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Data Robotics, Inc. DroboPro 8-Bay In-depth Review

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Data Robotics
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More Features!

Drobo Dashboard provides a bunch of extra options, making it well worth the install:


Breaking these down individually:

Blink Lights



This blinks the front panel lights of the DroboPro.

Shutdown



This puts the DroboPro into a graceful shutdown.  The shutdown is similar to what happens if you hit the power switch at the rear (i.e. a complete shutdown).

Format...



 The best bet is to create a volume as large as your OS can handle. 
The maximum for a single Smart Volume is 16TB.  This might seem like an
arbitrary limit, especially since it could in theory be unlimited.  It
turns out to be a nice round number in terms of file systems.  File
systems like NTFS can span as high as 256TB, going higher than 16TB
kills off some of its features.  This is because NTFS is limited to
2^32 clusters, so moving higher than 16TB requires moving up from the
default cluster size of 4KB.  Encryption and compression features can
only function with the default cluster size.  End result: >16TB NTFS
= less features.  Keep in mind that 16TB is only a possibility if your
OS supports such a large partition.  DroboPro supports up to 16 smart
volumes, with a combined storage pool limit of 256TB.

It's a little weird seeing a 16TB partition even though there is not really 16TB present, but creating a volume as large as possible saves the need for shifting data around later on should the volume run into an unnecessarily low capacity limit.

Reset...


This makes all data go boom.  Use it wisely.

Renaming



Not much to it really.  Call it what you want to!

(Advanced) Settings

Two tabs here:

General



iSCSI

I initially had the DroboPro connected via USB.  I've dealt with iSCSI configuration in the past.  Figuring I would have to set some IP addresses before switching from uSB to Ethernet, I checked out the settings tab in the Dashboard:


Hmm... The default is Auto.  Nothing to preset unless I want to be an 'Advanced User'.  I think I'll hit the easy button this time and see how things fly.  I pulled the USB cable, made sure my Gig-E port was configured as 'Auto' under Windows, plugged in the Ethernet, and crossed my fingers.  Within less than a minute I saw this pop up:



Ruh-roh, Raggy.  What do you mean my D: is not formatted?!?!  Actually this was just a hiccup.  Windows intermittently saw the DroboPro as blank while the Drobo Dashboard was going through the necessary iSCSI initialization steps in the background.  I canceled the format request and realized that not only had the volume come back properly, so did all of the features of the Drobo Dashboard.  All menus, options, and taskbar status icon activity was *identical* as compared to when it was connected over USB.  I actually re-checked to make sure I had pulled the USB cable!  It was quite literally as if nothing had changed at all, even though I'd gone from USB to iSCSI.  The easiest iSCSI target setup I've ever witnessed, even taking the format prompt glitch into consideration.

Updates



Updates are essentially a non-event.  In the middle of our testing we
received this simple prompt informing us of an update:

It was in the middle of healing itself in the middle of my trying to break it.  I really shouldn't hit Yes, but what the heck...

I forgot I was streaming an MP3 from the DroboPro volume during the update.  The music kept playing as the update window changed contents several times, landing here:


I knew that MP3 was still open, but hey, I'm trying to break the thing!


Drobo Dashboard was able to detect if open processes / files were
preventing a dismount, and properly gave me the heads up prior to actually going through with my requested reboot.  This is much
preferred to the alternative of forcing a dismount, which could result
in loss of unsaved data or corruption of currently open files.  If the update was significant enough to require the host PC to re-enumerate the DroboPro, the dashboard lets you know:


I have to hand it to their software team.  All of these prompts were clear, concise, and just made sense.  This has to be the most pleasurable firmware update process I have ever experienced.  Every prompt is well thought out and does not come off as presuming the user is an idiot.  The above prompt could have just demanded a PC reboot, but presented the user with an alternative 'out' as to prevent the host PC from being rebooted.  Come to think of it, the Drobo Dashboard never required a reboot, even despite dozens if not hundreds of configuration changes made through it over the course of my review.

The above update sequence took place in the middle of my cascade failure test (which took several days to complete as I failed 5 drives sequentially).  Despite the DroboPro being mid-way through healing itself after a simulated drive failure, the update and reboot took place without a hitch.  With the update complete, the DroboPro made the array available to the system and returned to its background healing task, picking up right where it left off as opposed to starting over.  For the record, I would *never* update the firmware of a standard RAID controller in the middle of such a rebuild.

Volume Management


Switching to manual mode presumes expert use, and is a one-way trip

as returning to full auto requires reinitializing the DroboPro.

Extras via right-click

Finally, right clicking the Drobo taskbar icon reveals some more hidden goodies:


E-mail Alert Settings



Email alerts are simple to configure.  Emails are sent not from the DroboPro itself, but from the Dashboard.  This means you will only receive the alerts if your DroboPro is connected to a machine running the Dashboard software.  Note that you may have to use an alternate SSL port for services such as Gmail.

DroboCopySettings


DroboCopy is a very simple file backup / sync utility.  It allows multiple scheduled copy tasks.


Even though this is a one-way copy as opposed to a sync, there are additional options where you can enable deleting files from the destination if they have been deleted from the source since the last copy took place.


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