Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Drobo + Droboshare

This is my new Drobo sitting on my poor mans computer rack in my office. I've had it about two weeks now.

This is the older USB 2.0 only model. When the new model with Firewire was introduced this model had a price cut. I was all ready to buy it off the Drobo site with a promo code when I realized that once that added shipping on I could still get it cheaper from Amazon. I also purchased the Droboshare attachment to turn it into a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device. I ordered two 750 Gig drives from Newegg to complete the set. Newegg has consistently had the lowest prices for drives. I've since added a 640 Gig drive to give me a bit of boost in redundancy. I've also added a Dlink Gigabit Network switch to try and improve transfer rates. The one computer I have with a Gigabit card in it only saw modest speed increases.

All my experiences have been with the Drobo in conjunction with a Droboshare so keep that in mind. Expansion of the device is really the hallmark of it's simplicity you just add an additional SATA drive and you increase your redundancy protection and over all disk space. With two 750 Gig drives and one 640 Gig drive I have access to 1.26 Terabytes of redundant data storage connected to my home network. Any one drive can fail and I will have no data loss. This is a comfort since if I have a single drive failure in my Linux server the whole data volume is gone.

One important item with the SATA drives you place in it. Make sure the are set to work at high transfer rates. You might have to fiddle with jumpers to turn this on. SATA drives come in 1.5 and 3.0 Gigabyte transfer rates. Some of the 3.0 Gigabyte SATA II drives are configured to run at 1.5. So make sure you are getting your moneys worth and get the jumpers right. Honestly I did not see a difference in transfer rates but I feel better now.

My purpose for this device was to provide redundant storage from my digital pictures. A 10 Megapixel camera can eat up storage fast. And a place to protect all my music library. I have started using the Drobo as the primary storage device for the pictures but just a backup up for the music. I want to keep the music on the Linux server for now as the primary source.

Transferring vast amounts of data over the network takes time. My transfer rates are much slower than I would have expected I'm not sure if this is because they are coming off a volume group in Linux of if I have an issue with my network. The data is moving at 10 Megabit speeds even though I'm on a 100 Megabit line for the Linux server. The iMac is transferring at acceptable speeds but it is on Gigabit and should be faster. Maybe the USB 2.0 connection to the droboshare is issue.

Pros: Setup is easy, expansion if totally easy. Footprint is small and you don't have to worry about configuring a RAID array on your computer. Your data is protected from hard drive failures. You get a lot of usable storage considering it is also providing redundancy. The set up was fairly easy but some of that will make it into the cons. The tool to manage the device is pretty straight forward and effective. To your computers it shows up as a standard SMB (Windows) file share pretty easy to access. I have a mixed environment to so my Mac's, Linux Boxes, and Windows machines can all see it, use it, and share files. Double plus good.

Cons: You still have to understand about drive formatting to get it up and going but you can get a geeky guy or girl to help if needed. You should just plug it into the network and the client tool supplied with the Droboshare is supposed to find it. I had to plug and unplug and reset and fiddle a while before it finally came up. I have the same problem if I place it in standby mode it really does not want to come back to life. I've had one power outage where it can back fine I had an accidentally unplug where I thought I would have to send it back but it finally woke up and the client was able to see it. That has been the biggest issue I've had with it. Also the Drobo client install keeps wanting to make it load on startup I don't want it to and have to convince it of that every update. Oh yeah it really is an expensive solution.

Needs to have: The Droboshare really really needs to support some type of rsync capability. It based on Linux and they just released an SDK someone really really needs to compile rsync for it. This would make transferring files to it so much easier. My 100+ Gig music library takes over 26 hours to transfer. This is due to the slow transfer speeds off the Linux server but rsync would really fix that.

Nutshell: If you have digital bits of data that you want to share and protect this is the device to buy. It excels at simplicity (when compared to other solutions). Allows you to maintain control of your media. If you are buying music, movies are taking hard to replace photos go buy one today. With today's hard drives it is not if you will have a failure it is when. Remember though it is just an onsite backup if your house burns so does your data, to be truly secure you will also need some sort of off site backup. Like Jungle Disk or Mozy.

No comments: