WEDDING portrait London EVENT photo HERTS bucks BEDS oxford BBC photographer of the year MAX PICKERING LRPS LSWPP
WEDDING portrait EVENT photo London HERTS bucks BEDS oxford MAX PICKERING LRPS LSWPP BBC photographer of the year WEDDING portrait EVENT photo BEDS oxford London HERTS bucks BBC photographer of the year MAX PICKERING LRPS LSWPP

drobo in the UK

drobo software

What is a drobo?

A storage robot. 

A black box with a USB connection that holds up to 4 SATA drives.

You add whatever drives you want or have lying around, they DON'T need to be from the same maker, have spindle speed or even the same capacity. 

The space available to you is about 66% of the total capacity of the four drives you use.

drobo automatically ensures that what ever drive of those four fails and all drives WILL fail eventually, the data is still available. 

These facilities put the drobo into the realm of large near-line storage or backup solution to people with important data, lots of it and who have better things to do than remember to back it up! 

drobo software

Getting your data from wherever it has spread to or hides on your system and onto the drobo, quickly, easily and automatically can be a real pain... Backup software can do it, but has it's own problems associated with it.  What's needed is some drobo software that will watch for new files on multiple drives and or multiple folders and either transfer, copy or move them to the drobo immediately, overnight or even weekly.  Do it quickly, easily and automatically and be very, VERY cheap.  Not an easy task!

Data Robotics don't make such a piece of software, but if they did it would probably look something like this... :-) 

Have a look at the info further down the page about the solution and on how to configure the (NOT) drobo backup software.

     "Next to my cameras,

drobo is the most important piece of equipment I use".    

drobo in action

I've had the drobo for a couple of days now and have been very impressed with it. After loading it with 500gig drives, hooking it up, (which was easier than installing a printer!) It swallowed the entire contents of three hard disks.  Having got it full of all the data the next thing to do was to make a drive fail by popping a drive out of it and see what happened.  Not for the fainthearted, but, disaster recovery is no use unless you test it!  The drobo behaved exactly as the nice people at Data Robotics said it would and soon enough, all the lights were green again.  Nice.

There is much discussion about the "lack" of gigabit or Firewire connectivity with the drobo to a host PC or MAC based system.  While the addition of either of these protocols would speed things up in the photographic world, where large volumes of multi megabyte images eternally expand to fill all the available disk space.  These protocols will be available at some point, but this shouldn't preclude the advantages of the drobo from being used today. 

The methodology I use could  be described as taking advantage of the cost to performance ratios of on-line, off-line and near-line storage.  I use the USB2
drobo in my workflow and can't say I have found any problems with the transfer speed with this method.  If anything it has speeded up my workflow and vastly improved the resilience of the process.  To put this into perspective, my image library runs at over 350,000 images and as a matter of course I could be dealing wth up to 6,000 images at a time.

If I'm working in the studio, the RAW, JPG and sometimes both depending on the job are firstly transferred from the camera to a local internal hard drive on the PC using a firewire card reader.  From the internal drive they are automatically copied to the
drobo while the PC is idle, or overnight.  After any images are culled, modified or in any way changed, the output of the modified images are saved to a different directory on the same drive (thereby always keeping a clean and modified version of any image) and again, these are automatically transferred to the drobo when the PC is idle or overnight.  As an extra precaution, a quantity of external 500 gig drives act as off site backup. I'd be forever changing DVD disks if I used them to do backups.

In the field, I back the memory cards up onto a Archos unit as and when required, then on return to the studio I use the system descibed above.  When the data is safely on the
drobo, then the cards are reformatted and the ARCHOS wiped and recharged.

Having the nearline facility for the images  gives me the speed I need, where I need it for post production of the images... on the local drive when the image is being manipulated... but I can still bring back great tracts of data should the need arise, without having to spend time looking for incremental tapes or hunting down the correct DVD that has the data on it. 

In the same way that computers use fast memory as the worktop, and a hard drive as a filing cabinet, to borrow an office based analogy, using a fast hard drive as a desktop and drobo as a filing cabinet works very well for me.  I'm not sure if the phrase has been used before by another product, but "near-line backup"  is how it could be described in the system that works for me.

