Data Robotics Drobo Storage Robot DRO4DU10 Review

Posted: May 30 2007, 12:00am CDT | by , Updated: Aug 10 2010, 9:10am CDT, in Reviews | Computer Hardware


Data Robotics Drobo Storage Robot DRO4DU10 Review
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Features & Specifications
People that have lots of digital media from photos and video to MP3 files that they work with tend to have lots of external storage devices around to hold the data. Many of these users have multiple USB drives attached to their computers and over time it becomes very difficult to recall what files are on which drive. There is also the added problem that the vast majority of external USB drives don’t add any data redundancy to make your information safer.

Professional users that don’t use external USB drives for storing their data may be using RAID arrays of some sort. The problem with typical RAID arrays is that they require some level of knowledge to set up and to maintain. DROBO is like a combination of common external USB drives and difficult to manage RAID arrays in that it connects to your system via a USB port, provides data security, yet requires no setup or difficult configuration.

To use Drobo all you need to do is plug the unit in, add your drives and Drobo does everything else for you. Drobo will format your drives automatically and the drives can be different makes, models and capacities. In many common RAID arrays if you use a 250GB drive and a 500 GB drive you are going to lose that extra 250Gb of storage space. With Drobo you don’t you get all of the storage space you put in so if you put a 250Gb drive and a 500GB drive into Drobo you get 250Gb of protected space, yet you can still use the other 250GBof storage that is unprotected.

One of the other things that I like about Drobo is that you can buy the Drobo unit and use any hard drives you have lying around for storage space. If you only need 250GB today, that’s all you have to put into it. Setting Drobo up requires that you simply place the drive into the Drobo chassis. Drobo will automatically format the drive and if multiple drives are present Drobo automatically configures the best protection scheme for you from mirroring to stripe + Parity.

Another of the cool aspects with Drobo is that it is infinitely upgradeable. You can throw the Hitachi 1TB drive into Drobo today along with your old 80GB HDD and whatever else you have lying around, then in six months when the cost of the 1TB drive is much cheaper you can add more. As your drives fill up Drobo will signal you to add additional drives in one of the four bays that are empty by placing a red light beside the bay to use. Once all bays have drives in them, when you run out of space Drobo will place the light beside the drive with the lowest capacity so you know which drive to upgrade for more capacity. If one of your drives should ever fail a red light will come on beside it so you know which drive to replace.

This is another of the great things about Drobo; you can add drives and replace failed drives without fearing for loosing your data. In normal mirrored RAID arrays if one drive fails you loose all your data, not so with Drobo, which makes mirroring much more appealing. Drobo doesn’t ship with any type of backup software, but you can use any software for backups that you desire. Drobo is seen as one single drive by your computer, so backups and managing your data will be a snap.

Inserting drives into Drobo requires no tools and you can change drives or add new ones without shutting Drobo down. Spring-loaded doors that keep dust out when the bays are empty cover the four bays. A spring-loaded clip secures the drives into the Drobo chassis making insertion and removal a one-hand proposition.

To see how well the Drobo test unit I have performs I loaded it up with several drives from Hitachi and Seagate with capacities of 500GB, 400GB, 160GB and 320GB for a total drive space of 812.10GB. I used HD Tach and Sandra XI to get some performance numbers from the Drobo unit starting with HD Tach.

HD Tach showed that the average read speed of the Drobo was 15.5 MB/s and the random access time was 44.5ms. I used two benchmarks from Sandra XI with the first being the removable storage benchmark that gave a combined index of 17509 operations/min and an endurance factor of 1.1. I also ran the Sandra XI physical disks benchmark for read operations, which showed a drive index of 23MB/s and a random access time of 39ms. For the final performance test I simply copied a large 1.07GB file from my internal system drives to the Drobo and timed the process, which took 1 minute and 37 seconds to complete. Writing the same file back from the Drobo to my internal drive took 1 minute and 19 seconds.

All in all Drobo is a fantastic product that sees all the drives you put in the chassis as one large pool of storage and automates all of the complex tasks of data management and setup so all you have to focus on is your work or play.




  • Infinitely upgradeable capacity
  • Automatic everything from data repair to drive formatting
  • Easy to use and manage