Posts Related to Use of Drobo FS in my Personal Context

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Introduction

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.


01/17/2011 07:43 AM

The issue being raised in this message relates to the use of the Drobo and Time Machine for backup. The process has virtually ground to a halt unfinished. See details in attached document.

I have no further ideas about what I can do to obtain improvement in the backup process. The TimeMachine backup process is just getting slower and slower, to the point that it is just not a viable system. ) I am thus hoping that I can get assistance from Drobo Support to advise me on how I should resolve my issue.

Many thanks

Name, address, email address, telephone numbers all supplied.

Instead of attaching a document to this post I have include the text of the document below.

Dear Support

For home use I recently (early January 2011) purchased a Drobo (serial number TDB10387xxxx) in the UK. I also purchased 5 Seagate Barracuda LP 2TB 5900rpm 32MB Cache 3.5" SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drives to populate the Drobo.

The purpose of the Drobo is to provide a storage system for Time Machine backups 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. My concern is however with the PowerMac backup as it is my main system. I haven’t yet backed up the MacBook Pro or the older iMac.

I have the Drobo, the PowerMac and the 2.66GHz iMac on a GigaBit Ethernet LAN. Basically 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 using CAT 5e cables.

The PowerMac desktop system, however, 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 issue being raised in this message relates to the use of the Drobo and a Time Machine backup from the PowerMac system. The desktop system runs under Mac OS X 10.5.8. The backup to the 2.66GHz iMac works perfectly but it has very little data – only around 200GB.

At the moment one of the Sonnet arrays is used for the TimeMachine backup on the PowerMac. The internal discs in the PowerMac are used only for applications – no (very little) data. One internal disc is used as a bootable mirror of the other. It is my intention, once I get the Drobo/TimeMachine system to work properly I will used one of the Sonnet arrays as a mirror of the other. The Drobo will thus be a second line of defence against loss of data.

External USB2 discs are currently used for backing up the other systems.

My TimeMachine backup is only a selection of the data from the drives on the PowerMac – ie lots of exclusions. The data being backed up is only around 2.5TB. I have set up a TimeMachine enabled share of 5TB for this purpose.

To facilitate an iterative approach to the creation of the intial TimeMachine backup process I only permitted Drobo to backup some of the data. Once that was done successfully I deleted exclusions and allowed more data to be backed up. As was expected it was slow. 10GB/hour average was transferred for the first few iterations. One iteration gave me approximately 20GB/hour. But my most recent iteration when I was trying to backup a further 450GB from one of the Sonnet drives gave an average of 0.5GB/h over a 24 hour period.

I read all I could find in forums and on the Drobo site, upgraded the firmware to 1.1.0 and then tried again. Still the backup from that drive is snail like. Hopeless in fact.

To check Drobo and the LAN I transferred 185GB (47,500 files) directly from the Sonnet drive in question to a new Share on the Drobo. It transferred in 3 hours and with very acceptable transfer speeds - consistently higher than 25MB/s were obtained.

The problem thus seems to be the TimeMachine/Drobo interaction/implementation as I have successfully been using TimeMachine to a Sonnet array.

I have no further ideas about what I can do to obtain improvement in the backup process (and I am at almost at the point of selling the Drobo and buying another Sonnet). The TimeMachine backup process is just getting slower and slower, to the point that it is just not a viable system. ) I am thus hoping that I can get assistance from Drobo Support to advise me on how I should resolve my issue.
Other information:

All drives in the Sonnet Arrays are 1TB enterprise quality. In the source Sonnet array there are 5 of Seagate Barracuda ES.2 - hard drive - 1 TB - SATA-300 Mpn: ST31000340NS. In the existing Sonnet array used for the TimeMachine backup there are 5 Seagate OEM ST31000340NS 1TB Barracuda ES-2,7200RPM 32MB Cache.

The Sonnets are connected to the PowerMac by a Sonnet Tempo-X PCI eSATA X4P Expansion Card.
Help would be most gratefully received. If you can advise me on a way forward please contact me.

