Drobo, safe data storage made simple ~ our findings

Sep 26, 2009 | News | 21 comments

Drobo sounds good, looks good and might just save your skin. It’s a hard disc array that backs itself up so that if [correction, when] a hard disc fails it can be replaced with a new one without losing any data or experiencing down time. It’s like RAID but better. We’ve had ours now for over a year and it’s been faultless. Marko stores all of our wedding, portrait and workshop images on the Drobo and works directly on the files using the FireWire2 interface straight into his Mac Pro computer. We’ve really put this bit of kit through its paces and it doesn’t disappoint.

A modern design classic. A symbiosis of form and function.

A modern design classic. A symbiosis of form and function.

There’s nothing quite as good as knowing your clients pictures and your personal work are safe. We’ve just upgraded our Drobo from 4x 1TB drives to 4x 2TB drives by swapping each drive in turn and letting Drobo rewrite the data. The promo videos put out by Drobo on YouTube show near instant data sorting. In practice a drive swap might take up to 40 hours. But don’t worry you can access all of your data while Drobo replaces the data that was on the drive you removed to the one you inserted in its place.

This is what a Drobo looks like whith it's front cover off. The drives are snuggled in without the need for screws to hold them in place.

This is what a Drobo looks like with it's cover removed. The drives are snuggled in place without the need for screws. There's a spare bay at the bottom. Any make of drive can be used with true mix and match opportunities. The cover sits in place with magnetic catches - beautifully simple design.The blue lights give you an instant indication of available capacity.

Drobo is a cross platform multi connection device with Firwire2, USB2 ports.

Drobo is a cross platform multi connection device with Firwire2, USB2 ports. The grille is the output duct for the quiet fan in the case. The fan only kicks in when it needs too so it's a quiet companion that is very well suited on your desktop.

Drobo is plug and play simplicity in a brilliantly designed package. So delighted are we with the assurance that our Drobo brings us I wanted to add it to our Lovegrove Consulting Emporium. We are now distributors of Drobo and as have real life long term experience of the product we are able to advise you on all things Drobo.

Click here for prices and more information.


  1. Martin hodgkiss

    Hi, with a drobo & a ‘droboshare’ would I be able to use the drobo to store my library on whilst I worked via the FireWire but also access folders on the drobo with my other macs via the network?? (I would like to store my artwork from my other macs on it to) .
    Then would I be able to copy the entire contents of the drobo to my network drive in the basement as a ‘theft proof back up’ ?
    Thank you

  2. SAM

    Hey Damien

    I’m looking for an updated data storage facility and the drobo seems the best choice all round. Having said that, I have seen some reviews to say that in some instances, following firmware updates, the drobo lost 2TB of data ;-(

    Have you heard anything on this? Is it really as good as other reviews suggest?

    Thanks, SAM

  3. damien

    Hi Michael,

    Drobo would cost us about £60 to ship to you and there is a risk of damage etc. You can buy Drobo from here without any of the expense or risks of shipping overseas.

    Other worldwide suppliers are http://www.drobo.com/where_to_buy/distributors.php. I want the best for my customers. I hope you understand.

    Kind regards,


  4. michaelbs

    Hi Damien
    I know you say “no shipping outside UK due to Export cost.”
    I’ll ask you anyway:
    Would you consider shipping the Drobo to Copenhagen?
    I don’t see why shipping cost (export cost?) should really be a problem if the customer is willing to pay?

  5. damien

    Hi Mark,

    That is not how Drobo works. Watch this 4 minute video and you will see exactly what Drobo does. It is not a backup drive in it’s normal guise, it is your data drive. The video explains everything.

    I hope this helps.


  6. Mark Ashworth

    OK So I back up my files on the Drobo. If I want to delete some of those files, does the “back-up” within the Drobo delete the backed up files too?

    Also when one drive is full – do you just take this out (and store) and replace the drive. What happens when you want to access old data that may be stored on the drive you took out?

    Hope this makes sense!!

