J MacDonald Photography
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There Once Was Many...Now There is ONE.......My Drobo 5D Review

Before we get too deep into this let me put a little disclaimer up here.....The Drobo 5D I am reviewing was provided to me by Drobo at no cost to myself other than the time it takes to mention them as a show sponsor for Mirrorless Minutes, and to write this post. 

Want to save 10% off a Drobo of your own? Use promo code "Mirror10" at checkout ;)

This is my safety net......What is yours?

This is my safety net......What is yours?

How I used to back up

If you are reading this there is a good chance you are a photographer like me, and as a photographer there are few things more important to you than keeping your images safe. The typical way this is done is by the use of an external hard drive, if you are a little more serious about keeping those images safe you might even add a second external hard drive, and then employ some sort of software to backup one hard drive to the other. Redundancy! Or....If you are like me, or rather, like I WAS, then you's have MANY hard drives and a ridiculous backup regimen which make multiple backups, on a set schedule, and some of those schedules were offset so no matter what there was always a "most recent" version on one of the drive. Did you follow that? I know, I even had a hard time keeping track of what was going on! The image below shows my "office" in a rather cluttered state of affairs (this was after returning from a trip out of town and me unloading everything into the room) and I swear!! My wife would kill me for leaving it like this ;)

4 external drives at my desk, w/ an  8TB MyCloud  in my bedroom.....Way too many devices...Way too difficult to manage!

4 external drives at my desk, w/ an 8TB MyCloud in my bedroom.....Way too many devices...Way too difficult to manage!

So what you see above is an 2 4TB WD hard drives, one for Images, the other for all other media. An 8TB WD hard drive which backs up the two 4TB drives nightly (incremental looking for changes to the drives), and a 3TB seagate which backs up ONLY my processed image folder from the 8TB drive. Not shown is the 8TB WD MyCloud drive next to my bed downstairs. This is a backup of the 8TB shown. This also backs up nightly. In the event of a fire, I would rip that one off the nightstand and take it with me. Also not shown is the fact that I use Google Drive, and  Amazon Prime's image storage services for more redundancy of my processed images...WHOA! Still following me? I tried to explain this all to a few people, and explain how to set up the software, and how to make sure it was all working properly and they just decided it was way too much to handle.  


What To Tell Everyone Else?

Now for those who know me you understand that I get emails everyday from people asking all sorts of questions about photography. I answer questions about camera settings, image composition, image editing etc... And I LOVE to answer those questions! It is one of the best parts of being in the Olympus Visionary Program! It is why I do workshops and photography conferences. But in addition to those fun emails I also get the heartbreaking emails from people asking how to recover their images after a hard drive fails. And 99% of the time I tell them they have two options. One is to send it in and have it forensically retrieved, which can costs into the THOUSANDS of dollars to have done, or the other is to have a funeral for the passing of their images. It is a harsh reality to lose your images. And I dread those emails.

So What Do I Do now?

So what does my desk look like now? I can tell you it looks a lot less busy with USB cables, power cords, and external hard drives. So what does my backup solution look like now? I can tell you it has a lot less complexity and nowhere near the amount of hand on setup and maintenance! You read (and can see) what my old hard drive situation was like. There were so many drives spinning that my wife said it, "sounds like you are running a machine shop up there." in reference to my little office. It was pretty bad!  But now? I have a QUIET office, I have ONE power cord, and ONE Thunderbolt cable. I have ONE device on my desk, and I have a LOT of piece of mind. 

The answer to your backup dreams!  The DROBO 5D!!

The answer to your backup dreams! The DROBO 5D!!

So what exactly is a Drobo 5D? And how is it different from any other external hard drive? Glad you asked! For starters a Drobo 5D (or any of the different models for that matter) is not just an external hard drive. It is a RAID Array. Now without getting all overly technical, a RAID Array is a series of hard drives that work together to store data in a few different ways. One of which is that a single drive, is an exact duplicate of another drive in the array. Or, if there are multiple drives, they are made to appear as one larger drive, with a second grouping of that array dedicated to being a copy of that first grouping. There are other configurations but you sort of get it right? Now a Drobo does just this, BUT....It does it BETTER! How? Glad you asked ;)

Beyond RAID

I briefly explained RAID above, and now I get to tell you how Drobo does RAID. Most RAID arrays require you to make sure that ALL the hard drives in the array are of the same size, so maybe they are all 3TB each. Then, they require you to make sure they are all THE SAME KIND! Ugh!! Imagine having to buy 3,4, or 5 hard drives all the same size, all the same MAKE AND MODEL! What happens if that model becomes discontinued and you need to replace one of those drive? No Bueno!!  
Queue up the magic of Drobo and their patented Beyond Raid™ technology! With their Beyond Raid™ technology you can mix and match hard drives in the Drobo! That is just ONE part of the magic. Another part is that the way they spread your data across all the drives in the unit, if any one of those drives fails all you need to do is replace it with ANY hard drive of equal or larger capacity and it will repopulate that drive with the data that was lost when the original failed! How crazy is that?!?!? In a standard RAID array if one drive fails you need to replace it with an exact duplicate. What happens when your Drobo outgrows its storage capacity? Simple!! Pop in another LARGER drive and the Drobo will move the data onto it that was on the old drive you replaced, then allocate the remaining data (save for some space for redundancy) to your overall capacity! Remember that a standard RAID array wouldn't be able to do that. 

