Safe image storage, redefined by Drobo

Think of it as direct deposit for your image and video files

I'm terribly disorganized, and that's not good for business, or life. I forget to pay bills if I have to do so by mail, and sometimes even misplace a check or two. Direct deposit has saved my behind more times than I'd like to admit.

It took a long time for me to acknowledge this shortcoming, but once I did, I was able to reorganize the business side of my life (as well as personal finances) so that taxes, payroll, credit card bills and other regular expenses now get paid or deducted automatically and directly. If an account got below a certain point, I'd get an alert via email and would deal with it immediately At the end of every month, I review my statement which lists all the automatic activity in my account.

The amount of late fees this has approach has saved me from paying is probably in the thousands; the agita direct deposit and automatic withdrawls has saved me from over the years is priceless.

Money management, image management: Same thing?

My approach to saving my image and video files, alas, is not so organized. I back up files when I remember. This came back to bite me recently when my primary computer had a hard-drive failure. While my computer repair guy was able to salvage the month's worth of data that I hadn't quite gotten around to backing up, it took extra time and expense to do it, and until he knew for sure he could do it, my stomach was in knots.

Does the process of backing up data need to be so frought with worry? In fact, why should anyone have to suffer through hard-drive failure? Is there a way to approach management of large quantities of image and video files that could be similar to the worry-free, direct-deposit-automated way I approach managing my  personal and business finances?


The basic Drobo holds any four hard drives, and can be bought empty so you can add your own, or with up to four 2TB WD drives included.


Enter Drobo

This is what brought me to Drobo, which I first learned about at a demonstration at their booth at Photo Plus Expo. Drobo is a data storage solution that is claimed to be safe and expandable and the reviews I've heard from pro users is that it is a reliable way to back up and protect your files. Each Drobo is essentially a box into which you can place multiple hard drives (between 4 and 12 drives, depending on the model). Uniquely, Drobo lets you mix not only hard drive capacities, but different brands of hard drives. Got a drive you're already use it? It'll fit in a Drobo.

Drobo has the Drobo Dashboard (for Windows and Mac OS X), a management application that lets you configure all your Drobos in one window. It automatically discovers Drobos in your network, manages automated copy (back-up) tasks and runs them in the background. If there's a problem, such as a hard drive failure, you get an email alert; you can continue your work uninterrupted.

Sound familiar?

If one, or even two drives fail simultaneously, the load is seamlessly, automatically shifted to other drives in the unit. When you're ready, you simply need to swap out the failed drive for a new one.

If you want to increase capacity, pop out the older drive and insert a newer, higher-capacity one. It doesn't matter which brand of drive you use, or capacity. Drobo will accept them all. You can do this while the Drobo is connected to your computer and even as you are working on files stored on Drobo.

Adorama's video reporting team caught up with Drobo at Photo Plus Expo a couple of months ago, where they were treated to this demonstration of the Drobo S:




Keeping organized

Working with multiple external drives, or storing your images and videos on other media such as DVDs has a huge downside. You're looking for a particular image or group of images; which DVD or drive is it on? It could take wasteful hours hunting down the image you're looking for. There's where Drobo has another advantage. No matter how many drives you have docked in your Drobo, it shows up as a single icon on your desktop and is easily searchable.

The technology behind this impressive storage solution is called Beyond RAID. RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) is a method developed in the 80s to pool disk drives for increased data storage. Drobo developed Beyond Raid, which uses sophisticated algorithms that automatically protects data through various redundancy methods while keeping the process simple.

And that's great for creative people who want to concentrate on producing the stills and videos they can. You may be interested in knowing all the technical details behind Beyond Raid but frankly, that kind of stuff makes my eyes glaze over. If you want to learn more, you can get all the details here. The end result—a redundant, automated back-up system that protects my valuable images—is all I need to know.


The DroboPro is available in several configurations but can hold up to eight hard drives. It is well-suited for power users who need storage for HD videos and hi-res stills.


What kind of Drobo is right for you?

There are seven different Drobos, ranging from the original Drob, with 4 drive bays and designed for prosumers, to the DroboPro, which holds 8 drive bays and is designed for full-time pros. The largest-capacity Drobo is the Drobo B1200i, a server that holds up to 12 hard drives. Drobo says its highest overall capacity right now is 36TB, which should be enough for even the most demanding HD video shooter. Most of the models Adorama carries are designed for professional and prosumer photographers and videographers, but there's no reason why a small office or home office couldn't use them as well. Data is data!

Here's a quick look at each pro-oriented model, its drive bay capacity and interfaces and its intended users. (Note that many come bundled with multiple hard drives, but you can also simply plug in the drives you're already using). There is currently a $100 mail-in rebate promotion for each Drobo unit, so now is a great time to save and get a deductible business expense.

Desktop primary storage and backup
# of drive bays: 4
Interfaces: FireWire 800, USB 2.0

Drobo S
Creative pros, photographers, videographers, small office/home office
# of drive bays: 5
Interfaces: eSATA, FireWire 800, USB 3.0

Drobo FS
Network storage and backup
# of drive bays: 5
Interfaces: Gigabit Ethernet

Single-computer storage for creative professionals and small business
# of drive bays: 8
Interfaces: Gigabit Ethernet for iSCSI, FireWire 800, USB 2.0

See all Drobo desktop hard drives.

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