Back-up made easy with Drobo

Tuesday, 10 May 2011 21:28 Editor

Source: Malaysiakini -Oon Yeoh (View expressed here is solely the opinion of the source)

Late last year, after I visited the UK to work on a couple of judo book projects, I had to bring back a whole bunch of judo demonstration and contest photos.

I thought DVDs were the way to go and asked the photographer to burn the pictures for me. But because his pictures were in TIFF and RAW formats and he had thousands of photos to pass me, I ended up with far more DVDs than I expected. Besides the fact that DVDs have small storage capacities (typically 4.7Gb per disc), they are also known to degrade over time. I learned that the hard (and painful way) when I backed up some of my favourite music collection on DVD, only to find some of them not working properly after a few years.

One approach that's gaining in popularity lately is cloud storage, where you pay for a service to allow you to store your data online in some remote server. It gets quite costly though if you have a lot of data to store and if you don't have Internet access, you can't access your content.

I have a lot of video content because I've digitised all my old judo VSH tapes and I've ripped all my judo DVDs as well. I need some place to store these videos. DVDs and cloud storage are both not suitable.

Luckily there are such things as external hard drives, whose prices have been going down steadily, as most tech products tend to do. The last time I checked, you could get a 2Tb hard drive for around RM350 at Low Yat Plaza, a haven for tech enthusiasts.

I recently bought several of those to store all the music, pictures and videos in my collection. In terms of storage capacity, the 2Tb drives are fine. There's plenty of space to keep all the data that I have.

But, like DVDs, they also die on you. I recently had two of them suddenly stop working. Luckily, I had back-ups of my back-ups, so I did not lose any data.

But the vast number of hard drives that I needed was cluttering up my desk, not to mention the snake pit of wires that was accumulating beneath my desk. I had to find a better way to store and back up my data.

One of my friends, a videographer who also deals with a lot of data, suggested I look into Drobo, which is basically an "intelligent" SATA hard drive enclosure.

A basic Drobo set up has four slots for you to insert your SATA drives. I filled mine with 2Tb drives each. Now, the cool thing about Drobo, and the reason why I call it an "intelligent" system, is that it actually spreads your data throughout the drives you've installed and it keeps track of all your data too.

To facilitate the smart back-up system, Drobo reserves some space within the four drives to enable replication of your data across the system.

Alerts on drive failure

When one of your drives fail (Drobo will alert you and let you know which is the faulty drive) have no fear, all your data is safe. It doesn't matter which of the drives is no longer working.

NONEDrobo, which has kept track of all your data, would have already backed up all your data in a way that spreads it across the system, so all you have to do is pull out the faulty drive and replace it with a new one. No data is lost.

Think of it not as four individual drives enclosed in one big casing but one big drive with a smart tracking and back-up system where your data never gets lost even if individual drives fail. That's what Drobo is, in a nutshell.

Since I bought Drobo, it's completely changed the way I manage my data. No longer do I have to keep track of which hard drive stores which kind of data. And no longer do I have to remember to do a back up of a back-up.

NONEMore important than the convenience of not having to deal with so many individual hard drives is the peace of mind that I now have, knowing my data is always safe.

It's not cheap though. A four bay unit (without the hard drives) costs between RM1,500 and RM1,800, depending on the retailer. And it's not so easy to find either. Only a small handful of outlets sell it at Low Yat Plaza and you can also order it online via

If you're someone who deals with a lot of data, it's the best investment you can make to store and back up your valuable digital library.