Is It Hard To Set Up?

I could just say, "NO" and leave it at that...It really is THAT SIMPLE to set up. But I won't because I love to talk (seriously, ask my wife and kids) and I think you might want to hear how MY setup went. 

When I opened the box and place my Drobo on my computer desk I realized that I hadn't even stopped to order hard drives! And then almost immediatley I thought,"why should I?" I had a desk covered in external drives, so why not salvage the drives from some of those and fill the Drobo up?! So that is EXACTLY what I did! I first went and downloaded the latest version of the Drobo Dashboard from their website, installed it, and followed the setup instructions. Once that was done I cracked open the 8TB WD external drive under my desk (remember I have an 8TB backup in my bedroom that I verified was current with my data!) and pulled out the two 4TB WD Green hard drives the 3TB Seagate drive, and a 2TB and 1TB bare drive I had on the shelf. Quite a mish mash of drives!! I then proceeded to slip them all into the Drobo which is literally foolproof to do. Within seconds the Dashboard notified me of the new drives and told me it would need to format them for use. I obliged and let it format the drives. Once formatted the Drobo was ready to use! It is THAT EASY! Once it was ready I simply moved the data from my bedroom backup over to the Drobo. 

WHat my initial set up looked like. 

WHat my initial set up looked like. 

Now That It Is Set Up..What is Has Changed?

Since moving to the Drobo my workflow has improved. Improved? How? For starters the fact that I now have what appears to be ONE BIG DRIVE instead of looking through a series of drives to find things has sped up my work quite a bit. No more making sure that processed images go here, bulk transfers go there, audio and video files go over there, etc...It is all in one place. Feeding data from the Drobo via Thunderbolt vs. a whole slew of USB 3 drives is also a treat! I am editing 1080p video straight from the drive. Noise...NOISE!?! YES! There is none!! Haha! My wife even commented on how peaceful my office is without all the "running jet engines" when the drives spin up! Upgrading to more capacity is a BREEZE! I have sitting here a 6TB hard drive ready to drop into the Drobo right before I leave to go camping this weekend. And the biggest change of all? PEACE OF MIND! No more "hoping" that my data back plan is actually working. I just let the Beyond Raid™ technology take all the hassle out of backing up. 

Now The Bad Part.........

There is always some bad to go with the good right? The worst part about this whole thing? Well, the TWO worst things? 

#1 It makes me want to keep buying bigger and bigger hard drives to put in it! Hahaha!! I am serious! It is so easy to expand storage that I have this urge to "go bigger"....Sadly my wallet can't support that! 
#2 I wish I had done this sooner so I could have recommended this product to my readers,listeners etc, sooner. I might not have as many sad emails about data loss to read if I'd been able to review it sooner. 

Let's Wrap It Up

So in closing I will reiterate that this unit was given to me to review, but I stand 100% behind it as a product that ANYONE can benefit from so long as you have data you don't want to lose. And I also want to mention in here that if you want a chance to WIN A DROBO 5D FOLLOW THIS LINK to the Mirrorless Minutes Facebook Page and read the pinned post about how to win.   Now this contest isn't going to last forever so hurry over there and read up!

Thank you for stopping by to read this, and a HUGE thank you to Drobo for setting me up with a unit to review, and also for allowing me to GIVE ONE AWAY!!!

Stay tuned to my site because in 6 months I will be back with a follow up to let you know how the Drobo is working out for me!!



*UPDATE!!!!! 7/9/17

So one thing I forgot to mention in the original post is that I am STILL using an 8TB Western Digital MyCloud NAS device on the night stand next to my bed. This is NOT because I don't trust the Drobo, but is because the Drobo is located on the 2nd floor of my home. In the event of a fire or something, I can snag the MyCloud off the nightstand and get it outside to safety. The MyCloud is doing a daily backup of what is on the Drobo at this time. I am looking into adding a Drobo 5N2 to replace the Mycloud as soon as possible. And then that is what I would take out the door with me. So sorry for not making that part clear, and thank you to the people who asked if had a backup of the Drobo ;) Now you all know!