Drobo 5N2 ................................................................

A CLEV­ERLY CON­CEIVED FIVE BAY DE­VICE, WITH A “KEEP IT SIM­PLE” PHI­LOS­O­PHY AIMED AT LESS TECH­NI­CAL USERS

PC & Tech Authority - - CONTENTS - KEY SPECS $858 • www.drobo.com OVER­ALL

T he Drobo 5N2 o ers a gen­er­ous five drive bays, yet is barely any larger than some four-bay models. That’s thanks to its space-e cient de­sign: to pop­u­late it, you sim­ply pull o the mag­netic front cover and slide a bare 3.5in drive into one of the await­ing slots. Be­low, a row of LEDs shows how much space you’ve used – a thought­ful fea­ture.

The Drobo 5N2 em­bod­ies a unique de­sign phi­los­o­phy: it aims to make the world of net­work-at­tached stor­age ac­ces­si­ble to non-tech­ni­cal users. All talk of RAID lev­els is ban­ished: the unit au­to­mat­i­cally con­fig­ures your in­stalled me­dia to pro­vide the best bal­ance of ca­pac­ity and se­cu­rity, ask­ing you only whether you want to be pro­tected against a sin­gle disk er­ror, or against two si­mul­ta­ne­ous fail­ures in­stead.

The prin­ci­ple of keep­ing things sim­ple also guides Drobo’s at­ti­tude to ex­ter­nal con­nec­tors – which is to say, there aren’t any. You’ll hunt in vain for USB or eSATA ports. Per­haps sur­pris­ingly, you do how­ever get two Eth­er­net ports, which pro­vide sup­port for adap­tive load bal­anc­ing.

To cap it all, Drobo es­chews the con­ven­tional web-based man­age­ment ap­proach, in favour of a desk­top client called the Drobo Dash­board. This isn’t a bad idea, as the soft­ware also han­dles the some­times fid­dly busi­ness of dis­cov­er­ing the NAS, log­ging on and map­ping a drive in Win­dows. We must say, though, we’re not fans of the in­ter­face: the white-on-black text links feel small and fussy com­pared to most web-based ap­proaches.

A re­spectable range of apps and ser­vices is sup­ported: iTunes, Time Ma­chine and Plex are all here, along with a se­lec­tion of de­vel­oper tools such as Node.js, Ruby and Sub­ver­sion. With its 1.6GHz quad-core CPU and 2GB of RAM, the Drobo should have no trou­ble run­ning them smoothly; there’s no AirPlay, though, nor any sup­port for IP cam­eras. And you can for­get about big busi­ness fea­tures such as Ac­tive Direc­tory and iSCSI.

For the flex­i­bil­ity of a five-bay NAS ap­pli­ance, it is a de­cent price. The ques­tion is whether the Drobo phi­los­o­phy works for you. If you want to get hand­son with tech­ni­cal set­tings, or in­ter­face with other de­vices and sys­tems, you’ll prob­a­bly get along bet­ter with a more con­ven­tional NAS unit.

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