Light­weight op­tions

£347/$349 (unit only, no drives) Imag­ine a world where you can up­grade your desktop stor­age in 30 sec­onds, and where your data is al­ways pro­tected from hard disk fail­ure. Now en­ter that world…

Digital Camera World - - SECOND HEAD/CONTENTS - Rod Law­ton

Stor­age can be a real headache for pho­tog­ra­phers. You may al­ready be at the stage when your im­age ar­chive won’t fit on your com­puter’s in­ter­nal disk drive. An ex­ter­nal desktop drive is the ob­vi­ous so­lu­tion, but these have two draw­backs. First, they will even­tu­ally run out of stor­age ca­pac­ity too. Sec­ond, there’s the nag­ging fear of hard disk fail­ure and the loss of all your data. You should al­ways make reg­u­lar back-ups, of course, but you still stand to lose all the work you’ve done since your last back-up.

The Drobo 5C is de­signed to solve both these prob­lems us­ing a spe­cial ‘BeyondR AID’ adap­ta­tion of the RAID stor­age sys­tems used by data cen­tres, com­pa­nies and many tech-savvy com­puter buffs. (Drobo rec­om­mends main­tain­ing your back-up rou­tine re­gard­less.)

RAID stands for ‘re­dun­dant ar­ray of in­di­vid­ual disks’. The idea is that ev­ery piece of your data is stored on more than one drive, so that if one drive fails, the data still ex­ists on an­other and you can re­place the faulty drive.

With a con­ven­tional hard disk drive, up­grad­ing it means copy­ing all that data from the old drive to the new one; but with the Drobo, you just re­place an old, small drive with a new, larger one – you can even do this while it’s run­ning.

Set-up and op­er­a­tion

The quoted price is for the Drobo 5C unit only: you have to buy the disk drives them­selves sep­a­rately – or, if you’ve got a drawer full of 3.5-inch in­ter­nal drives from old com­put­ers, you can slot those in in­stead. (They need to be SATA II or III drives.) You don’t have to fill all five bays – you can start with as few as two – but the Drobo uses the stor­age more ef­fi­ciently if you have more.

For the ini­tial set-up you need the free Drobo Dash­board util­ity, which you can down­load from the Drobo web­site. You use this to choose the for­mat (do you use a Mac or a Win­dows PC?) and var­i­ous con­fig­u­ra­tion and set-up op­tions; once that’s done, you don’t re­ally need the soft­ware, ex­cept for set­tings info and up­dates.

Al­though the Drobo 5C can con­tain up to five sep­a­rate drives, your com­puter al­ways sees it as just one. As a re­sult, it will al­ways re­port the Drobo 5C’s max­i­mum de­sign ca­pac­ity; the ac­tual ca­pac­ity avail­able will be lower, partly be­cause it uses data ‘re­dun­dancy’, and partly be­cause you’re un­likely to fit drives of the max­i­mum ca­pac­ity, at least not straight away. You can al­ways find out the ac­tual stor­age ca­pac­ity of your own con­fig­u­ra­tion us­ing the Dash­board app.

Ease of use and per­for­mance

The Drobo 5C is only slightly more tech­ni­cal to set up than a reg­u­lar ex­ter­nal drive. To change a drive for a big­ger one, or to swap out a faulty drive (in­di­cated by a red drive light), you take off the front cover, re­lease the catch for the drive, re­move it

and slot in an­other. This abil­ity to ‘hot-swap’ ex­ter­nal 3.5-inch drives takes some get­ting used to if you’re a long-time PC user. It’s so easy it feels like it shouldn’t even be pos­si­ble.

Be­cause it’s run­ning up to five dif­fer­ent drives at once, the Drobo 5C can make a bit more noise than the av­er­age desktop drive. It’s pretty weighty, but the four rub­ber feet keep it an­chored se­curely in one place, and it feels very well made. We checked its per­for­mance us­ing Black­magic De­sign’s free Disk Speed Test app. It’s de­signed pri­mar­ily for video, but this test still gives a good in­di­ca­tion of per­for­mance. We achieved read/write speeds of up to 650MB per sec­ond. It felt per­fectly quick in day-to-day use, and the fig­ures show it’s around five times faster than our Western Dig­i­tal Pass­port 2TB mo­bile drive.

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