Creating photographs is a lot of exciting fun. Making sure all of those images are stored safely is another matter altogether. Photographers, myself included, love making images both behind the camera and in front of the computer. We want all of them in a place that sends them to the computer at high speed while still offering protection against hard drive failure. Oh. It has to have enough room for years, even decades of photos and, yes, we want that for our video too.
Let’s get the disclosures out of the way up front. I received one of the first of the new 8-Bay Drobo 8D units because I am a DroboPro ambassador. I have had it running in my studio now since late October. Here’s what I know about how it solves my working drive/protected storage requirements.
What I want in a storage device
My overarching requirement is that a storage device has what I call “protected” storage — if one of the array’s hard drives fails, it can be hot-swapped with a new drive. My data must be available during the process. In other words, it must give me access to my files even while a new drive is being added to the system.
The amount of storage in the device is expandable without buying a new enclosure.
It’s gotta be fast! Video editing requires speedy data transfers. So does working on 50-megabyte RAW files.
It has to plug into my desktop Mac Pro directly. That’s a big part of the “fast” requirement. A reasonable size would be nice. Desktop attached storage (DAS) has sit on the desk for the most part.
The Drobo 8D
Drobo’s new 8D enclosure does everything on my list and more. Here is a feature rundown starting with my requirements.
The 8D can hold up to 8 hard drives. Out of the box it is set up to protect against single drive failure by default. A checkbox in its free management software, Drobo Dashboard offers a dual disc redundancy option. While choosing this does reduce the capacity of the unit, for anyone using bottom of the line or old drives this is a small price to pay for the additional peace of mind. The 8D — along with all Drobos — indicates a drive failure with a bright red indicator next to the bad drive. Additionally, Drobo Dashboard automatically posts a notification on the MacOS and offers email alerts regarding critical situations. When a red light shows up, replace the drive with a new drive the same size or even larger if you’d like. This is done while the Drobo is running. During the process all of the data on the Drobo is available.
There are three things to know about getting more room for digital media with a Drobo.
- The number of drive bays in the enclosure. The 8D has 8 drive bays.
- The size of the individual hard drives in the Drobo. Hard drive capacities continue to grow. Bigger drives equal larger storage capacity
- The price of the hard drives. Higher capacity drives are a lot more money. Good news: The prices continue to fall.
This baby is fast. I’m talking fast and furious fast. It has two Thunderbolt 3 ports that deliver more speed than my Mac Pro can handle. Even using a Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter the throughput is fast enough to edit 4K video in Adobe Premiere Pro.
The 8D has a slot in the back for a 2.5″ SSD drive that acts as a live cache that speeds data transfers from the drive array. Additionally, the 8D cascades data to its drives speeding write and reads.
Power failures during data transfers are a problem in most systems. The 8D and the current line of Drobos all feature an onboard battery backup to protect against data loss during an outage. Any data that is in the Drobo when power is lost is automatically moved to onboard flash storage in the Drobo unit. When power is restored, the transfer completes seamlessly. The battery is charged automatically while the Drobo is running and it lasts the life of the unit.
The second Thunderbolt 3 port allows daisy chaining up to six other Thunderbolt devices or five of them and a monitor at the end of the chain. The port also provides 15W of slow recharge for USB-C laptops.
A new feature that’s exclusive is the log it creates in Drobo Dashboard showing the unit’s uptime.
Under the hood
The Drobo 8D features intelligent volume management. Ok, you say, What is that?
The onboard computer in the 8D allows up to 16 volumes to a total of 128TB of storage. A volume is like a hard drive on the desktop. The difference is that the Drobo manages this depending on the number and size of the drives in the bays. Best of all, any Drobo will work with just two hard drives. Additional drive capacity happens as more drives are added or when smaller ones are retired and replaced with larger ones.
This Drobo has the power supply built into the chassis. No external power brick is required. Dual fans keep everything cool dynamically and with quiet efficiency.
The Drobo 8D lists for $1299.00 without drives. While almost all 3.5″ SATA hard drives will work, Drobo has a recommended drive chart on its website. This is a conservative chart. I have HGST 7200 rpm along with some Seagate IronWolf 7200 rpm drives in various sizes in my Drobos and have yet to replace one due to failure. My Drobos run 24/7/365.
For those who don’t want to buy drives separately, there are several configurations available. One thing to note is that often a description will have an incorrect capacity listed. For example, an 8D with 8 8Tb drives might have its storage size listed as 64Tb (8 times 8Tb = 64Tb). This leaves out the 8Tb that is required for drive protection. The true capacity is 48Tb. Don’t worry about figuring out how much storage a set of drives can provide. Use the very handy Drobo Capacity Calculator. Simply drag the size of drives you have onto each of the 8 bays (or 5 bays) and the amount of protected storage is right there. Easy Button easy!
- Input/Output — Two Thunderbolt 3 ports. The second one is to daisy chain other Thunderbolt devices with one 5K or two 4K monitors at the end of the chain.
- Storage — 8 bays for up to 8 3.5″ SATA hard drives or SSD drives. Drives sold separately.
- Acceleration — 1 X 2.5″ solid state drive accelerator bay for increased performance. Solid state drive sold separately.
- Operating System — Apple MacOS 10.12 and higher.
- File System — HFS+.
- Warranty — 2 years.
- Size — WHD 12.17″ X 5.46″ X 14.1″ Metric: WHD 309.1mm X 138.7mm X 358.1mm.
- Weight — 16.25 lbs./7.4kg.
- Power — AC input 100-240VAC-3.5A, 50-60Hz.
- Power — DC output 15W for slow charging a Thunderbolt 3 laptop.
- Complete spec listing
The 8D is super fast. So fast that it outpaces my MacPro’s (late 2013) inputs and bus throughput abilities. In other words, my Drobo is much faster than my top-of-the-line Mac Pro can handle. I am sure that one of the new iMacPros would take better advantage of its speed. Since I already have all of the screens I want, I will wait for the MacPro update that Apple will announce sometime before the end of the universe. (Everyone is hoping this will happen at the World Wide Developers Conference this June. But…)
The 8D’s ability to parse data across the drives before their buffers fill makes it in a class by itself. Other RAIDs that do this have no drive failure protection.
The capacity of the 8D is making my life a lot simpler. With the 5-bay Drobos, there was a time where I was having to buy the largest drives available at a much higher cost. This 8-bay unit has really eased this burden. Some of the drives I am using in it are ones I had replaced with larger ones from my 5-bay Drobos. I love this!
The Drobo 8D is my working drive. It’s speed and large capacity mean that I’ll have space for the biggest projects. That space is monitored and protected by the 8D. A Drobo 5D3 with 5 bays backs up the automatically 8D every night with Carbon Copy Cloner.
There are enough moving parts to running a photography business without the added worry of having your photos and videos stored safely. I rest easier thanks to Drobo.