Meet Drobo: A Data-Saving Robot

Data Collection - Starting From Scratch, But What's Next?

You don't have to go to a computer shop anymore if you need a storage product. Even supermarkets around the corner offer external hard drives for USB interfaces. And it wouldn't come as a surprise if your local drug store did as well. You can get 500 GB (external) hard drives for less than $200. It seems like a perfect deal for everyone - or is it?

I'm afraid it is not that easy, as single drives come with a crucial disadvantage: They are immensely susceptible to defects, which means that if your hard drive dies, then your data will walk the plank as well. If you need more storage capacity, you can simply buy another drive; or you can get a top-notch storage device that can store it all. However, due to a still poor cost-per-gigabyte ratio we do not recommend getting a terabyte drive unless you really need such a large capacity.

Meanwhile, we have tested Silicon Image's new-generation 2 SteelVine technology, which enables cascading and interconnecting external hard drives to create a virtual storage volume. This allows users to create high-capacity storage structures, either with or without RAID.

You can effectively diminish the risk of a worst-case data scenario by using RAID configurations, where several hard drives are interconnected as an array. RAID 1 uses two hard drives and simply mirrors content; RAID 5 adds recovery information and distributes it across all existing hard drives. However, most of the external RAID boxes harboring multiple hard drives are rather expensive and oftentimes not flexible at all. If you have to change the RAID mode or increase storage capacity you might have to swap data again. Surely, there is no such thing as easy handling for the lowbrow user.

By accident, we found Data Robotics' Drobo on the Internet. Drobo is a storage box for up to four hard drives; you connect the device via USB 2.0. eSATA would have been wonderful indeed, but USB 2.0. also seems sufficient for the purpose. A main plus is how Drobo enables users to insert as many additional drives as they wish to safely upgrade capacity. Drobo makes sure that data organization is appropriate and all data is safe, Data Robotics says.

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Marcel Binder
  • Thank you for your review. I only want to add that there is a 2nd generation drobo that gives Firewire support. Also, you can buy droboshare to go along with one or two drobo for network access. I would be most interested in reading your thoughts about the different connection abilities and speeds.
    Thanks again