Drobo now $200 cheaper, just as gooder

As more and more of my media goes digital, hard drive management becomes more and more of a hassle. At this point I have a couple terabytes worth of storage, but it’s spread across multiple PCs and external drives, and that makes it difficult to manage and protect.

One of the NAS-like devices I’ve been tracking is the recently-announced Drobo. Drobo is basically a NAS (network-attached storage device), but without the two most important things that typically define a NAS — network and RAID support. Seems like it misses the point, right? And yet the “it’s not a NAS, it’s a data robot” Drobo is likely to be the most interesting things to happen in storage this year.

I was very glad to see that the NAS-less chaps over at Data Robotics just lowered the price of the Drobo (their not-yet-released flagship storage product) by almost 30%. Formerly an reasonably-good value at $699, Drobo is now only $499, plopping it squarely into great value territory. (That assumes it works as advertised, which we should all know by the end of June.)

Like any NAS worthy of the name, Drobo can contain multiple drives (up to four). Unlike almost all NASs, you don’t need to install your drives (SATA I and II) into special carrier trays before you click them into the unit. No trays means fewer pieces to keep around and no tools to lose, and a smaller profile as well.

Like any normal NAS configuration, Drobo makes multiple drives look like one BAHD (Big-Ass Hard Drive), automatically distributing data across multiple disks to protect against drive failure and data corruption.

Instead of using RAID 1 (drive mirroring, for two drives) or RAID 5 (striped with distributed parity, for 3+ drives), Drobo does it’s own thing. This lets it do neat tricks, like making new storage available almost instantly — you don’t shut Drobo down, or go through a format process.

To me, positioning the Drobo as a “data robot” makes about as much sense as calling an iPod a “music robot”. But if anthropomorphizing their product is what gets them through the night, that’s alright.