Thursday, July 24, 2008

My new Drobo 2.0 is here! (4 Terabytes of storage!!!)

Drobo 2.0 from Data Robotics, Inc

It came today!

There are many things that I think Average Joe does not understand about the photographic industry and why it costs so much to do pictures (after all, digital is free, right?!?). But the one pervasive, never ending concern, of every photographer out there is Storage!

Digital photography has an incredible appetite for storage. I shot two weddings this week. All together, there were 4,894 images captured, requiring 71Gb of storage. If you ever thought of a 250Gb drive as large, you can quickly see that at this rate, only 2.5 more weeks of weddings will be required to fill up a 250Gb drive.

And that's without processing the images or backing them up!!!

I mention processing the images, because all images are captured as raw files and later converted to displayable / printable jpegs. While the act of converting them won't double the storage requirements, it will probably increase the current 71Gb to perhaps 90Gb or so. And if any editing is done to the images, another 10-20Gb of storage will probably be needed, so we're talking at least 100Gb to 110Gb for the two weddings.

And still no backup! What happens if a hard drive goes out?

I use four different kinds of storage. The memory cards that the pictures were initially recorded on. A main storage drive. A backup drive. And an off site (internet accessable) location.

I don't format the memory cards until the images are in at least two of those locations because you never know when something will go out. And if it's somebody's wedding we're talking about, there are no "do-overs". And your customer won't take "sorry" for an answer.

Why do I worry? Because I lost 3 hard drives last year and one already this year. Have I had an unlucky two years? Sure. But with so many drives up and running, it just happens. You better count on it!

So everything gets backed up, right? But what if you're working on a job and the hard drive you are working on goes out? What happens to all of the changes you've made? What happens to the "hours of labor" you have put into processing the images since the last backup? You can't be constantly backing everything up, can you?!?

This is where my new Drobo 2.0 comes in!

Drobo will be my new Main Storage drive. With 4Tb of high speed storage. Caveat, not all 4Tb are usable by me because some of it is used for redundancy. Still, I'll be able to put many, many "jobs" onto a single system and still consider it to be fairly safe.

The system has 4 drives in it. All of my hard work is spread across all four drives. If one drive goes out, I simply replace it and Drobo automatically rebuilds the data on the new drive. In other words, Drobo is "automatically redundant". It automatically protects every minute of every change I make. Will I still back up my images to other drives and to off site storage? Yes! But I can do so as the job is finished rather than having to continually worry about backups.

But you've heard of RAID systems, right? Is this any different? YES! Absolutely! Some reasons to consider adding a Drobo to your storage:

1) Drobo is immediately expandable. If you have a RAID 5 system with four 250Gb drives and want to grow the system by replacing those drives with 500Gb drives, you may opt to: a) change one drive at a time, over a period of time, or b) change them all at once. Either way, you STILL have to back up the entire system, "break the RAID configuration", then reformat the drives and restore all of your data. How long will that take? You don't want to know.

Drobo, on the other hand, immediately begins growing your storage from the moment you put a new/larger drive into the system. You don't have to wait until all four drives are replaced. You don't have to back up the system or break the raid, and you don't have to restore the images when you're done. It's all automatic. It's fast and it's painless. That's the way storage ought to be!

You can read more about Drobo on their website.

Or watch several video demonstrations.

I've lived with a never ending supply of external drives (I swear, they breed like rabbits). I've lived with a RAID 5 NAS system. I'm extremely excited about my new Drobo 2.0 connected to my system via Firewire.


JTENMAN said...

This is an awesome setup. I want one of these just because I am a major geek and it sounds cool. The fact that my wife is in to photography is just an added bonus. Wow, I am still in awe at this sweet setup...

Unknown said...

That is a nice setup, now if you have any "small drives" around let me know:)

Jarvie said...

I should get one. How long did it take you to get yours and where did you order your drives from?
Have fun filling that up :)
In a couple of years we'll look back at 4TB as a pitance just like we look back at our 250GB drives that we almost want to throw away now.

dterryphotography said...

Ordered July 8th, complete with the four 1Tb drives, direct from Data Robotics, Inc.

It took 16 days to arrive. I assumed that was because it was just announced on the 8th and took awhile to fill the pipeline.

