Data Security: Drobo FS arrival, installation and file transfer

Posted on by Mike Evans

Two years ago I installed a Drobo “beyond-RAID” disk array as a secure, protected backup medium but also to store old data that I might need in the future. Together with a DroboShare network unit, the Drobo is accessible from all my computers and has done a great job with absolutely no problems. In fact, it has lived in a cupboard in my office and I’ve never had cause to make any adjustments.

The only snag I’ve encountered is access speed. The Drobo disk pack unit is connected to the Droboshare by USB although the DroboShare itself has an Ethernet connection. It isn’t exactly a flier. I got frustrated by the time taken even for simple incremental SuperDuper! backups and the transfer time any major blocks of data became unacceptable.

New Drobo FS offers fast Ethernet connection to the networkNow I’ve upgraded to Drobo FS, DataRobotics’ new integrated network solution that connects by Ethernet and promises greatly improved speed.

The new unit arrived from Amazon yesterday and, as usual, set up was straightforward and trouble-free. I’d bought two Western Digital 2TB Caviar Green Drives to start off the unit and I soon had them installed and running. Surprisingly, it isn’t necessary to format the disks, as with the original Drobo, nor is it obligatory to choose a format volume (which, with all Drobos, can be larger than the capacity of the disks currently installed). The FS simply grows as you add more disks to a maximum of five compared with the four in the old unit. With 3TB disks now generally available, this means you can fit 15TB in one FS. As larger disk sizes become available you can easily swap them for the existing smaller disks.

Since you cannot simply transfer the old disks from the Drobo into the Drobo FS (they would be formatted and overwritten) you do need some new disks, preferably two, to start the ball rolling. I am currently copying across all the data from the old Drobo to the FS and I’ve recruited my venerable vintage PowerBook G4 to handle this. I have a further 72 hours to wait for the completion of the 800 GB transfer but all appears to be running smoothly.

All Drobos incorporate what they call “beyond-RAID” technology. You can mix and match disk sizes, manufacturers and speeds without concern. And you can hot-swap disks without any risk of data loss. Setting up a RAID array isn’t all that difficult using OS X’s Disk Utility, but the process still needs care and intervention. The advantage of the Drobo is that all the thinking is done for you.

The Drobo is an important part of my data security strategy. It stores incremental backups of all my Macs using encrypted sparsebundles. I’ve also installed the new Drobo FS with a 1TB share for TimeMachine so I can pension off the old Time Capsule. In addition to regular backups, my Drobo contains old backups of machines I have sold. The last thing I do before wiping a for-sale computer is update the Drobo sparsebundle. That way, if I’ve forgotten anything, I can mount the drive and run through the data. In addition, the Drobo stores archive data that I’ve deleted from current computers in order to save disk space and cut down backup times.

While my current data can be found on the Drobo, I also keep incremental backups on external disks (encrypted, of course). In the event of disk failure, it is quicker and easier to use a USB or FireWire disk for restore. These disks are also an extra level of security in case of the failure (or theft) of the Drobo.

None of these precautions are any help if the house burns down, so for ultimate data protection I use Dropbox where all my current data is stored and is synchronised across all my machines. With my paperless office, most of my life is now stored digitally and I can’t afford to take chances.

More on Drobo when I’ve successfully migrated all my data.

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