Performance - 3
Features - 5
Ease of use - 10
Design - 10
Value - 7
If you are running out of space on your home computer, or you want to easily store files on a networked device that makes sharing them easy, a NAS may be the right option for you. The thing about NAS though is that they are not as simple as they once were. The choices are many and configuring some of these can make it somewhat of a daunting idea. This is where the line needs to be drawn between simple network attached storage and a feature rich solution that offers probably more than most people need. Drobo claims that their FS model is the best storage experience ever for simple file sharing and network backup for home and home office users.
The Drobo FS is the networked version of the already well known lineup of attached storage solutions. You get all the things that made the Drobo lineup stand out already with the Drobo FS like BeyondRAID technology, single and dual drive failure protection, Drobo PC Backup, and Apple Time Machine support, but now you get hardware support for up to 5 drives and the much anticipated Gigabit Ethernet port for full home connectivity.
Unpacking the FS proved to be an exciting experience. I have to admit that I expected the same crappy packaging that most manufacturers box their products in, but Drobo did a nice job here. The welcome kit is very nicely done and gives you insight into the attention to detail the staff at Data Robotics puts into their lineup. Nestled snugly in the packaging is your welcome kit and the shiny new Drobo FS. The welcome kit is typical and contains things like a power adapter, a Gigabit Ethernet cable (Cat6), a CD with the Drobo Dashboard Software (updated software is available from their website), some warranty information, and a quick installation guide.
The idea behind the design is made clear throughout the 3 step installation process; simplicity. The front door of the Drobo is attached magnetically and the overall design reminds me of a Jetson’s cartoon toaster with dimensions to match; 5.9 in W x 7.3 in H x 10.3 in L. The sturdy construction and ease of installation sets the bar for competing devices.
- Install Dashboard – Install Drobo Dashboard from the Drobo Resource CD
- Insert Drives
- Connect Cables
Drive installation is done without the need for screwdrivers or Hard Drive caddies/trays. All you have to do is remove the magnetically attached front cover and slide your drive(s) into one of the spring loaded drive bays. Within seconds the drive is recognized and the space is available for your data. When powered on, the FS displays a slew of LED’s. The drive indicators have 5 different meanings depending on which color they are, and the row of blue LED’s along the bottom are a visual representation of the used capacity based on a scale of 10 (0 LEDs being empty and 10 being full).
Data Robotics has taught an old dog some new tricks with BeyondRAID. BeyondRAID attacks the old RAID technology by solving some traditional problems like Lock-in of RAID level, lack of expandability, and a debilitated state after a drive failure. With BeyondRAID, if you need to add storage all you need to do is add a disk or replace your smallest disk with a larger one. There are no configuration changes that you need to make, it just works. If a disk goes bad, the drive light indicators on the front of the FS will show you which disk to replace; you replace it and you are done. The Drobo FS allows you to configure your FS with any number of drives in various capacities and utilize as much space as possible. With other competing devices using standard RAID, your array will be a multiple of the smallest drive and you will only realize all the space possible when all drives match in capacities.
Once your hardware is set up, there are only a few tasks that need to be done to get things rolling. The FS is configured through the already mentioned Drobo Dashboard. The dashboard is built on the same ideas of simplicity as the device itself. There aren’t any crazy nested menus to navigate through and all the configuration changes you need to make, or information you want to know, can be found with a few smart clicks. The menus are self explanatory and contain the exact information you would expect them to. As for why Drobo didn’t outfit the FS with a web interface as well as, or instead of the dashboard is beyond me, but at least the dashboard is simple and concise.