The Drobo external hard drive enclosure was easily one of the most exciting products of 2007 (although it was 2008 before it reached the UK).
Like most external RAID products, the Drobo enables you to place multiple drives into its enclosure and 'mirror' the data (duplicate it across multiple drives). If one of the drives fails you can simply insert a new one and the intact data will be copied from the remaining healthy drives to the new blank drive.
Where the Drobo stands out is the implementation. On most RAID drives you have to pair matching drives, whereas with the Drobo you can slot in four drives of any denomination. The Drobo dashboard software combines the drives and intelligently backs up the data across them. Furthermore, you can upgrade the storage space - simply pull out a drive and replace it with a larger one. The Drobo will quietly set about transferring the data from the remaining three drives to the new fourth one.
Above all the Drobo is easy to use - so easy that it barely qualifies as a RAID product. Instead, it seems to us to be the future of hard drive technology.
However, the Drobo let itself down in two areas. It used USB 2.0 instead of the faster FireWire 800 technology, and it lacked an ethernet connection, limiting it to just the one computer.
The DroboShare sets out to fix that second criticism. This small black device sits underneath the Drobo and provides it with a Gigabit Ethernet connection. Sadly, because the device uses a USB 2.0 connector to hook up the Drobo with the DroboShare sledge, it will still be throttled to the 480Mbps throughput that USB 2.0 offers.
Like the Drobo itself, setup is a piece of cake (simply walk through the three steps printed on the inside of the box lid). A short USB lead connects the two devices together and a Y-shaped power splitter enables the Drobo's power supply to feed both devices.
You will need to do a firmware update to enable the DroboShare to work, and we found we had to install the Drobo software with the CD supplied. However, this can hardly be counted as an ordeal.
The DroboShare is a standard Samba fileserver so it appeared on our network instantly and was accessible by both Macs and PCs on the network.
The DroboShare takes an already great device and adds some much-needed network sharing functionality. The Drobo itself is a revelation in hard drive technology, and the DroboShare only makes it better. However, if you have yet to purchase the Drobo itself, you might be better waiting for the integrated all-in-one device that is sure to follow.