30 Nov 2017

The Drobo 5N2: The ultimate backup device for those who don't like doing backups!

  • Written by  Arthur Ditner
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Say goodbye to sleepless nights with the Drobo 5N2 Say goodbye to sleepless nights with the Drobo 5N2 Drobo

RedShark Review: Are you a bit lazy with your backup strategy? If you are, the Drobo 5N2 might be your ultimate "set it and forget it" backup solution. Arthur Ditner fills us in on his digital life.

I have a confession to make: my file management is horrible.

Sometimes I’ll spend an hour moving things around into folders. I think I made an ISO backup onto external disk, maybe three years ago? At one point I had the folder of DVD backups, but I failed to keep up on those now that my computer doesn’t even have a disk drive. I also switch back and forth between my laptop and desktop daily, not to mention my three digital cameras I regularly shoot with.

I realized while building a crib in my nursery, preparing to become a father, that I needed to get my digital life in order straight away. A tsunami of baby pictures were on the way! Sleepless nights! I started to look at backup solutions that were straight forward, as I knew I would have very little time for learning a new system.

My wife and I are both in the post production industry. I’m an Online Editor and Instructor, while she is a Lighter and Compositor. We both have two computers (each!), large libraries of stock elements, and previous projects that need to be readily available for showcase.

I purchased a Drobo 5N2 and it quickly filled the gap in my digital life.

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Front view of the Drobo 5N2

Network Attached Storage

The Drobo 5N2 plugged into my router and was pretty painless to setup. I instantly had access to my volume across our two desktops, and two laptops. In a short amount of time I copied over all media from my local storage onto the shared volume. And this part was fast. A solid 100MBps transfer rate, full 1gig/e speeds. I was not expecting this to work as advertised, on par with larger shared storage devices.

Should I find myself pulling too heavy of a load on my network across multiple devices, the Drobo comes equipped with dual 1gig/e ports, which will allow me to aggregate the lines for faster throughput. There is also an empty mSATA port in the unit which allows me the option of adding a solid state cache drive to enhance performance even further.

Now I host all my files on the shared volume and work over the network, and the performance is solid enough to work uninterrupted.

Beyond RAID

Something unique about the Drobo - it has a feature dubbed Beyond RAID that functions a bit like RAID5 in a JBOD (just a bunch of disks) configuration. Usually when building shared storage you need to invest in a single make and model of hard disk in order to marry them, and purchase a few spares incase one fails. With Beyond RAID you can toss in any combination of physical disks you choose and the software auto-magically will adapt with drive redundancy.

It just so happens that this writer has five unused mechanical hard disks sitting on his bookshelf. So I popped in an unlikely combination of platters that looks like this:

Total storage: 3.64TB
Total usable storage after redundancy: 2.21TB

By reusing old drives I was able to save significantly on the install cost. The best part is I can upgrade total usable space by replacing drives with a higher capacity disk one at a time, and the volume will rebuild itself automatically. So, if a 4TB disk goes on fire sale I can pull out a 500GB drive and add to my volume. Since the price of consumable media drops daily, I’m waiting until the last possible moment to do an upgrade. I can’t think of any other product that offers this feature!

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Rear view of the Drobo 5N2

Apps

Accessible right from the NAS access portal is a whole suite of applications that are genuinely useful.

DroboPIX is an iOS and Android program that will automatically upload photos from your smartphone onto a predestined folder. Baby photos to backup: check! The application runs in the background and whenever I’m on wi-fi, the photo upload kicks off to save on mobile bandwidth. It keeps a log of what has already been uploaded so even if I keep old photos on my phone, the application knows exactly which photos need to be backed up.

DroboAccess allows me to download files off my NAS when I’m on the go. Even though I rarely use this application it is really comforting to know that if I have a stock photograph, sound effect, or font that I can access those assets whenever I’d like, no matter where I am.

There are more great apps that I haven’t found time to try, such as Plex for hosting a media server and streaming to my smart television, Koken for publishing photographs, ElephantDrive for backing up the Drobo onto a cloud account, and Wordpress.

Now that I’ve had the 5N2 for a few months, it’s actually pretty hard to imagine how I got by without it. The unit is quiet and discreetly runs next to my router. I spend a lot less time worrying about making backups as everything is running on a RAID protected volume. I have access to my files on the go, so I’m not paying for any additional cloud services. And if I really wanted to be safe, I could opt for an ElephantDrive account to backup my NAS remotely - now that’s piece of mind! The Drobo 5N2 retails for $499.

How are your file management skills? Ever lost some serious data? Let me know in the comments below!


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