Drobo robot for peace of mind

Posted on by Mike Evans

My interest in backup and security has burgeoned in the last six months. The more we store on our hard drives, the more we begin to rely entirely on being able to retrieve important info at any time. I've mentioned before that I now run a paperless office; all my documents are scanned and then destroyed, except for the very few originals that must be retained. So a loss of electronic data is potentially a disaster. One backup isn't enough. Two is the minimum, and one of those should be kept offsite. Failure of a hard drive (and I've had one already this month) is only one problem. Theft of equipment, including external hard drives, is always a danger; and a home or office fire is the ultimate destroyer of electronic data.

The first step towards peace of mind is a backup system that provides protection against disk failure. Instead of having separate external disks and attempting to manage the backups manually, I've now installed a Drobo after hearing lots of positive comments on various podcasts. Unlike main RAID drive solutions, Drobo is extremely simple and is a plug-in-and-go answer to mirrored file storage. It holds up to four 3.5in SATA drives but the minimum is two for obvious reasons: if one drive fails the other contains all your data. To start with I've put in two 1 TB drives which gives me up to 1 TB of storage (the other terabyte being reserved for mirroring). Adding more drives increases the proportion of space available for files. With four one TB drives in a Drobo you have 5.5 TB of storage space with 1.8 TB of overhead for protection. Not a bad deal. The maximum theoretical storage space on any one Drobo is 16 TB but there are no 4 TB disks available yet--the maximum being the new 2 TB.

I also bought a DroboShare which sits under the Drobo box and allows networking to allow backup from any machine on the home network. All in all, the Drobo, DroboShare and two Western Digital 1 TB 7,200 rpm drives cost £750.

The beauty of Drobo is that you can swop out broken or redundant drives and the system automatically copes without any intervention. If a drive fails, just remove it and put in another. If you run out of space, just remove one or two of the smaller disks and put in larger ones. 

With the Drobo, you can forget about separate hard drives and there is consequently far less hassle. In theory, it provides a fail-safe solution and nothing short of theft of the Drobo or a fire could alter that. So far I am in my first two weeks of Droboing and I will report back later on experiences, good or bad. 

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