Everyone knows that backing up your Mac’s files is important. We merely differ on how to do the back ups.
Along comes Data Robotics with Drobo, a sleek black box of secret technology that makes back ups easy, painless, automatic, and safe.
As impressed as I am with the simplicity and elegance of Apple’s Time Machine, added to Drobo, Time Machine becomes the ultimate set it and forget back up effort.
Drobo is billed as the world’s first storage robot, a futuristic looking black box that can be filled with up to four hard drives. Use one, two, three or four hard drives. It doesn’t even matter if they’re the same size.
Drobo pulls all the hard drives together and makes a single pool of storage. That sounds like the complicated and delicate RAID, right (redundant array of independent disks; all the rage among the techno geeks in my IT office).
It’s not RAID. It’s Data Robotics’ black box technology which makes your Mac think of Drobo as a single, huge, honkin’ storage device—the ultimate humongous hard drive.
Drobo connects to Macs and Windows PCs with a USB cable. There’s not much else to do. No RAID to worry about.
No management. No configuration. It’s just another big hard drive connected to your Mac. With four 1 terabyte hard drives stuck inside it really is a BIG hard drive.
The problem with some external hard drive back up systems, including Apple’s own Time Capsule, is that sooner or later the hard drive will fail. Drobo doesn’t care. You can add or remove hard drives while Drobo is running; that’s called a hot swap.
No downtime, no file swapping, no data migration strategy. Start with a single hard drive, add another later. Drobo recognizes the drive and increases storage capacity accordingly. The drives don’t have to be the same size, the same speed, or from the same manufacturer.
Open the Drobo door and slide in a new drive or remove an old one. Is that not the ultimate home back up system? Yes, Virginia, Drobo works with Time Machine. Or, SuperDuper!, or whatever you like. Drobo is just another big hard drive to your Mac.
The black box is roughly a six inch cube and holds up to four hard drives. From what I can see, Drobo works as nothing more than a big, slow hard drive connected to your Mac via a USB cable.
Slow? Yes, though it isn’t too noticeable if you’re using Time Machine. After all, Drobo is a back up system; it’s for system storage, perfect for home use, small office use, not corporate file servers.
The specs say maximum sustained transfer rates are a mere 20MBs per second; not speedy. Hard drives need to be SATA I or II, the kind that come with Macs these days. Four drives use barely 40 watts of power under use.
Mac users are becoming more serious about file back ups because our files are many and valuable. From digital photos to music we pay for online to television shows and movies and more, a hard drive that dies can spell disaster.
Apple recognized this and provided a very attractive package in Time Machine and Time Capsule, for wireless back ups.
But Time Capsule is a single hard drive, prone to failure, too. Drobo is merely the next step up, adding multiple hard drives to the mix.
I’m impressed. Drobo is slicker than slick (but slow). For those with a need to have files shared by others, there’s also DroboShare which lets Mac users share files over a local network; home or small business.
DroboShare sits under Drobo as yet another slender black box and connects to your local area network via Gigabit ethernet. Compared to a single Apple Time Capsule, Drobo is more expensive, though much more expandable (though still a single point of failure).
The ultimate home and small office back up system isn’t here yet, but we’re seeing regular improvements. Time Machine. Time Capsule. Drobo. What’s next?
How do you back up your Mac’s files? Share your experience or disasters in the Comments section below.