I'm in love with my Drobo

This weekend I really fell in love with my Drobo, so I thought I’d tell you about it.  If you’re not familiar with what makes them so cool, read on.  I think you’ll be impressed, too.

Disclaimer: My Drobo was a gift from the folks at Drobo, but I still think it’s one of the coolest pieces of tech in my house.

I’m in the process of moving to an on-line-all-the-time entertainment infrastructure at my house.  I’ve already got two Tivos, including a dual-tuner HD model.  I’ve also obviously already ripped all my old CDs into MP3s, and all that is accessible via an old PC running CentOS 5.3.  (And all my iTunes purchases have been made DRM-free, so they’re accessible by anything — not just iTunes.)  My pics are all digital as well.  I’m also a big user of BitTorrent for TV shows that I missed on the Tivo.  (I do NOT believe illegally downloading movies, music, or software, but I’m OK with downloading TV shows that I would have been able to watch free anyways.)

I can now access the MP3s, pictures, BitTorrented TV shows, Youtube stuff all via my new Digital Entertainment Center from NetGear. It plays all that on my big screen HD TV via an HDMI connection.  it will also play DVDs that have been ripped into .vob files and stored on a NAS share.

I have about 400 standard definition DVDs and about 20 Blu-Ray DVDs.  At 2-7 GB per standard DVD and up to 25 GB for the Blu-Rays, I’m looking at needing somewhere between 2-4 TB of storage to store all that!  I plan to have that all online AND redundant, so that’s where Drobo comes in.

I have a four-drive Drobo unit that up until now has had only three 250 GB drives in it.  That gave me 463 GB of available, redundant storage.  The Drobo uses a RAID-like — but not RAID — architecture that provides redundancy without the downsides of RAID.  Specifically, you can expand and contract at will, and you can have drives of different sizes.  This is what allowed me to do what I did this weekend.  I filled the fourth slot with a 1.5 TB Seagate drive I just bought for $120.  (Wow.)  I popped it in and waited for the lights to green up.  Easy Squeazy.  That increased the usable capacity to 695 GB.

I also bought a second 1.5 TB drive that I was going to put in a Linux server that’s serving up all this stuff.  I put the 1.5 TB drive in the PC and pulled out it’s previous 750 GB drive and replaced one of the 250 GB drives with that drive.  I waited for the lights to green up.  That increased the available capacity to 1.1 TB.

My original plan was to use the 1.5 TB drive to hold all movies, music, etc. and to continue to use the Drobo to hold my local backups of all this stuff.  When I realized that 1.5 TB wasn’t enough, I decided to use my Drobo as my main storage for all this entertainment stuff and get another Drobo to act as a backup system.  I pulled the 1.5 TB drive out of the PC and replaced yet another one of the 250 GB drives with it and waited for the lights to green up.  Now I have a 250 GB drive, a 750 GB drive, and two 1.5 TB drives in there, for a total usable capacity of 2.3 TB.

I read about this when I got the Drobo, but it wasn’t until I experienced it for myself that I really got excited.  And I did so much swapping this weekend that I did indeed get very excited making the lights go red then green, red, then green.

Later, when I need some more capacity, I can replace the remaining 250 GB drive with a 2 TB drive and the capacity will jump to 2.3 TB.  If I replace the 750 GB drive with a 2 TB drive as well, the capacity jumps again to 4.5 TB.  I’m sorry, but that’s just too cool.

To hear more about the Drobo, my friends over at StorageMonkeys just did a podcast on it.

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Written by W. Curtis Preston (@wcpreston). For those of you unfamiliar with my work, I've specialized in backup & recovery since 1993. I've written the O'Reilly books on backup and have worked with a number of native and commercial tools. I am now Chief Technical Evangelist at Druva, the leading provider of cloud-based data protection and data management tools for endpoints, infrastructure, and cloud applications. These posts reflect my own opinion and are not necessarily the opinion of my employer.