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Drobo Version 2, back | by Thomas Hawk
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Drobo Version 2, back

Yesterday I had lunch with Tom Loverro, Drobo's Director of Product Marketing, where he briefed me on the next big thing coming out of Data Robotics, the second generation Digital Data Robot aka Drobo -- what I'm calling Drobo 2.0.

 

Beginning today people can now begin placing orders for Data Robotic's second generation Drobo storage device. Drobo 2.0 will cost $499, the same price as the previous model. For a limited time (until they clear their shelves of the old units) Drobo will be selling their first generation Drobos for $349. I blogged about Drobo's first generation device about a year ago here, but this new device is even better -- pure white hot donkey awesomeness.

 

Boasting new and improved Firewire 400/800 support, the Drobo 2.0 is now twice as fast as the old Drobo, according to Tom. The core processor in the unit has been upgraded to improve speed and performance and a new fan has also been installed in the unit to make it quieter as well. Personally I've never had a problem with the noise on my Drobos except on very hot days when the fan seems to kick on in my 110 degree attic. Tom told me that they actually bake their drobos in an oven when testing them to make sure that they can withstand super high amounts of heat.

 

Additional enhancements and modifications have been made to the Drobo Dashboard software that will also help boost speed and performance under the hood. A new version of the Dashboard software will also be released shortly for existing Drobo owners who will be able to benefit from software based speed increases as well.

 

So how much faster is the new Drobo than the old one? Like I mentioned before, about twice as fast. According to benchmarking statistics provided by Drobo (see above), The second generation Drobo can now read about 52MB per second and write about 35MB per second.

 

So why should you buy one of these things? Simple. Because Drobo represents the easiest to use, most economical, way that you can back up and store your digital photographs today. I'm blown away when I talk with photographers about their back up strategies and hear that so many photographers simply have no back up strategy. I've met some truly amazing photographers who simply have all of their photos on a hard drive and are hoping that it won't fail. It will fail. All hard drives fail. It's not a matter of "if" it's a matter of when.

 

Drobo allows you to put up to four internal hard drives into your unit (internal hard drives are cheaper than external hard drives so you get some of your money back there). Your photos are then spread across these four drives and if one drive fails you simply pull the old failed drive out and swap a new working drive in and you've lost no photos. The system heals itself with the new drive and it's like you never had a drive failure at all. Your data is replicated across all of the drives in a pooled sort of environment.

 

Because you can use your Drobos as primary storage you don't have to remember to institute daily back up strategies. And because replication doesn't require 1:1 drive space, (four 750GB hard drives in a Drobo gives you effectively 2TB of replicated storage) you can save money by not having to buy additional back up hard drives.

 

The beauty of the Drobo most of all though is that it is super easy to use. You simply slide your hard drives into the Drobo's bay, plug in the power supply, plug in the USB or now Firewire cable and your Mac or PC reads your Drobo as a single drive. It's that simple. There are no raid arrays to configure or servers to set up or networking devices that need to be added. It's simple plug and play.

 

You should remember that just because you have a Drobo though that your back up strategy should not end here. As good as Drobos are at protecting photographers from disk failures, they still can't protect against things like fire or theft. One solution here though is buy two Drobos and put them in different parts of the country or world and back up your files periodically on both machines.

 

It should be disclosed that Drobo has supplied me with one of their new units to test out. I've also purchased two other Drobos in the past on my own.

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Taken on July 7, 2008