Many thanks

Name, address, email address, telephone numbers all supplied again.


01/18/2011 01:31 AM

Further to the information sent yesterday I include the following information regarding my actions since then.

1 I stopped the backup process

2 I shutdown the PowerMac, the Drobo, the Sonnet array, the switch and the modem/router.

3 I restarted all systems and I excluded the disc called R2 Video from the backup process. R2 Video is on the Sonnet array. See attached screen shot 'Exclusions'.

4 I started up the backup process again.

After around 10 hours it has reached a point where it is Backing up 82KB of 2.0GB. See screen shot called 'Backup'. The screen shot of the Activity Monitor called 'Activity' shows that there is very little data being sent. Very little appears to be happening, It looks as though I will just have to stop it again.

Options appear to be start from the beginning with a new Share for the backup which is causing a problem or start again by deleting all Shares on the Drobo and re-create all backups. 10 days will have been lost.

Help would be most welcome.

Thanks


01/18/2011 01:52 AM

Nothing is happening on the system now and so I am going to stop the backup process and shut down the Drobo until I hear from Drobo Support.

Additional points - which you can probably see on the log.

I did not have the MTU size box selected.

IP settings are assigned automatically (DHCP).

Disc Drive Spin Down was set at 15 mins until yesterday when out of desperation I tried different settings at different times - never - then 30 mins.

I have only had one Alert from Drobo. It hesitated for a few minutes, auto repaired and thereafter got on with the job. The Alert indicated that a drive had been removed and that a new drive had been inserted. A drive had not been removed - nor had a new one been inserted. I have no idea what could have caused the alert or these messages.

Thanks


01/20/2011 03:09 AM

I received a very courteous and full response from Drobo Support which on 01/20/2011 03:09 AM requesting that I run a benchmark test with the Drobo connected directly to my Mac without a router/switch between them. The Kona benchmark tool was recommended. Full instructions on how to run the test were provided. As I understand it this was to test the performance of the drives within the Drobo.


01/20/2011 04:01 AM

Dear Drobo Support

Thank you for your response. I have attached diagnostics file as requested. I hope I have carried out instructions as defined.

Many thanks


01/24/2011 01:03 AM

On 01/24/2011 01:03 AM I received a response from the Drobo Support Team which suggested that the diagnostics file showed some problems with the disk in the 1st slot having full time outs. This it was suggested might be the cause the poor performance with your Drobo, and I was recommended to replace this drive.

Note: This was a new drive and so it was returned under warranty


01/24/2011 02:31 AM

Thank you for your help with this.

I have removed the disc in the 1st slot and I have dispatched it to the vendor for replacement.

Meanwhile I have replaced that disc with an available 250GB drive. The Drobo FS is currently dealing with this removal and replacement. A "Data at Risk and Data Protection is in Progress" status is currently being displayed in the Drobo Dashboard.

I will update this support question with information in due course once I receive the replacement drive or if the status on the Drobo does not return to normal.

It was perhaps rather disappointing that the Drobo was unable to flag-up, automatically, that this disc was faulty. Perhaps tan expectation that all faults can be detected in this way is being too demanding. I would have thought, however, that fault detection is necessary to achieve the self healing as described at http://www.drobo.com/products/drobo-fs.php. Flagging this would thus seem possible.

Thanks for your help again.

Best wishes


01/26/2011 12:55 AM

Having inserted the 250GB disc it took around 24 hours for the Drobo to get back to a safe situation. I enclose a copy of the diagnostics taken on completion of that phase.

I then started the Time Machine Backup again hoping that it would pick up from where it was previously having issues (presumably) due to the faulty disc. I assume that the vendor will test the returned disc and supply a report.

Note: I did eventually receive a replacement drive but no comment was made by the vendor about the drive.


01/26/2011 01:03 AM

Twelve hours after starting the Time Machine backup the process had clearly made little or no progress. It appeared to be worse than it was before the disc had been replaced. I enclose a screen shot to show the level of progress. Time_Machine_9am_Wed_26th_Jan_2011.jpg

At that point I stopped Time Machine from backing up.