Data storage device maker Drobo claims its Drobo FS file server is the perfect storage solution for the small office, home office, and "connected home". The company calls it a simple and safe network-attached storage device that provides redundancy without all the complexities of RAID. Sounds good. But the Drobo FS has been criticized for being slow. So I took a look and did some informal tests of my own.
I found that my own complex RAID 5 home setup with Windows Home Server was at least twice as fast as the Drobo. But unlike a RAID, the Drobo FS is very easy to set up--and easy to upgrade when you need more storage. It's also green, using a lot less power than a RAID. It might not be blindingly fast, but it does one thing very well: It makes it easy to protect your data.
My out-of-box experience
The Drobo FS comes with a nice cover, an AC adapter and power cord, a CAT 6 Ethernet cable, a manual, and management software on disc.
The front cover attaches via magnets so you'll never need tools to install or exchange a drive.
Inside the front cover is a cheat sheet for deciphering the different colors of the unit's "actions required" lights positioned next to each drive.
The bottom row of LEDs indicate power, drive activity, and percentage of space used.
On the back is a power switch, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and the power port.
The Drobo is very simple to get up and running. Simply add it to your network via the supplied Ethernet cable; insert up to five hard drives of any size and make; plug it in; and turn it on. The final step is to install the Drobo Dashboard software from the enclosed CD.
The Dashboard app lets you configure the Drobo FS just the way you want. It took me only a few minutes to figure out the app and get the Drobo ready to accept data.
With Dashboard you can choose your network options, change the admin password, set up alerts, and choose a hard drive spindown time.