When it first arrived, rather than immediately hooking it up, the drobo spent a couple of hours in the studio here posing for the cameras as can be seen above. To the un-named and unknown photographer who did the photos for the drobo website, "nice work!"



Now several months after the installation of drobo, as well as the obvious and direct benefits like sleeping at night! Using the drobo as a huge file bucket has let me rationalise the directory tree structure on the resident local drives and see just how many copies of some files had crept across the drives! (How does that happen??)

The particular methodology that I have developed and use every day relies on automatically finding any image files that might appear on any of the several possible drives, at any time and copying those files to the drobo.  I then need to be able to copy any such file back to a different drive to work on.  This also has to work with multiple files (up to 3,000 at a time!) oh, and replicate the directory structure of the source area too!

Backup software is the obvious choice but there are usually problems with that choice;  Only scheduled checks, compression, usually really slow or a backup container file that can only be accessed by the backup program.

Although there is no backup software supplied with the drobo, something is needed unless you are going to remember to do it manually every time you change something on one of the drives. Hmmm... I can spot some holes in that plan!

The good news is that there is a solution and it's an obscure piece of software that was probably designed without any knowledge of a drobo.  I now have live and un-encrypted backups directly to the drobo from four other drives on the same computer and several important drives on other computers in the network, now a fully automatic process too.  That last sentence explains what is probably the most useful part of using a drobo.  ALL the important files, wherever they are, are monitored and in my case copied to the drobo each night without me doing anything!  An elegant, efficient, brilliant solution!  This software is a perfect solution.  Strictly speaking, it's not a pure back up program, but it does the job and does it very well. 

I can't recommend it highly enough, it has proved an excellent partner to, and an essential part of how I use, my drobo.

 (Clicking this link will take you to the external web site of the software) 

NOTE; If you buy the software, and it's ridiculously cheap as well as being bloody good.  If you want to use it in the same way as I have described above, when configuring it;

Make sure you have it moving or copying from the local drive to the drobo.  One way only!  That gives you  the data vault / near line backup / whatever you want to call it. 

By default, the software is capable and configured as bi-directional. It will keep two copies of every file, one on the local drive, one on the drobo and syncronise the drives / directories in both directions, you don't need that. 

Setup one job per drive and configure which folders to include or exclude.  You can then manually over ride the automatic moving of files on a specific drive with just a couple of clicks.

I'd also recommend that you copy only, once you have finished working on any files on the local drive you can delete them and you'll still have the directory structure on the drobo.  That keeps the local drive work space from getting clogged up.

If it's not completely clear what the setup is from the description above, feel free to email me with any questions. click here to do that

Drobo has had two firmware updates and has been powered 24/7 throughout the last couple of months.  Everything I've tried in attempting to break it has been rewarded with four green drive lights and the message;

"I am healthy and have sufficient capacity, no action is required at this time"

The classic line "I'm completely operational and all my circuits are functioning perfectly" has finally been rewritten and brought up to date.

I thought I'd poke around the drobo with the temperature probe from a FLUKE 179 and share the results.

My drobo is filled with 4 x Hitachi 500gb deskstars that areat 50% capacity.  The PC has been running about 17 hours since last reboot.

Room Temperature (same height as drobo) 64.4f 

Temperature one inch inside top left hole of front cover 55.6f 

Temperature of top of top hard drive (no front cover) 64.1f 

Temperature of top of top hard drive (WITH FRONT COVER!) 61.9f 

Temperature half inch inside cowling of rear exhaust fan 77.4f

What my numbers appear to indicate is a reduction in temperature of a couple of degrees with  the front cover on!



Xmas  - Happy xmas droboteers, :-)

The drobo has been running almost non stop (we had a couple of power cuts earlier in the year) for almost a year now without any problems... It's still at about 50% capacity, having got rid of nests of duplicate files.  There was a brief point in time where I actually GAINED space after deleting all the duplicates!  I've managed to clog all that up now.






More to follow in the adventures of a drobo soon

 If you would like more information on the drobo, call Robert on

+44 (0)118 976 7111, tell him Max sent you!






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