Introducing the Drobo!

Data backup is a problem that effects every photographer, long gone are the days of printing everything we take so those JPEG or RAW files are every bit as precious as printed photographs and negatives were 30 years ago. However, the storage solution for most was an old shoe box 30 years ago, today we need to be a whole lot smarter to make sure those precious digital nuggets are as safe as they can be.

Every photographer at some point or another has experienced a data loss and the resulting sick to the pit of stomach feeling accompanied by mild panic, soon to be followed by a realisation that those files are gone and short of a miracle they are not coming back. This being the case, why are so many of us so lax in backing up our data?

To date I’ve been using various USB3 external 1TB hard drives, they work ok up to a point but having had one partially fail it’s not a solution I’m comfortable with if only a single backup exists. I’ve tried some bigger network solutions but always found them to be slow, complicated and not particularly reliable either. So, when a company called Drobo approached me and asked me if I would like to try out one of their storage solutions I was only to happy to say yes.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and a shiny new Drobo 5N2 turns up by courier. On unboxing the Drobo, it’s pretty clear this is a substantial bit of kit, it’s quite the looker as well which is good as it’ll be sat in my living room next to the broadband router! It comes packaged in a Drobo tote bag and also in the box were the power supply, cat5 cables and 2 x 8GB seagate hard drives.

Setup was simple, take the front of the Drobo and pop the 2 drives into 2 of the 5 drive bays. Next, hook it up to the router and install the software on my MacBook Pro. Switch on the Drobo and it does it’s thing. Within 30 minutes, it’s all initialised and ready to go. Simple, almost frighteningly so, surely this should be harder to do? But no, follow the simple instructions and you’ll have it up and running in no time.

The first thing that struck me as the speed of data transfer. Copying 400GB from the Macbook Pro’s SSD drive to the Drobo was super quick, it was done in under an hour, similar attempts in the past  to do similar with a WD Cloud Drive were always met with ridiculous 8 hour plus times. Copying over my home network via a BT Smart Hub 6 the performance was every bit as good as a wired up USB3 drive, if not better.

More than happy with the initial test I then decided to move the Drobo. It’s not the quietest of kit and does make quite a lot of subtle noises so I moved it to under the table the router sits on. Now I can’t hear it at all but a point worth nothing if you intend to house one on a hard exposed surface.

The next night I had a drive bay failure, nothing to do with the Drobo and everything to do with me not inserting the 2nd drive properly. Once rectified the Drobo done it’s thing and no data was lost. Now I really am impressed.

A week and half in or so I’ve not even scratched the surface of what the Drobo is capable off. My next plans are to consolidate all the scattered backups on USB 3 drives to the Drobo and get rid of all the duplicate files I know are on them, with the space available and the speed it’s finally a chance to catalogue and store 6 years worth of RAW files properly!

There’s a myriad of apps available to enhance the functionality of the Drobo and I’ll hopefully get a chance to test a few of these out soon.

So, first impressions. It’s not a cheap device, best part of £700 and add in the cost of those drives but it is a platform that instills confidence in the user and that’s worth having. All the time with my haphazard storage solutions I always felt on the edge of a disaster, just one failed drive away from catastrophe and it’s nice to be free of that. Every photographer spends a small fortune on camera bodies and lenses, we should all really be thinking about the data backup as well, it’s every bit as important.

Find out more about Drobo at

Find out more about the Drobo 52N at




Disclosure: I am a commercial partner of Drobo and this is a sponsored post.

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