  7. Simon

    Hi Damien,

    The Drobo seems to tick most, if not all, of the essential boxes with regard to data storage. I currently backup my photos and video files to multiple removable sata drives (through an icydock bay) and optical disks. If I need the piece of mind to make a third or forth copy I just buy another sata drive, format it and drag the files over. This relies on no software or electronic encription and data tagging, which gives me great confidence should I ever need to recover any data. Very simple and reliable. The down side that is that it’s a manual process that relies on me copying the files in the first place. Bring on the Drobo…

    Automated backing up though has it’s issues. While solving one problem it raises others. I am very concerned about being at the will of the Drobo. What if the Drobo breaks, won’t mount on the desktop, is no longer manufactuered, goes out of business or it simply won’t work one day and I can’t get to ANY of my data. Can I simply remove any of the individual sata drives and just plug them into my motherboard as an internal drive and access all the files at a very basic level. Or are they encripted in such a way that I can only see them while inserted in the Drobo unit and through it’s own software?

    If the individual drives can be opened and accessed without the Drobo this would solve all of my issues. If not I would still probably buy the Drobo and use it as a secondary backing up solution. You can never have enough backing up options in place.


  8. Mark A

    Hey Thanks for your help on this…

  9. damien

    Hi Mark,

    It’s great to hear from you. Our time machine backups go to a different Drobo than our data. In fact our second Drobo is connected to our network using Droboshare.

    Drobo itself is compatible with Time Machine but in a direct connected sort of way as described here. But we wanted Drobo to back up all our computers on our network and we wanted the unit to be hidden away out of sight of burglars etc.

    It’s not a simple set up to use Droboshare for Time Machine because it needs some configuring. There is an app that does this and once configured it acts just like an Apple Time Machine connected on a gigabit ethernet.

    More info on using Droboshare as a super Time Machine is here and the set up instructions are here. There is a bit of command line entry using Terminal so I suppose it is considered an intermediate level setup.

    I hope this helps.

    Kindest regards,


  10. damien

    Hi plevyadophy,

    Drobo is not dast enough when connected via USB2. It’s fine for backups but when it is connected with Firewire 800 it behaves as fast as an internal drive.

    Drobo needs SATA drives so you might be better off looking for a drive case that can take other drive types too. You can then RAID configure them but the automated functionality of Drobo wont be available to you.

    Regards, Damien.

  11. Mark A

    Hi Damien

    Interested in this solution. So your Time Machine Backups are to the same drive that you store your wedding/portrait/workshop files on. So how does this folder structure work.

    I thought that I might store all my images on the Drobo and have a separate drive to back up the main computer with Time Machine (stuff like price lists, adverts, other docs etc)

  12. plevyadophy


    Can older drives benefit too

    I have been drooling over this product for some time. But for me there may be a problem, a problem I would appreciate your advice on.

    Basically, I don’t have any firewire ports (just USB2) and all my drives are Enhanced IDE type drives.

    I have numerous drives, in various caddies, and would love to be able to house them neatly in a Drobo type case and also avail myself of the Drobo features.

    My drives are too useful to throw away, and are now too cheap to be worth selling. Hence my desire to press them into service in a Drobo type setup.

    So, is what I wanna do possible with IDE drives?

    Thanks in advance.


  13. damien

    Hi Martin,

    Drobo does have full USB connectivity so you can indeed use it to be mirrored by other USB drives or better still another Drobo.

    Accidental deletion: Our backup Drobo covers accidental deletion of images with the fantastic ‘Time Machine’. You can go back to the time before you deleted the data. How cool is that.

    Theft: As Drobo is completely portable unlike a Mac Pro it can be locked away or taken home at night. It’s perhaps less of a target too.

    Lightening: Unplug Drobo in thunderstorms or at night and that’s the lightening sorted.

    Fire: I suppose you could put Drobo in a fire proof safe at night. That would be all the bases covered except…

    Act of God. I think even our insurance falls short of covering that.

    Cheers, Damien.

  14. martin

    Thanks Damien for the info. IMO the major risks to data are inadvertent deletion, theft, drive failure, lightening, fire probably in that order. I can see how a drobo helps solve some of those but not all of them. Shame it doesn’t have the ability to plug in a USB backup drive like a QNAP.

    Our mac pro has mirrored internal hard drives to protect work in progress from drive failure and we use time machine to an external USB drive that is taken offsite daily to protect against the other risks. Archives are to alternative hard drives with USB mirrors that live offsite.

    For someone using an imac , laptop or a PC without the mac pro’s easy slot-in drive expansion capabilities I can see the drobo being a very attractive option.

