Drobo recently released its Access feature that lets you retrieve data from the appliance through an encrypted portal from anywhere in the world. It's a great addition to the B810n's datasheet, but it's hardly unique. Competing storage vendors introduced similar functionality more than two years ago. And in a way, that sort of sums up my opinion of Drobo's B810n.
Right now, Drobo is behind other storage vendors both in terms of hardware and software. Nothing shows that more than the B810n's lack of iSCSI support or the idea that you'd have to buy the B810i to get it. Although iSCSI is often overlooked, as enthusiasts, we put a lot of value on the standard.
The B810n also ships with embedded system memory that users cannot upgrade or replace. RAM does go bad, and the inability to recover from such a failure scares us more than just a little. And then there's Marvell's quad-core processor. Conceptually, it sounds new and exciting, but there's a reason Marvell doesn't dominate the $1600 appliance space. We can purchase comparable systems with even better specifications for less than half the cost of Drobo's B810n.
Drobo's focus has always been on ease of use and simple setup. In that regard, it's successful; my 10-year-old can configure one of these systems. We have to wonder, though, just how low does the bar have to be? When your focus on accessibility inhibits capabilities that other companies made standard years ago, it's time to rethink the strategy. After all, if you have $1600 to throw at a storage server, you should be able to follow a 10-step quick-start guide.
Drobo wants to become iconic again. In my meeting with company representatives, they said they want to be as highly regarded as Apple. I often hear this, and it makes me cringe. Immediately, I conjure up images of trendy-looking hardware with a cult-like following that ends up over-priced. Iconic status should be earned through superior features and not willed through superior marketing.
As Drobo changed hands over the past few years, its development slowed to a crawl. Its claim to fame was having the easiest products to configure, which supported that stagnation. There simply wasn't anything new to complicate the devices. Even now, its latest products aren't much different from what it shipped six years ago. Drobo tells us that it's back. But given what we just saw, we wonder if it means back to 2007. After all, the B810n is the most underpowered NAS in this price range.
I do like the enthusiasm from Drobo. But this is a product review, not a company forecast. Its B810n is overpriced, underpowered and it lacks many of the storage-specific features we consider standard in 2016—or in 2012, for that matter. We suspect this model will receive a price drop over the coming months to be more competitive with NAS appliances coming from Taiwan.
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