I swear to god. Last year, I loved Drobos — but right now? Not so sure any more.

I recently had to return a 2nd generation Drobo unit. The 2nd generation Drobos have Firewire ports, while the 1st generation Drobos are sporting USB-only.

The issues with this 2nd generation unit started about 2 month ago when it stopped responding via USB. Because the EEEPC Box it is hooked up to doesn’t have Firewire we couldn’t verify if it was broken entirely. Also, it just stopped responding from one day to the other.

Of course I tried hooking it up to another PC and exchanged cables — to no avail.

The first symptoms included that the Drobo Dashboard doesn’t respond anymore. Further more, when I copied or opened files on the Drobo I noticed read and write errors, access was slow and some files had disappeared all together. Once I rebooted the computer, the Dashboard opened but it wouldn’t see the Drobo anymore, and the drives were not mounted either.

On the first incident the Drobo support was nice enough to ship us a new unit (in exchange for a credit card number). We returned the broken unit to them when we flipped the drives. About three weeks later (last Friday), the issues returned.

How do you recover from a broken USB port?

There are two procedures to follow, a short one and a slightly longer one.

  1. Remove all drives from the drobo.
  2. Pull the plug to power cycle the unit.

The Drobo will start up and if the Drobo is recognized by the Drobo Dashboard you got lucky. Insert all drives and let it rebuild. My volume is 4 TB total, across four disks; with 2TB usable. The rebuild took approximately 10 minutes. During the rebuild the Drobo was flashing the lights in orange and green.

In case the power cycling did not help, do a full reset; there’s a hard reset switch in the back of the Drobo. And then try again.

In my case, no data was lost.


All in all, I’m torn on the Drobo.

It is a great device on paper. I own a 1st generation Drobo myself and it has been running without issues for a long, long while (close to a year soon). While this other device was mostly idle, I’m stressing my own Drobo at times when I am synchronizing backups from the colo.

On the bright side, Drobo support is most definitely very helpful. They were very fast via email and had a fast turn around on the phone too. I just wish I didn’t have to deal with them so often. So far the 2nd generation devices seem more prone to random errors.

Luckily no data was lost yet, but it also makes me think if I want to rely even in part on the Drobo for any backup what so ever. Of course one should not rely on a single point of failure anyway, but it’s also rather annoying that a 500 EUR device fails so often.