Drobo Storage Robot. There’s one immutable truth in technology, you can never have enough data storage space. No matter how big that mega hard disk you bought this afternoon, sometime soon you’re going to need to delete stuff to free up space. It’s like death and taxes, right? The problem is getting worse too, as we take advantage of the net to download more music, more video, and take more photos with ever growing megapixel file sizes.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably got a couple of external hard drives doing service as backup and storage areas, hung off USB or Firewire, and you’ve probably upgraded at least a couple of times in the past few years – which is generally not a fun exercise.
With all that in mind, I was pretty excited to hear about a new product called Drobo, which is being billed as the world’s first zero hassle data storage system for PCs and Macs. So excited that I emailed the manufacturer – Data Robotics – to ask for a unit to test out. Well it arrived and I’ve been trying it out for a while and it’s definitely one of the most impressive pieces of technology I’ve seen in a long time.
The basic premise behind Drobo is that users don’t want, or need, complex RAID, NAS or other geek heritage storage solutions. What they really want is a super simple ‘plug in and forget’ disk system which gives them totally safe storage which can be upgraded instantly in seconds. The corporate marketing blurb emphasizes this ease of use over everything. All the high power tech is hidden from view, all the customer sees is a system which protects their data no matter what.
The idea is that you don’t need to understand how to format drives, configure disk arrays, set up partitions or worry about any aspect of the system. Just plug it in and it works. Similarly when you need to add more storage you just unplug a drive and slot in a larger one, or add another disk to a spare slot or whatever. It’s a superb concept and something that has been sorely missing from the market up to now.
First Impressions. Nice box. Sleek black, natty cover, no complicated controls, buttons, ports, geek-i-ness. The kind of peripheral that your granny would love. Drobo ships without any drives, just four slots into which you can install any make, model or capacity of 3.5 inch SATA disk drives. I started with four drives, Western Digital 500GB, 250GB and 80GB units and one Seagate 160GB. A total of 922GB of physical disk space.
The Drobo package includes the device, power supply, USB 2.0 cable, dashboard control software on CD, and a slim but complete manual. The install? Er…unpack, slot in your chosen quantity and capacity of hard disks, insert USB cable into PC and power up the box. Total time? 2 minutes. Install and fire up the Drobo software dashboard program, press OK to format and go make a cup of tea. Five minutes later, all done, no drivers to install, nothing. You now have a shed load of self-configuring, infinitely updateable storage ready to use.