Data Robotics today introduced the second generation of what I think of as a personal storage array, but although the Drobo 2 offers great enhancements, making it a top choice for those needing massive and protected storage on a single computer, it’s still not what I’m looking for in a home storage device.
First, the good bits. Drobo 2 adds FireWire 800 (and 400) for quicker storage access – the company claims it’s twice as fast, and I’d believe it. They also beefed up the internal CPU and tightened the firmware to speed up USB transfer rates and added a larger, quieter fan to keep it quiet. And the price remains the same at US$499.
There’s a lot to love here, just as with the first-generation device. Drobo is a fully virtualized device with next-generation storage capabilities like thin provisioning, sub-disk RAID that can tolerate multiple drive failures (once the array has reconfigured after the first failure), and on-the-fly drive swapping and upgrades. When attached to a PC or Mac, it appears as a single massive storage volume, and all of the technical bits just work in the background to keep your data protected.
I can’t imagine a better Time Machine backup device. And now that FireWire 800 is available with its faster speeds, the Drobo makes a lot of sense as a budget array for video editing and other pro applications.
What’s not to love? First, a Drobo still can’t be shared between computers without an add-on like the company’s aptly-named DroboShare NAS unit. Although home users generally don’t need to partition their storage, pros might want to create separate volumes for Time Machine, Video, and Photos. And many might want to share the device between multiple computers, perhaps using FireWire for their Mac and USB for a PC or DroboShare. I suppose you could buy two, but $500 for a bare unit with no drives is a pretty penny!
But the device just can’t do this – if you want to share it, you have to dedicate it all to the DroboShare, which uses USB and presents SMB shares over gigabit Ethernet. Actually, the DroboShare is an awfully nice NAS in its own right, supporting DLNA/UPnP for media streaming, and the company recently announced an SDK to allow additional applications to be added.
So all in all, Drobo 2 is a nice upgrade but not much of a revolution. If you’re looking for massive, protected storage for a single computer at home, and have upwards of $700 to spend on it, you can’t make a better choice. And FireWire makes it even more attractive to Mac users. But I still wish Drobo could take all these Maxtor drives off my desk, offering speedy storage to both of my computers and my network devices.
PS: Data Robotics is currently offering the original Drobo at $349 to clear them out. If you wanted one before, this price might get you off the couch!