  15. damien

    Hi David,

    The price quoted is for Drobo itself. The drives you choose to put in Drobo are extra. A lot of users add four 1TB or four 2TB drives. You may already own usable drives.

    The 1TB drives in our original Drobo have now been replaced with 2TB drives. The old drives have gone into our new Drobo that we are using as a ‘Time Machine’ back up system.

    I bought our four 2TB Western Digital SATA drives from a respected Ebay trader.


  16. David Ruddle

    Hi Damien

    Is the price quoted for the Drobo with any hard drives included or are they extra?

  17. damien

    Hi Glyn,

    Thanks for your feedback and comments. It was your tweet that made me think we should add Drobo to the Lovegrove Emporium. It’s an essential bit of kit that we too couldn’t live without. Our price for Drobo is marginally cheaper than Amazon and we will continue to monitor prices to ensure we remain competitive.

    Regards, Damien.

  18. Glyn Dewis

    Hi Damien,

    Couldn’t agree more with how good this piece of hardware is. After putting out a message on your Twitter and getting a reply from yourself (very quickly i hasten add) I bought one through Amazon UK.

    Effortless installation and continous backup have ensured quality sleep knowing that files are safe. Having experienced a hard drive failure prior to getting one, I can’t recommend one highly enough.


  19. damien

    Hi Martin,

    You can of course back up a Drobo with a Drobo if you so wish. It’s best to keep one copy of your important work off site. The back up Drobo can be networked using the optional Droboshare network interface and stored anywhere you choose. I’ve heard of some backup drives being placed inside wall cavities. Alternatively you can take the backup Drobo home each night.

    Because Drobo is small, neat and compact, you can take it with you when you leave the studio. The advantage of this is you can have all your work with you should you need to do some work at home.

    We never store clients work on any of our computers because when the computers need repair we loose access to the files. Plus computers are an obvious target for theives. The computer runs so much faster if the principal hard drive in it is dedicated to the operating system and the applications. We use a second computer hard drive as a dedicated scratch disc and store all data outside the box on Drobo. All three drives can be reading and writing data simultaneously.

    Drobo is essentially a system of having 2 copies of your work on separate drives in the same place to ensure you don’t suffer from mechanical disc failure. The simplest disc failure will manifest itself as a corrupt jpeg, or a document that won’t open. The worst is the inability for the disc to mount at all. We have paid outside firms to recover data for us in the past from ‘crashed discs’ but there is always some data that can’t be saved. The worst part is the time wasting.

    We use a Droboshare equipped Drobo with ‘Time Machine’ to back up all our computer hard drives. The computer drives hold the operating system, our emails, identities, keychains etc. If we loose a computer due to theft, fire or a fatal fault it is possible to restore all the data to another computer using the ‘Time Machine’ software from Apple.

    So how do we back up our weddings? Here’s our 7 step system.

    1. We copy the camera cards to a portable hard drive and import the files into a Lightroom Catalogue at the same time. The catalogue lives on the same drive. At this point we have 2 copies of the files, one on the camera cards and one on the portable hard drive.

    2. Julie selects the 300 or so pictures that she wants to show the client and renumbers them.

    3. Marko then copies the data to the Drobo so that it is now on two hard drives. He makes the lightroom adjustments necessary to the RAW files and saves the adjustments into the XMPs or he saves them out as DNGs.

    4. These DNG’s get written to DVD and the DVDs get stored off site at a friends house.

    5. The unselected original RAW files get kept on the portable hard drive until after the client viewing.

    6. We have 1 or 2 DVDs of original camera files for every wedding we have ever shot.

    7. All the edited work, album designs and so on live in the studio metal cupboard on CDs, DVDs and hard drives. We have several hundred CDs from our 2001 & 2002 weddings, 600 DVDs from our 2003 – 2005 weddings and a couple of 2TB drives for 2006 & 2007. Everything since then lives on the Drobo. We just increase the Capacity of Drobo as we need more space.

    We considered online data storage and backup but the cost of having 8TB online and the data transfer was too prohibitive.

    I hope this isn’t too rambling. Damien.

  20. martin

    I think I’m missing something. How do you back up a Drobo for off site security?

  21. Ziggy

    I’m sure I saw one in ‘District 9’ at the cinema last night.


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