Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Drobo Mr. Storage Roboto

What gets sucked up faster than excess bandwidth? Disk drive space, that's what. If all you did was word processing and spreadsheets, one of those 150 GB drives would last forever. But with digital cameras saving multi-Megabits per picture and videos making still photos look puny, there's no such thing as too much disk.

Replacing a disk drive with a bigger one or even adding more drives has its own challenges. The more Gigabytes you have, the more you have to backup or risk losing it all to a fatal head crash. If graphic design or video production is your occupation, you can spend substantial amounts of time protecting your work from untimely loss. What you need is an assistant to take of that. if fact, what you could really use is a personal robot.

Well, here's your robot. It's called Drobo, the "world's first storage robot." Drobo is a self-contained black cube of electronics with 4 open slots for SATA drives. You plug 'em in and Drobo takes care of disk management.

It almost looks like a hard drive juke box. But Drobo is a lot more sophisticated than that. It not only combines storage capacity from multiple drives, it secures your data from hardware failure. How does it do that?

At this point, I can imagine a legion of terrified insects all screaming "RAID". Funny, but not it. RAID or Redundant Array of Inexpensive or Independent Disks, is a technique of spreading data across several disk drives instead of concentrating it on a single drive. Files are not only spread over several disks, but redundant information is also written so that the file can be recovered if one of the drives crashes.

Drobo does something similar called SAFE for Secure, Automated, Flexible, Expandable. An advantage over RAID systems is that you can mix drives of various capacities and Drobo doesn't care. It works with whatever capacities you plug in. Like RAID, if a drive "goes south" you don't lose your data. A red light comes on and you pull out the bad drive and plug in a new one. You don't even have to fill the four slots. Start out with one or two drives and add more as you need them. Blue lights on the box tell you how much capacity you've used up.

Like any redundant storage system, Drobo uses substantial amounts of your disk drives for redundant data protection. A combination of drives that add up to 1.5 TB give you 929 GB of actual storage. That could easily be worth it as the robot does all the work.

Data Robotics put a lot of effort into making Drobo behave as much like an independent robot as possible. You don't have to worry about configuring anything or managing the processes. You plug it in, connect to a USB port, add some drives and away you go. When the drives are ready, Drobo lights green indicators next to them. Somewhere in its robotic brain, Drobo is keeping track of drive health and making sure that you don't lose anything. If you notice a flashing red light, replace that drive. It's a goner.

Drobo works with PCs and MACs through a USB port, or you can buy the optional Droboshare accessory that turns it into networked storage over a 10/100/1000 Ethernet connection. Find out more about the Drobo Fully Automated SATA Robotic Storage Array 4 Bay USB 2.0 and read the user reviews to see if this product is right for you.

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