Drobo with DroboShare on XP, Vista, MacOSX, Ubuntu

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I bought a Drobo for myself about seven months ago and I couldn't be any happier. My files are backed up on a RAID system, I still got plenty of space to waste. My world is OK.

Some friends of mine recently bought one of the new Drobo units with a DroboShare. The DroboShare costs $200 (USD) and is a glorified Linux server which exports your Drobo using Samba to all clients on the network.

My friends are using Windows and MacOSX to connect so after some intial problems where they were running FAT32 and the Drobo decided to go unlabeled, we decided to format the unit and use HFS+ instead.

Unlabeled?

I googled this and to my surprise there are no information available - Data Robotics keeps it all pretty well hidden behind case numbers on their ticketing system. It would be nice if they provided more details why a Drobo unit would end up in unlabeled state.

HFS, or what's your flavour?

Our reasons to select HFS+ are:

  • It's a modern filesystem (vs. FAT32) with journaling.
  • If all fails, you can hook it up to the Mac and use DiskWarrior to recover the volume.

If you are not using a Mac and keep in a Windows-only environment, it makes more sense to select NTFS, in a Linux-only environment you are save with ext3. I would select a filesystem which still allows you to hook up the Drobo to any of your clients in order to be able to easily recover the volumes in case they decide to stop working.

Network write issues

When we setup the Drobo we tried to copy 2 GB from various clients to it. What took between 7-9 minutes on most clients, was estimated with 30 hours on Tiger. ;-)

To rule out an issue with the Drobo, we briefly tested the performance from various systems. The candidates included Windows XP, Windows Vista, MacOSX 10.5.4 (Leopard), Ubuntu 8.10 and MacOSX 10.4.11 (Tiger). The Drobo performed well on all systems -- except for Tiger.

Researching the network issue on Google, I found various people who reported all kind of network issue with 10.4.11 and since there are other random crashes on the same workstation we pronounced the Drobo to work and perform. The workstation is subject to a system overhaul next week.

Ubuntu

Setting up the Drobo on Ubuntu is pretty easy -- point taken, there is no Drobo Dashboard and the drobo-utils only supported units which are connected via USB or Firewire directly to the workstation.

To setup the share you could samba mount \\DroboShare\DROBO and provide the same credentials you use on Windows/Mac when the Drobo Dashboard prompts you for a login to the DroboShare. An alternative with GUI is to use Places > Connect To Server.

The DroboShare itself exposes itself on the network and registers itself as (well) DroboShare in DNS/WINS (netbios?) -- if you decide to use its IP to setup shares and so on, make sure to assign a static IP to the DroboShare (MAC-Address is on the bottom side of it) so the IP doesn't change when you restart your router or the lease expires.

Hope this helps!

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