I now use a device called Drobo for storing data at my home network (Product Review)

droboI now use a device called Drobo (2nd generation), manufactured by Data Robotics, Inc. as the primary data storage and backup medium at my home location. I have attached it via a USB 2.0 cable to my Apple Airport Extreme wireless network router. The Airport Extreme enables me to share USB 2.0 based storage devices on my home network so they can be simultaneously used by multiple computers. This system of making the same hard disk(s) available to multiple computers in a network is called Network Attached Storage (NAS).

The Drobo replaced my USB 2.0 external hard disk drive manufactured by Western Digital (WD) that was earlier attached to my Airport Extreme. The Drobo has significant advantages over the previous WD drive:

  • Data protection in the event of one hard drive failure as a result of wear and tear due to use over time
  • Ability to increase the storage size of the device as the volume of my data grows (more photographs, music, videos, etc.)

A data protection strategy should include both local fault tolerance and remote storage in an offsite location. For off site storage, I keep copies of my data at online locations like Amazon S3, Smugmug, Google Docs, IMAP mail servers and Apple’s Mobile Me service. Since the volume of my data is in terabytes (~ 15 years of emails, photographs, music, videos), recovering large amounts of data from online locations is reserved for extreme situations when local storage is destroyed or corrupted. The Drobo uses technology to protect data in cases of failure (via normal wear and tear) of one of the hard disks inside the Drobo. The benefit I get is similar to the benefit provided by a set of technologies called RAID.

Unlike most RAID devices for home/small-business use, the Drobo allows me to mix and match hard drives of varying capacities. It has 4 bays to insert hard drives. For example, I can have two 1 TB drives today. Next month, I can add another 1.5 TB drive to the 3rd slot. A few months later, I can add a 2 TB drive to the 4th slot. Then when I need more space next year, I can replace one of the 1 TB drives with a 2 TB drive. As I make these changes, the Drobo will automatically recalculate the optimal distribution of my data across all these drives to maximize its storage space and provide data protection. Adding a new drive or replacing a drive with another is done without downtime. The Drobo stays up and running during disk changes and the data on it remains usable by my computers, even while I’m replacing a drive or when it is redistributing data on the new set of drives after a drive is inserted.

Benefits

  • Save money by buying 1 TB drives today and 2 TB drives when they are cheaper in the future
  • Save money by buying just hard disks for adding storage instead of buying a drive plus an enclosure and power supply adapter for each drive. This is also energy efficient (fewer power adapters) and good for the Environment (fewer drive enclosures made of plastic and power adapter units purchased)
  • Save time by letting the Drobo take care of data protection at the local level. Also save time that would have been spent recovering data from remote locations in the event of a local drive failure.
  • Peace of mind having good data protection at home.

Moving data from the WD external drive to Drobo

I transferred the files by having both drives directly connected to my Apple Macbook Pro: The Drobo to the Firewire 800 port and the WD to the USB 2.0 port.

My MacBook Air‘s Time Machine backups used to be stored on the USB external drive. Since it was attached to an Airport Extreme, the Apple Time Machine backups were stored in a special virtual storage location called a sparsebundle. I just copied the sparsebundle from the WD drive to the Drobo and now my Time Machine backups (including all the Time Machine history of my MacBook Air) are now transferred to my Drobo storage device. Thanks to my Time Machine bundles having been on a sparsebundle, it was easy to transfer them to my new Drobo storage device using a simple copy process using the Mac OS Finder.

Rating: ★★★★★