Since I have a massive amount of data on hand I’ve been spending a lot of time looking for an external multi-drive enclosure that either had RAID capabilities or something similar. Due to reading enough positive recommendations that had the Drobo been a person it would be nominated for sainthood I decided to go with one. A bit before Christmast I ordered a standard FireWire 800 four-bay Drobo using a $100.00 discount. I was going to run it for six months and determine whether or not I could recommend the Drobo has a solid backup device. The damned thing didn’t even make it two entire months and I’m going to advice anybody looking for a solid backup device look elsewhere.
For those of you who don’t know a Drobo is nothing more than a fancy four-drive enclosure that loads all of the contained drives into a common pool with redundancy. This means all of the drives are seen as one to any computer you attach the Drobo to. Having redundancy means you can lose any single drive without losing the data on the Drobo, at least in theory. This is similar to RAID although unlike RAID the Drobo doens’t require each drive to be the same capacity in order to work. This sounded ideal to me since I could simply drop in larger drives as they were needed instead of dropping in four new drives every time I wanted to add space.
I had problems right from the start, namely with the included software called Drobo Dashboard. What’s the problem? The software won’t install on my Mac Pro. Why? I haven’t a clue. When I try to install the software I’m informed at the end that the software couldn’t be installed but am given no error message and no entries are made in the system logs that could inform me of what’s going on. Basically I haven’t a Thor damned clue what’s going on and no message is ever displayed that could clarify the problem. This means I had to setup my Drobo on my laptop where the software installed without any trouble.
Setup is easy enough and once the Drobo was initialized it was detected by my Mac Pro without any trouble. From there I started using the Drobo as a Time Machine backup destination and it worked OK until an undetermined time when it failed. Why do I said an undetermined time? Because it was completely undetermined.
The problem with my Drobo is the fact it’s been stuck in a state where it claims everything is running correctly but my computers can’t mount the Drobo. The drive lights on the Drobo are all green indicating everything is working as expected. According to the Drobo Dashboard software my Drobo’s data is great and everything is running in tip-top shape. The problem is when I plug it into any computer it will not mount. Yes Disk Utility can see it will not mount the infernal device.
I’ve tried everything recommended by Data Robotics Inc. (the makers of this piece of shit) including unplugging the Drobo, shutting down the computer, letting them sit for a while (overnight in my case), replugging in the Drobo to the computer, and starting the computer back up. Nothing works. Basically I’ve got a several hundred dollar paperweight that serves no purpose other than to piss me off by it’s existence.
When looking for a backup device the first and foremost thing the device must be is reliable. The Drobo is not reliable and from doing searches online I’ve found I’m not the only person who’s ran into this exact problem. I share with each person who has written about this problem something else, nobody has managed to get the damned thing working again without doing a full reset which includes erasing all the data on the Drobo. My advice is to stay clear of Drobo and any Data Robotics Inc. products. Their software is shit and doesn’t even tell you why it can’t install, their device is shit and reports itself as working perfectly even though it’s in paperweight mode, and the only way to get the device out of paperweight mode is apparently resetting the device which destroys the data and defeats the purpose of a backup device.
If anybody has any recommendations for a good multi-drive (four or more) enclosure that does redundancy (RAID is find by me) I’d love to hear them. At this point I’m looking around again for a proper solution but just wanted to inform everybody to steer clear of Drobo devices. They’re headaches and not at all reliable.