Introduction

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I purchased a Drobo FS at the beginning of January 2011. This is the story of the journey I took from that point on, in my attempts to achieve what I perceived I required. I had a single goal - to use the Drobo FS for Time Machine backups for three computers used in my home network. Hopefully this information may be of some value to someone else.

What is described represents what I posted on the Drobo Support site along with my understanding of the information I received from Drobo support personnel through telephone calls and through replies online to my posts on the support site.

I am aware that my understanding of the complexities relating to making backups using Time Machine on a Drobo may be imperfect. I do however try to represent accurately my understanding of the developing situation, problem and potential solutions along with my increasing level of frustration with respect to the situation.

Throughout the process the Drobo Support personnel were courteous and sometimes it was my perception that they also were frustrated by the issue. I am clear that the support I received did not solve my problem and my perception of the support I received was of a system which was unable to cope with anything out-of-the-ordinary. Frequently I felt that my voluminous comments were not being read prior to the support person responding. The responses were thus often perceived not to be really pertinent or verging on being gestures. I was also very disappointed by the slowness of the responses through the online ticketing system. Telephone calls tended to bring better results faster but eventually the problem was passed to Tier 3 Support which I perceived couldn't help me either.

To help others I posted the following review of the Drobo FS on amazon.co.uk

Review

The Concept

What a wonderful concept. I was sure that the Drobo FS would be the end to all my troubles with respect to backup of data. If a disc fails - or even two discs - the Drobo FS restores the data. What more could a computer user want? I was sold on the concept at an early point in the evolution of the Drobo. It was only ever going to be a matter of time before I bought one. The network solution seemed right for me. It had to be a Drobo FS.

Design, Construction and Operation

It is an attractive box with Apple Mac type appeal. Also relative to other backup systems the Drobo FS is relatively quiet when in operation. iDisc insertion and withdrawal is however less positive than I had hoped - a result of not incorporating trays for each drive into the design - and the rubber seal at the front has a tendency to detach.

The software is all that one wants when everything is working, but when problems arise the user is to a great extent in the dark.

The Purchase

Early January 2011 I purchased a Drobo FS and 5 Seagate Barracuda LP 2TB 5900rpm 32MB Cache 3.5" SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drives to populate the Drobo FS.

The Purpose

The purpose of the purchase was to facilitate Time Machine backups to a common storage unit from a Dual 2GHz PowerPC G5 (PowerMac G5) system, a 2.66 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo iMac iMac, a 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro, and a 2GHz PowerPC G5 iMac.

The Technical

My Drobo FS, the PowerMac, the iMac and the 2.66GHz iMac are all connected to a GigaBit Ethernet LAN. A ZyXEL GS-105B 5 port Gigabit Unmanaged Desktop Switch connects through a CAT 5e cable to the GBit Ethernet port on a Vigor 2820 series ADSL modem/router. The computers connect to the ZyXEL switch using CAT 5e cables.

The Data

The PowerMac G5 desktop system is the only machine with any significant disc storage. It has 2x1TB internal discs, 2x5TB Sonnet Fusion D500P storage systems and a number of external firewire and USB2 drives. The real challenge to be faced by the Drobo was thus to produce a Time Machine backup from the PowerMac system. The desktop system runs under Mac OS X 10.5.8.

Before purchasing the Drobo FS, one of the Sonnet arrays was used seamlessly and trouble free for the TimeMachine backup of the PowerMac. The internal discs in the PowerMac are used only for applications. One internal disc is used as a bootable mirror of the other. It was my intention, once I got the Drobo/TimeMachine system to function properly to use one of the Sonnet arrays as a mirror of the other. The Drobo FS was thus to be a second line of defence against loss of data.

The Issue

The Drobo FS does not work with the situation I presented to it. Time Machine, my Power Mac G5 and system configuration, and a large volume of data do not integrate. All seems well as 1TB is backed up and as 2TB is backed up. However, as more and more data is added to the Time Machine backup the system stalls. I tried this repeatedly over 3 months and I have documented a journey through every route I could discover including three months contact and communication with Drobo Technical Support and I still have no resolution to this issue. I want this to work and that is why I have worked so hard to find a way to make it work. I did however eventually have to give up. This journey is documented on my own personal website. Anyone interested is welcome to read it on request.

At the same time Time Machine and Drobo are working seamlessly with smaller quantities of backup data from three other computers and DroboCopy and SuperDuper all get on with their own backups to Drobo without issue.

There is an issue and it may be configuration specific and it could be very specific or it may not be that specific.

Conclusion

I used my Drobo FS on a network with Apple Macintosh computers and so my conclusions are based on experience gained whilst working with that configuration of hardware and software.
I have also spent 40 years working with computers and so I expect that I could claim a high degree of computer literacy.

My experience with the Drobo FS combined with my knowledge of commercial requirements for backing storage would lead me to urge caution with respect to expectations about the utility of Drobo FS systems for even more demanding home applications. I feel that where there is a limited backup storage requirement from clients on a LAN the Drobo FS may satisfy requirements, but for users with large quantities of changing data, including media resources, it could be prudent to look elsewhere for a solution.

One of the claimed great attributes of a Drobo system is its potential expansion capability. Even if there were no issues with backup, however, there is certainly a potential issue of network speed and the transfer rate of TBs of data to and from the Drobo FS.

The concept is great but the implementation beyond the small domestic environment is in my opinion immature and limited. When issues arise diagnostic information is basic from the software provided.

It is perhaps interesting to read the range of opinions in the various forums and blogs on the Internet before making a purchase.