Digital Mitchell Event Photography | Drobo 5N Joins The Hardware Team

Drobo 5N Joins The Hardware Team

January 08, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

5n-front5n-front We take a lot of pictures for our clients, I mean A LOT!  And we need to store them someplace safe.  When you deal with as much data as we do in the photography industry you have to make Data Storage and Data Backup & Recovery a priority. Saving images to the hard drives of our computers was just not a good enough we needed a robust and dependable storage solution, so we asked Drobo to join our team of hardware.

Before I became a full time photographer I sold hi-end enterprise networking equipment mostly from Ciso Systems Inc. They had their own NAS--Network Attached Storage--systems and we also sold other hi-end RAID--Redundant Array of Independent Disks--products as well, so I am very familiar with the technology. The equipment used to be prohibitively expensive for the average consumer to purchase, but with competition comes lower prices and Drobo now has a very attractive price point.  When their equipment reached the price point that I did not have to build my own RAID system, we at Digital Mitchell Event Photography decided it was time to purchase one and retire our many servers storing our images in the back room (that little bit of house cleaning made Dawn very happy).

We ordered a Drobo 5N made by Drobo Inc. from our good friends at Manufacturing Information Solutions (who provide services to more than just manufacturers by the way) they have been our trusted technology advisors since before we started our photography company.  The Drobo 5N features:

  • Five storage bays, each of which can hold one standard 3.5 inch SATA I / II / III hard disk drives or solid state drives and one mSATA solid state drive in the Drobo Accelerator Bay
  • Connectivity - One Gigabit Ethernet port with Ethernet cable included
  • Network Protocols - Common Internet File System (CIFS)/Server Message Block (SMB) and Apple Filing Protocol (AFP)
  • Drobo BeyondRAID - Provides thin provisioning, instant expansion, mixed drive size utilization, automatic protection levels, dual disk redundancy, virtual hot spare, data aware and drive reordering
  • Additional Software Features - Data aware tiering, OS X Time Machine Support, drive spin down and dim lights

The secret to the Drobo is their Drobo BeyondRAID technology.  In simple terms, this allows me to store an image file (your picture) to the Drobo 5N unit and it gets saved across all five of its internal hard disks.  That might sound funny, but what it means is that if any single hard drive fails (knock on wood) that image file is not lost, rest assured it is still there on the other four drives.  Also, to replace that one bad hard drive, all I have to do is simply pull it out of the unit and insert a new hard drive in its place and the Drobo BeyondRAID software rebuilds all the data that should be on that drive.  Now that is security and simplicity.  

Some people, and reviews, have different opinions on proprietary RAID technology.  However, coming from my enterprise background I understand the need and benefits of proprietary RAID technology.  If the Drobo, or any unit, failed, I would simply replace it with a new one and insert the drives into that unit and be up and running instantly (well after it arrived that is).  If I really needed that one image file from the dead Drobo, I would simply retrieve it from my backup drive.  Yes, there is a backup to the Drobo unit, that is what people don't fully understand; that the Drobo 5N is just one part of the entire storage and backup strategy.  I beleive in the saying:  "If it does not exist in three places, it does not exist!"  Therefor I backup our images at the time they are imported into Lightroom.  The working copy gets stored on the Drobo 5N and the backup gets stored on an external USB hard drive.  And the third copy you ask: "where does that get stored?"  Well, it gets saved out to another external USB drive at my friends office using a POGO Plug device (I'll save that for another article)

When I ordered the Drobo 5N unit I also ordered five Seagate Barracuda 3TB HDD SATA 6, 7,200 RPM drives to put in them.  They are a fast and reliable (knock on wood) drive.  I could have put any capacity hard drives in the unit, and they could have even all been of different capacities, but since I was ordering new I decided to keep them all the same, Amazon was having a Christmas special on them so I got them for a song!  I could have even have used SSD--Solid State Drives--in the Drobo for even faster access, but I did not want to spend the extra money for that.

Most photographers will attach their Drobos directly to their computers using a USB connection.  I chose to make our unit a network storage unit so that everyone in our studio could use it as well.  It comes with a Gigabit Ethernet connection so it is plenty fast on our network, and I don't really notice any great speed hit when using Lightroom.

Setting up the unit was quite easy, I unpacked the unit (see below) inserted the hard drives, plugged in the Ethernet cable and the power supply and turned the unit on.  Then I went to my computer and downloaded and installed the Drobo Dashboard software and it did the rest for me.  In about 10 minutes the unit, along with all the drivers, were ready to go.

One additional step I did was to install one of the many Drob Apps.  The one I installed was the Plex app: (From their web site: ) "Plex is a media management system that takes your entire collection of movies, music, and photos making them available to all media devices in the connected home. With support for streaming music, high definition video, and photo sharing, Plex is an excellent way to centralize and share all of your rich media content on a Drobo. This not only provides significantly increased throughput supporting multiple simultaneous streams, but ensures that data is stored in a redundant manner protecting content from data loss due to a hard drive failure."  I have put our vast collection of CreativeLive workshop videos on here so that we can watch them from any PC as well as from our Roku device.  We basically clicked the "install app" icon in the Drobo Dashboard and it did the rest.

We have only had the Drobo 5N for about a month, but so far it has worked as advertised.  The best part is that I can sleep peacefully knowing that all of my client's most important images are well protected.


The Unboxing of the Drobo 5N. taken with my cell phone, FYI.


The delivery boxThe BoxThis is what the Drobo came in.


Opening the box


The box inside the box





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What's in the little box?


Cables, Power and a Sticker.




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