Miscellaneous Aspects and Concluding Remarks

The single 120mm fan is a reasonable solution to balance the need to cool down five SATA hard drives while also maintaining an acceptable noise profile. We noticed many reviews online indicating fan noise to be an issue in the Drobo 5D. However, we had no such issues with our review unit.

One of the advantages of the Drobo 5D / BeyondRAID is that users can start off with just a single drive in the unit, and add more drives down the line. The RAID expansion / migration process is seamless and without data loss. The progress of this process can be monitored with the Drobo Dashboard. Similar to our NAS reviews, we first started off with one 2TB drive in the unit, and added a second one after some time. Since the unit was configured in single-disk redundancy mode, the unit took some time to ensure that the second disk could act as a protection disk. However, due to the nature of BeyondRAID, the addition of new disks (3 through 5) resulted in immediate expansion of usable capacity. We also tested out moving to a dual-disk redundancy configuration once the five disks were in the unit. This took some time similar to the shift from one disk to two disks inside the unit. The power consumption of the unit was also tracked in the course of this evaluation routine. The numbers are summarized in the table below. These numbers are without a mSATA drive in the cache acceleration bay.

Drobo 5D - BeyondRAID Migration and Expansion
Operation Time (hh:mm:ss) Power Consumption
BeyondRAID SDR (1D) - 22.97 W
BeyondRAID SDR (1D to 2D) 01:08:52 30.96 W
BeyondRAID SDR (2D to 3D) - 38.15 W
BeyondRAID SDR (3D to 4D) - 44.37 W
BeyondRAID SDR (4D to 5D) - 51.48 W
BeyondRAID SDR (5D) to DDR (5D) 00:38:32 50.79 W

Coming to the business end of the review, we must first give credit to Drobo for creating a really simple and easy-to-use product for the average consumer. The whole operation (from installing drives, to actually mounting the volumes on a computer) is very easy, and can be managed even by folks who are not particularly adept with computers. The mSATA SSD acceleration is very helpful for multimedia editing directly off the Drobo 5D, particularly for read operations. The effectiveness was brought out by using real-world storage benchmark traces from Photoshop and similar programs. The dual-disk redundancy configuration benefits more from the SSD acceleration compared to the single-disk redundancy configuration.

There are a few points that could help Drobo expand the reach of units such as the Drobo 5D:

  • Thunderbolt support in Windows (if not for the 5D, at least for future products which integrate Thunderbolt support)
  • Support for data recovery by the end-user

To expand upon our second suggestion, it is well known that disks making up RAID volumes in commercial off-the-shelf NAS units can be mounted on a PC to access the data. We would like Drobo to provide a software program that can mount Drobo volumes if the disks used in a Drobo device were to be connected directly to a PC. This would go a long way in clearing the air of distrust that many tech-savvy consumers have when considering proprietary data protection schemes like BeyondRAID.

The Drobo 5D is currently available on Amazon for $615. The price is not a surprise, given that the product's features (Thunderbolt support) and operation make it attractive to people in the Apple ecosystem. As a Thunderbolt / USB 3.0 device with a novel and easy-to-use data protection scheme, the pricing is reasonable. However, from the viewpoint of a PC user, it is just a USB 3.0 device. There are many hardware RAID solutions with a USB 3.0 port that provide much better performance. But, there is definitely a segment of the market that doesn't mind paying a premium for Drobo's simplicity and 'it just works' aspects.

Direct-Attached Storage Performance
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  • rrinker - Tuesday, April 26, 2016 - link

    No, the lifecycle support for Server 2008 is until January 2020, security patches only. It's on that same lifecycle page. Security patches for 2012 R2 go until January 2023. If I'm still running this same hardware (already almost 6 years old) in another 7 years, it will be either a miracle or else I will have stuffed it in a closet and forgotten it's running. It's a first gen I3 I built in early 2010. I just retired a first gen I5 workstation that would actually make a better server (the mobo has 8 SATA ports - the I3 board only 6 so I have a dual port PCIe card) but that one dates from late 2009. Server 2016 is at Tech Preview 4 so I'll plan on new hardware and a new server next year.
  • doggface - Tuesday, April 26, 2016 - link

    Freenas. Literally costs nothing to implement.
  • JeffFlanagan - Monday, April 25, 2016 - link

    I use DrivePool too, with 5 Mediasonic ProBox USB3 drive bays, which makes swapping out failed drives easier than when they were in the PC. If you have to ditch Home Server, you can still use DrivePool on a desktop version of Windows.