Anonymous said...

Arg..I am jealous!! I ordered mine before business hours on July 9th and it still hasn't shipped.

Camp Photoshop said...


I enjoyed your comments. I just posted my initial thoughts about my new DROBO for Photoshop users (or Lightroom users). I thought you and your readers might be interested.

Camp Photoshop said...

Forgot to provide the URL:

Anonymous said...

I just picked on of these up yesterday and am in the process of moving my stuff over to the drobo as I type.

I've had an HD failure in the past (with no backups) and swore never to lose anything like that again. Since then I've been religious about making clones of drives and looking forward to the day I could get a RAID set up going. The RAID was delayed due to the complexity and price and then I learned of Drobo. I held off on the Drobo due to the USB only limitation but now that there's a FireWire version I jumped on it. I now have four 1TB drives in it and feel great knowing that it's safe. I honestly think I'll be picking up a 2nd drobo within a couple months.

In the meantime I'll be recommending Drobo to everyone I know. (Hi Paul.) :-)

Anonymous said...

I would love to buy a Drobo, but I need to find out what noise levels are. Strange that those are not stated anywhere.

dterryphotography said...

I have no idea what the noise level raiting is, but I'll tell you this:

While it's running I never notice it. But the moment it shuts down or starts up, I suddenly realize how load it was/is.

So I do wish it was quieter.

Anonymous said...

I am considering purchasing a Drobo but find a couple of things troubling. Are you at all concerned that this is a new software based storage solution produced by a relatively new company that - like so many tech companies - may disappear as quickly as it appeared? This is an issue because - since Drobo's software spreads data among all available drives - if the actual unit or software fails you can't just pull the drive, put it in someone else's enclosure and access your files. And if Data Robotics should go out of business some day and your Drobo fails, you won't be able to just go out and buy another. The net result is the same as any other manufacturer's drive failing (then why pay the extra $$$?). The issue for me is being able to effectively archive images and knowing that I can get to them - not just tomorrow but in 10 years. Seems like Drobo may not be any more effective than my current strategy of archiving on multiple media. Your thoughts?

dterryphotography said...

Data Robotics has been around for 4 years... so while, in the grand scheme of things, they are still pretty new, I do feel that they've been around the block a time or two by now. And remember, this is version 2.0 of an already well established product.

There are several reasons I don't worry too much about being locked into the Drobo:

1) I have yet to see a device or software stop working the day a company goes out of business. So should they go out of business, I firmly believe I will have plenty of time to move my data to the new latest/greatest invention before my data "expires".

2) And by the time I'm ready to outgrow this unit, there will almost assuredly be something "better" out the for me to grow into. Is any of your computer hardware more than 3 years old?

3) Hardware based RAID controllers use different, proprietary disk layouts, so your argument against DROBO doesn't mean other solutions are any better.

So I'm not saying you don't have legitimate concerns. You do. I'm just saying I don't feel concerned enough about the reasons you cited to feel that the Drobo can't adequately fill my "here and now needs".

Anonymous said...

Don't forget power protection and battery backup.

Drobo does "protect" your files, but I am still using additional external (1 TB WD Worldbook) drives, which I normally turn off, as a secondary backup.

I am concerned about Drobo drive temperatures, as it came with a warning "CAUTION: Hot Drives". How warm are your Drobo drives (fan discharge air) in a room temp. environment?

I'm running Seagate 1 TB and two 500 GB drives. Once I transfer everything from an internal Seagate 1 TB drive, I will be adding it to the Drobo (for 3 TB total). So the temps. are a concern.

dterryphotography said...

The unit came with 4 1TB Seagate "Green" drives. Supposedly these drives use less power and don't run as hot.

I do hear the fan on the unit turn on or off from time to time ... point being that the fan isn't running the whole time so it must not be "too hot". But other than that, I don't really know what the temperature is.

Director Bob said...

David, first let me say "thanks" for this blog. This was one of the first places I found in my search for Drobo / digital storage solutions. I figure other searchers might land here as well, so I thought I'd give you the results of my research.

Although the Drobo appears to be a worthy solution, I ended up going with the HP MediaSmart Server. It has all the advantages of the Drobo plus a lot of added features that I and everyone in my household can use (via the HP's networked filesharing).

