The drill goes something like this: after getting perilously close to running out of hard disk space, you leap into spring cleaning mode and begin furiously corralling all of your important files in preparation for a marathon DVD burning session.
Wouldn’t life be easier if you could just chuck a larger hard drive in your computer and it would update itself, without any effort? The Drobo external USB storage device allows you to do exactly that. Sound enticing? It gets better. The Drobo uses RAID-like redundancy, so your data is also protected against drive failure. If a hard drive goes south, your data is still safe because it is stored across all remaining drives.
This seemingly magical feature does exact a price though: you have to populate the Drobo with considerably more gigabytes than what shows up as available to you on your Mac’s desktop.
The drives snap into place and are held by a retaining lever that also helps eject them. Each drive bay features a status LED that changes colour (to red, yellow, or green) or blinks according to what’s happening with that particular drive. Any drive with a green LED can be removed without affecting the Drobo’s operation. A row of 10 blue LEDs along the bottom front of the Drobo’s exterior provides an indication of the current space left (in 10 per cent increments).
To get a ballpark estimate for how much usable capacity you can expect to get from four drives, add the total capacity of the three smallest drives. A more accurate total can be calculated on a web page at www.drobo.com/drobolator.
Getting the Drobo up and running is as easy as could be, courtesy of a large, illustrated quick-setup card that greets you as you open the box. Although installing the Drobo’s supplied Dashboard utility isn’t necessary to begin using the drive bay, the utility delivers critical alerts when the Drobo requires your attention. It also provides a pie-chart view of how much storage is actually available. The only disappointment is that you can fill it up with speedy SATA drives, only to be hamstrung by the relatively pokey performance of the USB connection.
Devices with built-in smarts have become pervasive, and the Drobo’s storage robot moniker pays tribute to its behind the scenes activities. However, calling it a robot seems a bit of a stretch. The Drobo’s use of USB rather than the much faster FireWire 800 limits it to the niche of personal desktop storage, and if you’re in an environment where you routinely share large data files with others, then look elsewhere. However, if you’re after a safe and easy personal backup solution, the Drobo is an attractive solution.