Pro photographer & darling of the podcast scene, Scott Kelby recently posted to his blog & Google+ that he was done with Drobo. For the uninitiated, a Drobo is a storage device manufactured by (oddly enough) Drobo. It allows you to throw a few hard disks together into its empty drive bays & pool the storage. So, if you’ve got four 1TB hard drives in your Drobo, you have –at least in theory — just under 4TB in one large pool.
The trouble is, the Drobo uses a proprietary file system to pool those hard drives together. Rather than hold one file on one drive, it’ll split things across the various drives – you could in theory have a quarter of one file on each drive. Problems arise when the device inevitably fails (hardware often does that!) and the data on the individual drives is worthless, unless you pay Drobo for extended support.
When my photo assistant Brad called their tech support for me, they told him my dead drobo is out of warranty. To get my photos back, I would have to pay nearly $300 for drobocare (an extended warranty program). So basically, while my drobo is supposed to protect my photo archive, what it has actually done is hold my photo archive hostage for almost $300.
The solution that Drobo offers – a robust storage system that will let you pool your drives and allow you to replace drives when they fail without losing any data is incredibly attractive. However, the rather secretive hoodoo that goes on behind the scenes poses a substantial risk to anyone who really needs a robust storage solution.
Drobo’s range of storage devices are all pretty expensive. The cheapest starts at around £400 before you’ve even bought drives to go in it. Apparently they’re also a little unreliable, so it would be difficult to argue the case for getting one on this evidence. I’ve not tried one myself, but this isn’t the first time I’ve heard people complaining about data loss and I don’t think I’d want to take the risk.
If you are going to have one, budget for two of them or stick with a number of large individual disks. Aperture allows you to import your photos to more than one location at a time, so you can import your RAW files to your main library and a 2nd one for safe keeping. You could probably also use folder actions in Automator in OSX or Hazel to copy your files to a string of daisy-chained FireWire (or Thunderbolt) disks. The important thing is that you have your data stored in more than one location so that you can always recover if one location fails.