Beyond the four SATA drives that the Drobo offers, the HP also has 4 USB connections - which means I can connect all of my OLD firewire drives to it and end up with one honking big drive! It also allows me to do complete system back-ups of ALL the computers in my house - so if one of them fails I can recover everything including the operating system. The HP MediaSmart Server comes with photo sharing software that offers the opportunity to have clients view images on my own protected server (although not a good solution for a large client base). And lastly, I can access my photos from anywhere... I can't tell you how many times someone has asked for a change to a photo or a smaller version while I was away from my external drives and I had to wait until I could get back to the office. Not to mention that I now have password protected access to ALL of my files from anywhere in the world. And, of course, both HP and Microsoft - although far from perfect - have stood the test of time.

Best part? The cost is a little cheaper than the Drobo (depending on where you buy your drives - I got mine from NewEgg).

I'm certain Drobo is a great storage device, don't get me wrong, but in my particular case the HP MediaSmart Server seemed like a better solution.

dterryphotography said...

I won't knock the HP MediaSmart Server (which sounds good for what it was intended to do), but I don't consider it to be even in the same class of product as the Drobo. They are filling two distinctly different niches. It sounds like the HP fit your needs perfectly. For me it would not.

Why do I consider them different niches?

Drobo is meant to provide a reliable yet easy-to-use solution to hardware failures. If one hard drive goes out, you simply replace it and Drobo does everything for you automatically - no down time, no loss of data.

The HP isn't even a raid system. You lose a drive, you've lost all the data on that drive.

Unlike other Raid solutions, when it comes time to increase storage, with the Drobo you simply replace one of the current drives with a bigger drive and it automatically reconfigures itself. No down time. No loss of data. No loss of hair figuring out how to back up, break the raid array, create a new raid array, and restore. It's all automatic.

Again, the HP isn't a raid system... but if you replace one of the drives in the HP you're going to have to back the data up and move it around by hand.

You see, the Drobo is solving certain problems that the HP is making no attempt at solving.

Likewise, the HP is providing solutions such as remote access, user accounts, permissions, etc. Something that the Drobo makes no attempt at solving, but something I also don't need.

For me the Drobo makes a lot of sense. As a wedding photography, my data is extremely valuable. There are no "do-overs" for weddings. There are other solutions that would provide me with the same reliability. But my other problem is total lack of time. I don't have time to baby-sit a RAID system. I like that Drobo does it all - automatically.

Director Bob said...

David, please understand that I don't mean to start an arguement, but you are incorrect about some of your assumptions about the HP. The HP does, in fact, allow you to easily decide which file folders to "mirror" or maintain duplicates of and it backs them up to a seperate drive. The net result is the same as the Drobo - drive fails, replace it. You still have all of the files. You set up which folders to mirror or back-up once, and your done. If you research the HP, I think you'll find that on that point you're mistaken.

I would simply suggest that anyone interested in the Drobo do some research, as I did. Storage is simply too important of an issue for us as photographers. I spent a lot of time weighing the pro's and con's of many storage solutions. After reading industry reviews, looking at the great user groups and forums associated with both the MediaSmart Server and Windows Home Server, and, most importantly, reading user comments, the HP MediaSmart Server won out.

No solution is perfect for everyone, on that we certainly agree. The one downside to the HP that I failed to mention is that with more capabilities comes more initial set-up. It's not as simple as just plugging an external drive into your computer.

Good luck! I'll check back to see how you're doing and also give you updates on any problems I've encountered. Happy shooting!

Anonymous said...

David,I have the same Drobo V2 with 4 gig Harddrives,how did you set yours up,be specific?


Anonymous said...

In response to anonymous who said:
"I am considering purchasing a Drobo but find a couple of things troubling. Are you at all concerned that this is a new software based storage solution produced by a relatively new company that - like so many tech companies - may disappear as quickly as it appeared? This is an issue because - since Drobo's software spreads data among all available drives - if the actual unit or software fails you can't just pull the drive, put it in someone else's enclosure and access your files. And if Data Robotics should go out of business some day and your Drobo fails, you won't be able to just go out and buy another. The net result is the same as any other manufacturer's drive failing (then why pay the extra $$$?). The issue for me is being able to effectively archive images and knowing that I can get to them - not just tomorrow but in 10 years. Seems like Drobo may not be any more effective than my current strategy of archiving on multiple media. Your thoughts?"

