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QNAP vs DROBO

We all love our NAS. If you don’t have one yet, you will love your NAS. Sometimes picking the right one for you may be difficult. Really, it all boils down to what you need. In this NAS Showdown, we are going to pit QNAP against Drobo in a cage match to help you determine who deserves your money.

First, let’s start this off by saying this; QNAP and Drobo really aren’t competing products. However, when researching a storage solution for your home or small office, both of them make a play.  QNAP TS-419P+ VS Drobo FS.

Ease of Use
QNAP enters this with a NAS that can be configured to do just about everything. Their products shouldn’t really be considered Network Attached Storage, but instead should be considered Network Attached Servers. With all the things the QNAP products can do, their configuration suffers. With all the options, configuration can become difficult for the first time NAS owner. If ease of use is your gig, then Drobo is your bet.

The Drobo can be unboxed and fully configured on your network in less than 15 minutes making this NAS a super hero for those without a geek degree. The Drobo dashboard has only a few options making the Drobo a snap to configure.
Winner: Drobo

Flexability
We already know that Drobo is a snap to set up. This is because there isn’t much to the Drobo. It does what a traditional NAS should do, it serves up files. There are some Drobo apps that can extend the functionality of your Drobo, but it still doesn’t come close to the versatility that you get with the QNAP lineup.

QNAP has bundled everything under the sun into their NAS firmware. You have the ability to run FTP servers, Web File Manager, UPnP media server, iSCSI support, Surveillance Camera Support, ISO mounting, MySQL Support, and a slew of other features. With their latest firmware release, they even bundle in Anti Virus to enhance network security. QNAP clearly holds the belt here for the ability to do just about anything.
Winner: QNAP

Performance
If there is one thing a NAS should do well, it is serve up your files quickly. Both the QNAP and the Drobo use either RAID or some variation of RAID. Any time you add redundancy to an array, you are going to slow things down, but this shouldn’t make a huge difference when you take into account the bandwidth of your network. Typically, that will be your biggest bottleneck. If you are looking for a speed demon, Drobo will not win the race. With some of the lowest scores we’ve tested to date, the Drobo just can’t keep up. QNAP provides the speed you need for transferring HUGE files around on your network. Both the QNAP and the Drobo can stream movies and music just fine, but if you need your files fast, QNAP is the answer.

Our benchmark was transferring a 46.6GB Blu-Ray ISO (Avatar) from the Drobo FS to our workstation. We just initiated the file transfer and watched the networking tab in Windows Task Manager. We experienced around a 23 MB/s and around 78 with QNAP.
Winner: QNAP

Reliability
Your NAS needs to be rock solid. After all, the point is to store stuff here. Thus, you want it to be safe. We have had products from both QNAP and Drobo in the lab here for months running day and night. Both products have performed without failure, even with the torture testing we performed. If you are worried about your NAS failing, don’t be. QNAP and Drobo have built a rock solid product.
Winner: Tie

Power Usage
Most of us will leave our NAS on all the time, but we don’t want an electric bill that is more expensive than our car payment. We want a NAS that can perform its duties well and still be environmentally conscious regarding consumption. During normal usage, QNAP will eak you out some savings, but when things get cranking Drobo will save you tons. The Drobo FS didn’t outperform the QNAP TS-419P+ (29.82 Watts) in power consumption for normal mode, scoring 37.08 Watts used, but instead it blew it out of the water in power consumption used during heavy transfers, consuming only 42.56 Watts vs 121.8 Watts for the QNAP.  Most of the time, you will not tax your NAS to its breaking point all day long, so this one is hard to call.
Winner: Tie

Disaster Recovery
QNAP and Drobo both run either RAID or a variation of RAID. With the ability for both to provide protection for single or dual disk drive failure, they both can recover from a lost drive relatively easily. The QNAP and the Drobo can start to protect your data as soon as a bad drive is replaced without too much intervention. However, only the Drobo can recover from a complete hardware failure without losing any data. With the Drobo offering and their BeyondRAID technology, if your Drobo fails and the drives are still good; all you have to do is put your drives (in any order) in a new Drobo or replacement Drobo and all your data is still there.
Winner: Drobo

Compatibility
This is a topic I never thought I would have to answer when discussing NAS products. Unfortunately, lately it seems like hard drive compatibility is becoming an issue for some NAS manufacturers, including QNAP. QNAP maintains a list of hard drive manufacturers and models that it supports. If your drive does not have a home here on the list, you can potentially end up with a lot of receipts for Advil. Drobo maintains no such disk or compatibility list. They claim you can use any disk, up to 3TB, in your Drobo, you can even mix and match brands without any issues.
Winner: Drobo

Mobility
Don’t get carried away here, we are not talking about hooking up your NAS in your car to play music. We are talking about accessing your NAS from outside your network. With Drobo, sorry… you just can’t. QNAP, on the other hand has the ability to be accessed from anywhere there is an internet connection. Not only can you manage your NAS from the road, but the web file manager allows you to upload, download, delete and more without having to be on your network. If you want to take this one step further, QNAP puts its wireless hat on and offers an iOS and Android app for you to play your music from your phone or tablet without ever having to sync a song.
Winner: QNAP

Design
I don’t care how many cup holders a car has, but I do care if I can reach the temperature controls from the driver’s seat. I do care if the dials are made of cheap plastic or high quality plastic. This plays into my NAS as well. QNAP has built a solid product. The drive trays are sturdy and simple and the front LCD panel offers up information when you need it. The QNAP just looks snazzy. It looks like something I want to have.

