the one Drobo. I have 5 1TB drives in this thing. With their Beyond Raid tech, I have single drive failure protection, and 3.62TB of available space for my data. Lets get going…

The first thing I did was to create two volumes. I wanted to do this to provide 1 volume for TimeMachine. If I just provided a folder, not a volume, TimeMachine would never prune and delete old files, just keep on growing. I didn’t want that. I am a little confused about what happened. You have to choose a maximum size, and you have to pick less than the available drive space in order to create multiple volumes. I picked 2TB, and it created two volumes each 2TB. I should be able to add more space later to use the extra (I have less than 4TB, remember). The part I am not sure, is that I read a post that said the second volume will be allowed to expand past that 2TB when you add larger drives. I don’t know about that. I might need to do a shuffle when that happens. It would be better if you could set separate sizes in the Drobo Dashboard config tool. I could set 2TB for TimeMachine, and 12TB or more for the other volume. If it is possible, it sure isn’t clear in the tool or the help files.

Time to copy some data.

I plugged in one of the external hard drives to my computer and started to copy files. This will take awhile.

I came back to the computer (after a night of copying data) and found everything silent. The computer had gone to sleep (set to 3h, 1 drive copy had finished successfully), the drobo lights were off, the fans were silent. Very cool. That I like to see.

I don’t have enough time with the unit right now to give any more data than this, but it seems to be working just fine. My Drobo and the 5 supplied drives are working well. I do wish I could see the temperature of the drives or get individual SMART data from them, but the DROBO is supposed to alert me if something is going wrong.

I’ll let you know more as I learn it.

7 thoughts on “Drobo S for Photographers

  1. Hey there,

    I’m currently trying to choose between the Drobo S and the Promise DS4600. The DS4600 is way cheaper so that’s an advantage 🙂

    Anyway, the raid’s purpose for me would be to serve as my main storage for photography, which means I need it to be very fast so I can access my photos with no hiccups.

    I am a Mac user and I thought about connecting it using Firewire 800.

    Do you think the Drobo S would be fast enough for this purpose? If not – do you know if the Promise 4600 is any better?


    • I don’t know anything about the promise drive. The drobo has been working will for me. I connect to my Mac via FW800 and it serves as my main image library. I have considered getting my iMac retrofitted by OWC with a iSATA connection but I haven’t felt I needed it. Download from cards into lightroom seems slowish, but I am creating DNG’s and previews, so I don’t know if it would speed up much.

  2. Thanks! So you feel that the Drobo S is fast enough to serve as the main storage for your photo library? You don’t encounter occasional slow-downs? And what about the reliability? I’ve read some user reports that complain about failed controllers that made them lost all their data…

    • It seems fast enough right now. I don’t browse the images on the drive, I use Lighroom, and have the catalog on the main hard drive. I don’t have a reliability issue yet (crosses fingers and toes).

      • Hi Chris,

        I plan to use a Drobo S as my main drive for all my images.

        Have you had any problems at all?

        Very keen to buy this system soon.



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