Consider buying a second unit...
you could use this second unit for storage outside your home (office), using it to duplicate the original unit once a week or month... until the first unit fails.

When the failure occurs you can decide what to do depending on the market situation at the time.

That strategy would add additional protection against catastrophic situation at you computer location or theft.

Just a thought...


dterryphotography said...

Is the sky falling?!?

Why do people panic over Drobo being proprietary? When you buy a hardware raid device, you better buy two because if one goes out you can't just slip your drives into another manufacturer's raid system. Same thing.

If I see Drobo going out of business, _THEN_ I might decide to go out and buy a few spare terabyte drives (they're getting pretty cheap right now). But why should I panic right now, today?

Again, is the sky falling?!?

Don - Trap the Light said...

Just wondering what you use for internet backup. Seems the Drobo is great for main storage, but still some type of other offsite storage is needed. When you finally delete a job from the Drobo because you need some space, and the job is over a year old, you (I) still want access to the photos. So, therein comes the internet offsite storage. Just wondering how you handle this.

Thanks for your blog, very interesting.

dterryphotography said...

As jobs become non-current and need to be archived, I write them out to an external hard drive.

I used to back up to DVDs, but it can take as many as 9 DVDs to back up a wedding and that's just crazy. So I have a series of hard drives which remain turned off and disconnected except when backing up to them.

MJ said...


I'm currently in the process of deciding what I should be doing and was looking at the Drobo 2...among a few others.
Can I ask do you still love it? Have you had ANY problems with it.

dterryphotography said...

Yes, I still love mine. I have a friend who bought the Seagate 1.5Tb drives which has turned into a disaster. Those drives have problems when put into an array. Highly NOT recommended (google that drive, you'll see what I mean). I am using the Seagate 1TB drives and they have been working flawlessly for me.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone asked themselves what happens if your Drobo breaks?

Same as RAID and a whole host of other systems - you will need to get another Drobo/Raid system and hope your disks work ok in that....which takes considerable cost and time to recover.

If you had a simple networked PC with 8 SATA ports and 1TB Samsung spinpoint drives, you could have huge amounts of storage for less money that would be: 1. recoverable, simply put the hard disks into another PC, 2. If you have hard disk failure, you have multiple versions of the same file across multiple disks: a drobo with 4TB = less than 4TB storage and costs more than 8TB of disk space...3. the networked PC disks give you very fast access aqnd the data is available from any P{C on your network....4. simply use removeable drive caddys to offsite the data by swapping the full drives with an empty one.

Just some thoughts, but with a 400GB nominal backup, online storage is impossible and I would like access to the data quickly in a failure.

dterryphotography said...


I'm not quite sure I follow your networked idea. The big question in my mind has to do with how you would be keeping your multiple networked drives in sync with each other, what process would handle that and how 'real time' is it?

I like that Drobo (like any other raid system) is full time / real time redundant.

And while it's true that there are cheaper alternatives, the thing that I like about Drobo is the "time savings" and that, to me, is more valuable that the cost differential.

Anonymous said...

In line with Mr. Software's comment and Anonymous (of 2/13/09), I hope folks realize that Drobo takes care of a portion of the data protection problem only, and if your livelihood depends on keeping that data, you had better also have a regular offsite backup.

I read about some poor guy's Drobo loss the other day and wrote a short post about the subject.

The Drobo's real beauty is that loss of a single drive or the need to expand doesn't cost you a minute of your time (yank, plug, done!), and that's really what you are buying. Keep doing backups though!

Jackson said...

I think the drobo and an online storage system is the perfect solution. I use mozy at and for 2 years of unlimited storage space it cost me $100.00. so now if my hard drive gets stolen or washes away in a flood I'm 100% protected.

Anonymous said...

Whoa, Jackson... you're talking about Mozy's service for home users. For businesses (like photographers) you need to order Mozy Pro. Even at a conservative 1TB, the two-year cost would be over $10,500. That'll buy me a LOT of hard drives and drobos.