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Drobo 5N User Review–It’ll Make You A Superhero

12You’ve probably had the experience of a client calling with an urgent need for a photo that you have in your image library (which, of course, is safely backed up using a Drobo or other RAID/NAS system). You’d be happy to help your client, but the picture is on the drive at the office, or at home, and you’re traveling and won’t be back for a week. Normally, you’d have to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t help you until Monday.”

However, if you’re using the Drobo 5N, you’ve got a solid way to help your client and solidify yourself as a superhero in their eyes. Not only will it backup your files and save them from drive failures, but it can also help you rescue your client.

“N” is for Network

The 5N looks just like the 5D, so I'd much rather show you this picture I used Photomatix to compile. It worked as quickly over wifi as is does plugged in directly, and each of the five files was 39 megapixels.
The 5N looks just like the 5D, so I’d much rather show you this picture I used Photomatix to compile. It worked as quickly over wifi as is does plugged in directly, and each of the five files was a hefty 39 megapixels. That’s remarkable.

The 5N plugs into your wifi router so you can connect either with an ethernet cable, or wirelessly from anywhere in the building. When I first got it, I thought the wifi connectivity was cool but doubted I’d use it much. Now I don’t see how I ever lived without it.

Many of us benefit from changing our environments while we work. Sitting at the same desk for 8 hours a day is not usually the best thing. But if you’re stuck connecting to your hard drive with a cable, then you can’t get too far from the desk. I’ve loved the freedom the wifi brings, allowing me to switch to the sofa or the standing counter, or walk into the other room to show a picture. I thought it would be super slow, too, but Lightroom works marvelously with the 5N, and even plugins like Photomatix work swiftly and seamlessly. That’s really cool, but it actually gets much better.

“N” is for access Nywhere

Drobo 5N can use be accessed anywhere you have an internet connection. It comes with a built-in app which you configure with a custom URL, which is free of charge. You just enter that address in your web browser and you’ve got full access to your entire drive from anywhere in the world. From any computer in the world. And it’s password protected.

But what if your client calls and all you have is your smartphone?

There’s an app for that

I just spent the best $0.99 of my life on the Drobo Access app. Once you log in, you’ve got access to your complete file library from your mobile device. I love it on my iPad. I love seeing my full-size files right there, anywhere in the world. That’s pretty amazing.

5n-access-1

“N” is for No-more-filling-up-your-Dropbox

Since it’s accessible online, you can send others a link to a particular folder and they can upload to it, or download from it. It’s like having a bottomless Dropbox account that you don’t pay $130 per year for. Well, it’s not quite bottomless, since the 5N currently tops out at 64 terabytes. Actually, that was a recent firmware update, so maybe they’ll up that limit in the future, too. I don’t have 64TB in mine, right now, but I can add bigger drives (up to five) anytime, so it’s practically bottomless. I love that I can use it as a personal FTP and send and receive even really large files without fussing around with online services. I recently used it to send interview recordings to Nick Minore for publishing on the podcast.

How fast is it?

I’ve already mentioned the three methods to connect to your Drobo. First, you can plug-in to the router or ethernet switch or the back of the unit directly and get lightning fast speeds. Or you can connect directly if you’re on the same wifi network, which is very fast. I use this method often, and even editing photos I don’t notice a speed difference. If I were editing video files, I’d want to plug in directly, but working with photos is quite pleasant.

Lastly, you can connect via the internet from anywhere, but this depends greatly on the internet speeds between you and your Drobo. Mine responds more quickly at my studio than at my home. Either way, it’s pretty slow and you wouldn’t want to work full time this way (I suspect new services like Google Fiber will change that). It’s a lifesaver, though, when you’re away and that client calls with a big need. When you deliver in those rough circumstances you become a hero and Drobo 5N helps you be a superhero.

One more thing…

You gotta name your Drobos. It’s just a lot more fun, and it helps keep them organized. Also, it makes customer service technicians chuckle when they call up your registration. My Drobo 5D is named Tik-Tok, my 5N is Johnny5, and my Mini is Marvin the Paranoid Android. It sure beats calling them drives F, G, and H. By the way, I’ve made two calls to customer care, and they’ve been perfectly helpful and solved my problems immediately. They even sent several follow-up emails to make sure I didn’t have trouble again.

Conclusion

The Drobo 5N is a remarkably useful tool. I don’t know if there are other drives that offer both complete piece of mind for on-site backup as well as simple, reliable network connectivity, but I certainly haven’t seen any systems that are easier to setup and start using. Take a look at this setup video with Dave Cross. You just put in the drives and start using it. You need a backup solution to protect your files, and I highly recommend the Drobo 5N.

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