    As you mention, DrivePool is safer than Raid. I had 2 drives fail at the same time, and only lost about 5% of my data. If I had set up DrivePool to keep 3 instances of every file, I would have had no data loss at all. On RAID, it would have been a total loss.
  • Ratman6161 - Monday, April 25, 2016 - link

    Just an FYI: RAID is not a substitute for backup...it was never intended to be. With a good backup scheme, there is no reason why you should lose any data even with a single disk setup.

    but yes, for
  • Ratman6161 - Monday, April 25, 2016 - link

    ...someone willing to DIY it, one way or another there are cheaper ways to do this. But for the non-techie or less-techie who doesn't mind spending the money, this could be a good solution. There are also thunderbolt cards available for PC's .
  • rrinker - Tuesday, April 26, 2016 - link

    That's sort of the whole point of WHS - it's really for the non-techie. You don't have to build your own box for it, you can use off the shelf computers, and the whole thing is actually pretty dumbed down with a big dashboard control panel that shields you from the usual Windows Server management stuff. That was the whole point of the product - there were complete off the shelf solutions too so you wouldn't even have to install an OS, just plug it in and turn it on. Plug some more drives in to expand storage, size didn't matter. What's funny is most people I know that have DRobo or similar are those with rather high levels of technical skill, not the PC illiterate.
  • owan - Monday, April 25, 2016 - link

    WHS2011 w/ DrivePool by itself doesn't replicate the full functionality of a RAID setup. At best DrivePool can do RAID 1 type protection through file duplication. That leaves you with 50% storage efficiency. However, you can easily implement SnapRAID to do snapshot parity calculations on your drive pool w/ multiple drive redundancy (i.e. RAID 5/6 type protection). Its not real-time protection, but its good enough for me at the moment.
  • kmmatney - Monday, April 25, 2016 - link

    I'm also using WHS 2011 with Stablebits drivepool, for the same reasons you do. I have 7 hard drives of various sizes in my drive pool (bought a $25 SATA card to give me more ports). Besides automatic backups of 8 computers in my house, it is also a minecraft server, ftp server, media server, etc... I'm still wondering what my next move will be, but it will probably be a Windows 10 system, with Stablebit drive pool. Not sure what to do about autoamtic computer backups, but a program called "Ur Backup" that looks promising and is open source.
  • voicequal - Monday, April 25, 2016 - link

    I replaced my WHS 2011 with Server 2012 R2 Essentials running on the same hardware. It has the same client backup and bare metal restore capabilities as WHS2011. I didn't trust WHS2011 anymore given its low adoption and impending EoL, particularly for Win10 clients. Windows Storage Spaces provides drive pool functionality, but overall I found better performance in just mapping shares to different physical drives. I particularly recommend putting the Client Backups folder on its own physical drive, as disk response slows when a client is doing a backup. For server backups, I run Crash Plan on the server to do cloud backup of all the drives.

    I'm looking at an alternative solution for my parents, possibly a generic NAS with Macrium Reflect or Acronis True Image running on the clients. Bare metal restore has saved me too many times to rely on file/document backups alone.
  • rrinker - Monday, April 25, 2016 - link

    I was amazed when I upgraded my primary machine from Win 7 to Win 10 and the WHS client just worked, same as it always has. There was an update for Win 8 which seems to have enabled operation with 10 as well, I already had the Win 8 update to the client installed on my server since my laptop had 8.1 before I installed the Win 10 update.

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