Why I may never (again) buy a Drobo

Drobo = Great Idea

I love the idea of Drobo. A storage device that: protects your data, is easily upgradeable, and is dead simple to use. When it comes to the reality I find things less rosy.

Before I continue this review let me make note that there seems to be a conspiracy theory out there about negative Drobo reviews. I do not know if the theory is correct or not but many negative reviews seem to be met with extreme skepticism or disbelief. Accusations of fraud and fake review writing are rampant.

So, with that being said, here is my brief verified Drobo experience and why I will never buy a Drobo again.

First try DR04DD10, not a good experience for me

The verification. I ordered a Drobo DR04DD10 on October 10th, 2008:

four digits have been changed below in the transaction id and item # for privacy purposes…

Purchased From:multiwavevideo
Transaction ID:88S066912X1290XXX

 

Item #Item TitleQuantityPriceSubtotal
190260042569DATA ROBOTICS drobo DR04DD10 4-bay enclosure USB fw800~1$459.99 USD$459.99 USD

After the Drobo arrived I loaded it with Western Digital drives I began using it to backup photos. I used both Windows’ basic drag and drop move capability and TeraCopy to transfer the photos. Ignorantly, I assumed that a backup device supporting data protection (i.e. can survive disk failure) would be a safe place to move these photos to.

After the moving was done I tried accessing the photos. Some of them loaded okay. Others would not load and the Drobo would periodically disconnect itself requiring me to restart it. 🙁 This was a very scary experience as these photos were very important to me and I was trying to consolidate them into one place.

Eventually I was able to recover about 95% of the photos from the Drobo. However, I was not a happy camper as I wasted many hours on something that was supposed to simplify my life.

That was my first Drobo experience.

Yes, I realize I should have kept another copy of the photos somewhere else and not relied solely on the Drobo… regardless, I am not going to praise a product that failed me at the primary task I purchased it for (protecting my data).

The second try DR04DD10, better but not quite there

When the had had time to release a few software updates I decided to give the Drobo a second try. I still really liked the concept of dead simple protected storage.

Again, here is purchase info:

Order number:			102-1415708-5253999
View your Order Summary online: https://www.amazon.com/gp/css/history/view.html
Shipping Method:		Two-Day Shipping
Shipping Preference:		I want my items faster. Ship them as they become available.

Subtotal of Items:            $424.49
Shipping & Handling:            $0.00
                              ---------
Total for this Order:         $424.49

Shipping To

JD Hodges / Drop Box
XXX
United States

Delivery estimate: February 25, 2009

1 "Data Robotics DR04DD10 Drobo 4-Bays USB 2.0 and FireWire 800 Fully Automated SATA Robotic Storage Array"
Electronics; $424.49

Sold by: Amazon.com, LLC

Now, on to my second Drobo experience. This time I did not experience data loss, just slow performance. I fully understand that, due to overhead from the protection tasks, any redundant storage device is likely to be slower than a directly connected disk.  So I was not expecting blazing fast speeds.

This was slow though. Like slow enough you did not want to use it for any serious task. Slow enough that I did not have a happy experience with my Drobo. Likewise, I found the Drobo management utility to be cumbersome.

2013, that Drobo Mini looks yummy. Drobo’s treatment of customer complaints is decidely not-yummy

Here I am once again, pondering protected storage. After having a Thecus N5200, (3) N4100Pro, external RAID arrays, and a 12TB UnRAID setup which all perform admirably… I still like the idea of Drobo 🙂 Especially the cool looking Drobo mini which would be ideal for traveling:

However, upon reading the Amazon reviews I came across this Drobo employee’s response to a review:

Dear Member Medazzaland,
Drobo does promote the Drobo Mini as being compatible with practically all standard 2,5″ HDDs, as well as a selection of SSDs. In practice, this translates to 2,5″ SATA HDDs in the height range from 7 to 9,5 mm. Despite the early stage of the Mini’s product cycle, we have already tested 7 different SSDs extensively in our labs, as you can see with just a couple of clicks on our website (http://support.drobo.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/664). We would like to add that this is merely a selection of SSDs, that have already undergone the extensive compatibility tests our product management performs in order to guarantee the high performance standards Drobo has for the Mini and all its other products.
We regret this negative and rather superficial review. While we take critique very seriously so as to always provide the best possible product to our customers, it seems that more time was devoted posting this rather vague review here and on Amazon.de than in discovering the true benefits and unique features the Mini has to offer. The profile also suggests that writing superficial 1 Star reviews has become a sport for some people, which raises the question how valuable this review really is for those with a more serious interest in the Drobo Mini.
Best regards
Niko Rustemeyer
Drobo

I do not know about you, but that response directly from a Drobo employee rubs me the wrong way. The did not try to work with the customer, they did not offer the customer any substantial tips or offer of direct customer support,  they just criticized the review.

So, that was the final straw. Drobo, I gave you two tries and spent a thousand bucks on your products. I did not like your products’ performance and I do not like your recent responses to customer feedback. Therefore I am skipping your products and (again) building my own redundant storage setup.

Best regards,
-J.D.

PS if you are a Drobo user or a Drobo employee and you like Drobo products, that is great. I have no problem with you or with your products. I am simply choosing not to buy Drobo products for the reasons mentioned above. If Drobo changes their customer support to be a bit more proactive, i.e. if I see them helping out customers that had poor experiences (even after negative reviews are written) then I may just have to give the Drobo mini a try 🙂

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