The Drobo… The Ideal Personal Storage Device

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How do you store all those digitized photos, scanned documents, office documents, and music? As rich media (photos, video, movies, music) continues to devour the storage capacity of your local hard drive, you need a solution that allows you to easily manage, protect, and scale storage for your PC or Mac. As an amateur Genealogist, I have collected gigabytes of digital data on just my own family that has taken me years to acquire. What would you do or how would you feel if you lost everything you had worked so hard on?

I’m amazed at the number of amateur and professional photographers, genealogists, business owners and individuals who have NO BACK UP STRATEGY. Many people have purchased single high capacity external hard drives, available from retails such as Costco, Staple and Office Depot (such as “Western Digital My Book”) as their extended external storage drive solution. The problem with this solution is that there is no built in-safety mechanism should the single drive fail. I cannot tell you how many people I know who simply have all of their digital media stored on a single hard drive, hoping that it won’t fail. IT WILL FAIL! All hard drives fail. It’s not a matter of “if” it’s a matter of when. Now some of the more pro-active people may have bought two of the large capacity external drives and chosen to use back-up software to back-up one drive to the other. The problems with this solution are many, including the possibility that your back-up software silently fails to replicate the data.

Enter The Drobo

The Data Robotics Drobo represents the easiest to use, most economical way that you can back up and store your digital media. The Drobo is designed to safeguard your data automatically. It is a “Fully Automated SATA Robotic Storage Array.” This sounds a little intimidating, but it is probably one of the simplest pieces of technology to manage on your computer or network. It is about the size of a toaster and allows you to insert up to four SATA hard drives. The latest version of the Drobo 2.0, boasts improved Firewire 400/800 support and is now twice as fast as the old Drobo.

Drobo Flavors

The original first generation Drobo, which is USB 2.0 only, is still available for a limited time from Data Robotics and some retailers. The second generation Drobo can be purchased in several different configurations from Data Robotics, Amazon or any of their authorized retailers. My preferred configuration when purchasing the second generation Drobo is the empty configuration. With this configuration, I was able to buy two initial 1 TB drives from Amazon from just $153.00 each, giving me a total of 1 TB storage capacity. I can add two additional ones later and they don’t even need to be the same size.

How It Works

Your digital media and documents are stored and spread across up to four drives. If one drive fails you simply pull the old failed drive out and swap a new working drive in and you’ve lost NOTHING. The system heals itself with the new drive. It’s like you never had a drive failure at all. Your data is automatically replicated across all of the drives and protected from the dreaded single hard drive failure.

Set-up and Use

Drobo is both Mac and Windows compatible. If you use it on a Mac, I recommend the latest version of Leopard. If you plan to use it over an Apple Airport network, be sure you have the current firmware update for AirPort Extreme.

When you open the box, a three-step setup poster walks you through the basics: Insert the drives, attach the cables, (power and USB 2.0 or FireWire cable), and install the software. The user manual, inspiring in its clarity and its approachable layout, helps explain things nicely.

After you insert your drives, Drobo takes it from there. It stores any data that you write to it, automatically backing it up, and constantly monitors the health making necessary adjustments and repairs.

It’s really that simple.


You should remember that just because you have a Drobo, your back up strategy should not end here. As good as Drobos are at protecting your digital media from disk failures, they still can’t protect against things like fire or theft. One solution may be to buy two Drobos and put them in different parts of the country and back up your files periodically on both machines. Another solution would be to swap Drobo’s and move one off-site every week or every month. The third possible solution is to utilize an off-site back-up service. This is a topic I will address in a future article.

About the Author

Phil is the CEO or Sirius Innovations, LLC and a 32-year veteran of the Stamford Fire Department. Phil is the lead Web Application Developer for Sirius Innovations, specializing in ColdFusion, PHP, Javascript, jQuery, CSS, Microsoft SQL Server, and MySQL Server. He has a strong background in data analysis, developing customized solutions for several large Cities and Hospitals. In the Fire Department, he is assigned to the East Side Fire Station #4 on Shippan Avenue in Stamford, CT. In addition to his regular Fire Officer duties, he is a Public Relations Officer, a member of the Marine Division and the developer of the Departments Intranet, developer of the website and serves on the Departments' IT Team.

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