The ultimate image library storage solution – the Drobo 5d

Warning: boring semi techno-geeky post about hard drives and storage solutions!  If you are interested in hard drive storage solutions for your business then read on…if not, maybe go and look at puppy videos on Youtube or something and check back in a couple of days.  I should have something less geeky up by then!

Ok, so this isn’t directly related to photography.  But whenever I come across a product or a company that does an excellent job and stands head and shoulders above the rest I feel a need to spread the love.

So if you are looking for a secure, easy to use, expandable hard drive solution for all your data storage requirements this post may just help you.

As a professional photographer I need a large amount of storage to contain my ever-expanding image library.  I also like to always keep 3 copies of all my data (images) on 2 separate mediums with at least 1 copy stored in a separate location.  Which is (as you can imagine) secure but a royal pain in the arse.  So after years of juggling multiple indivicual hard drives I think I have finally found the answer to all my storage conundrums.  That answer is called the Drobo 5d and it’s basically a 5 bay multi-hard drive enclosure that has RAID-like capabilities.  As it’s early days yet I’ll keep this post short and sweet and post a full review in a couple of months when I have more time on the Drobo.  But so far so good – it does everything I need it to do, is easy to use, and is relatively affordable (by multi-drive RAID type enclosure standards!).

Basically the Drobo 5d hard drive enclosure has 5 bays where you can insert up to five 3.5 inch hard drives  (the Drobo doesn’t come with the hard drives installed, you buy those separately).  You can download the free Drobo Dashboard application to manage the Drobo and your hard drives, and it’s super easy to use.  Basically you plug in the number of hard drives you want to use into Drobo Dashboard when you’re setting up your Drobo, tell it what total storage capacity you require and Drobo Dashboard re-formats your drives and you’re good to go.  So, for example, I inserted two 4 Terabyte drives in the Drobo and told Drobo Dashboard I wanted a total capacity of 4 Terabytes.  Drobo Dashboard then figured out that I wanted to duplicate the contents of one 4TB hard drive to the other.  So the Drobo shows up on my computer and in all appllications as a single drive, but anything I copy to/delete from the Drobo is copied to/deleted from both of the 4 Terabyte hard drives.  (I am currently keeping my third copy of all my images on another external hard drive and also burning them to Bluray discs, which I store off-site.  This way I am keeping 3 copies of all data on 2 different mediums with at least 1 copy in an off-site location).

In time, when I am close to filling up both 4 Terabyte hard drives I will buy and insert another two 4 Terabyte drives.  Then I will tell my Drobo that I want the total capacity to be 8 Terabytes and Drobo will figure out I want to mirror the contents of two 4 Terabyte hard drive to the other to 4 Terabyte hard drives.  It will re-format the two new hard drives and away we go again!  The Drobo will show up as a single 8 Terabyte drive but all my data is being recorded to two sets of drives.  And one of the best things is that if one of the drives was to fail the Drobo will automatically back the data up to one of the other hard dives.  If the data won’t all fit on the existing drives Drobo Dashboard will let you know you need to replace the faulty drive.  From my point of view, one of the other big advantages with the Drobo 5d is the ability to hot swap the drives.  So as drives fill up you can just take them out and store them securely in another location to use as a back-up in the case that one of your original copy drives fails.  Another big plus with the Drobo 5d is it uses fast connections like Thunderbolt (for Mac) and eSata, so your read/write speeds are good.  And if you want to boost your speeds you can add an mSATA card to the Drobo 5d, which apparently gives you a lot of the benefits of Solid State Drives without the cost.

So far I can’t fault the Drobo 5d at all, it does everything it’s meant to do well, and basically takes away all your data back-up/storage head-aches.  If you’re in the market for a fast, secure, expandable storage solution with RAID like backup capabilities, this is the product you’ve been waiting for.  FYI the Drobo 5d enclosure without drives costs about $1400 I believe in New Zealand, and the drives I am running (Western Digial Caviar Black 3.5″ 4 TB drives) cost around $400 each.  So it’s not a cheap option, but for a multi-drive RAID-like enclosure with 8 Terabytes of storage that’s a pretty damn good price!

Right, enough boring techno-geekery from me, it’s time for me to sign off for the evening – I hope some of you out there find this post helpful.

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