The Drobo on the other hand is “A Pimp Named Slickback“. It has a magnetic front panel, clear LED indicators and a tray-less system; the Drobo is a smooth operator. If the QNAP were up against any other product here, it would win. However, it can’t compare to the Drobo.
Winner: Drobo

Price
Admit it, as much as we want to buy the best and most expensive of anything, our wallet ultimately makes the decision for us. When it comes to price, you have to weigh this carefully. You really can’t compare apples to apples here as QNAP sells their products without drives and Drobo, for the most part, does not. Initial out-of-pocket expense may be more with Drobo, but depending on what type of drives you outfit your QNAP with, you can potentially end up spending the same amount of money, or even more, as a similarly equipped Drobo.  We are going to have to look at this instead as a “bang for your buck” argument. For all that you get with a QNAP NAS vs a Drobo, you can’t help but feel that the QNAP offers more for your money.
Winner: QNAP

QNAP 6 / Drobo 6 – Tell us what you think!  Which one is right for you?

Based on our analysis of the Drobo FS and the QNAP TS-419P+

About Joe DiFiglia

I have always had a passion for everything computing. In early 2000, I decided to take my passion to the web. Thus, C.O.D. was born. Through the years we have made many great friends at C.O.D. and hope to continue our journey for years to come.

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10 comments

  1. I purchased and configured a QNAP TS-419PII. Drive installation takes a few minutes longer due to the requirement to screw the drives into the sled. Screws for 2.5 and 3.5″ drives were included so this proceeded quickly. Setup was also quick and easy. There are MANY features available on the QNAP that aren’t available on the Drobo. I will definitely take advantage of some of these in the future but reliability and performance as a NAS is most critical to me. The evaluation will take place over the next few months. As a follow up to the Drobo problems, I called support again. They stated it takes a long time to “recalculate and rebuild the volume” if there is a lot of data. This particular Drobo had about 2TB of data in a Drobo with 8 slots consisting of six 2TB and two 3TB drives. Therefore the amount of data was very small and I challenged Drobo support on that comment but they didn’t have a response. (Rebuild completed in approximately 22 hours) In addition, Drobo support stated the “Drobo Dashboard was not reporting volume status correctly” and that dual drive redundancy was in fact working fine. The only way I could confirm his statement would be to pull out another drive which I viewed as potentially disastrous. Drobo support also said there would be a new release of the dashboard in 2012 Q1/Q2. Not very comforting. I’ve now ordered a QNAP TS-559 Pro+ as a more direct comparison to the 8 bay Drobo. 

  2. As an owner of four 8 bay Drobos over the last 14 months, I’m hopeful that QNAP is better in a few ways. The Drobos started up and ran flawlessly for about six months. In two incidents within the first year of the warranty, I’ve attempted to upgrade drive size for more storage. Using the dual redundancy option, I pulled one drive out of the device and it went into a rebuild mode and said “Drobo cannot currently protect your data against hard drive failures” on the dashboard. The whole concept behind using dual redundancy is availability. The progress bar showed that the rebuild is 50% complete and its been running for 16 hours with a message stating it will be finished in 8 more hours. In my environment, performance has been a serious issue. USB connectivity is extremely slow (much slower than a single external USB drive) and iSCSI isn’t much better. When it was time to install the new 3TB drives, I performed the required firmware upgrade and it bricked my device. Since I didn’t have my original invoice (hidden somewhere in accounting files), I simply asked them to use the original manufacture date as proof of warranty. It took numerous phone calls before they finally agreed to replace it. Customer service was not at all helpful in the whole process.  Your “design” criteria means absolutely nothing to me. The device must absolutely, positively serve up data reliably; that is all that matters to me. I’ve ordered my first QNAP today and sincerely hope it doesn’t have the same flaws and poor support of the Drobo.

    • Wow, that really doesn’t sound like fun. Did you lose all of your data or were you keeping multiple backups in multiple locations? I haven’t attempted to load our Drobo with 3TB drives yet, however, our QNAP TS-419P+ is fitted with 4 of them and works flawlessly.

      The design aspect of the article relates only to the aesthetics of the device. As far as reliability is concerned, I will start testing the Drobo with some 3 TB drives and see if we experience the same sort of issues that you did. We did add and remove drives regularly with the FS in our lab and didn’t experience a bricked Drobo.

      Which QNAP did you order? We are about to publish a review of the QNAP TS-879U-RP.

  3. Nice write up, thanks

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