Monday, December 14, 2009

Drobo BeyondRAID Enclosures - Making Hard Drive Death Less Painful

Data Robotics Drobo 4-Bay USB 2.0/FireWire 800 SATA Storage Array

My Canon 40D turned me into a digital pack rat with its 10 megapixel RAW files, slowly filling up my 500GB hard drive up over the course of a year and a half. Every few weeks, I'd burn my recent photos on two sets of DVD-Rs, put them in different boxes, and rest assured that my data was reasonably safe. It was a problem, but a manageable one.

That backup strategy wasn't ready for my upgrade to a Canon 5D Mark ii a few months ago. I now have 21 megapixel RAW files that weigh in around 27MB each, and 1080P video at 300MB per minute. Not only that, but the camera can shoot in damned-near darkness, so I'm shooting in locations that were previously inaccessible. Most outings with the camera would end in a filled 16GB CF card. It didn't take too long to find myself 100 DVDs behind in my backup routine.

In comes Drobo - a multiple unit hard drive enclosure all of the benefits of traditional RAID, but without the rigidity. The Drobo houses up to four SATA drives, spreading your data across them to protect against any one of them from failing. It doesn't care if your drives are the same size or vendor, and, you can replace drives at any time with one of equal or bigger size. You can also start with two drives, and work your way up to four, if you like. The biggest drive in the cluster is used for redundancy, so if you had four 500GB drives, your total usable disk space is about 1.5GB.

Unlike RAID, the unit is data-aware, continually checking for errors. If any are detected, the green light will flash yellow next to the affected drive. If the drive is on the verge of dying, the light turns red. At this point, you can remove and replace the failing drive without turning it off, and while still using it, if you like. The Drobo takes care of assimilating the new drive into the cluster, spreading the data across it to protect from any future drive failure, completely transparent to your machine.

I still plan on continuing to burn my data to DVD-R, but have become a little more lax since buying the Drobo. To safeguard against accidental deletions, complete hardware failure, or theft, I signed up to unlimited data offsite backup. For $50/year, Backblaze's software automatically encrypts and uploads all of my data to their servers, even keeping a couple of weeks of incremental backups so that I can rollback some data to a few days ago, if needed.

I now sleep just a tad better at night.

While you're at it, I recommend you get started with two of these 1.5TB Seagate drives. If you have an extra 500GB drive laying around the house, throw it in the mix as well - it can't hurt, you can upgrade it later.


Jeff said...

So, do you stick your existing external hard drives into this one? Or is it a separate drive?

Blake said...

This houses *internal* drives, as if it were a computer itself. It holds up to four, I currently have two 1.5TB drives and a 500GB one, which gives me a total of 3.5TB of space, but only 2TB is usable. One of the two 1.5TB drives is for redundancy. If any one of these dies, the redundancy saves my data. At that point, I'd replace the broken drive.