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Drobo 5C 5-bay USB Type-C DAS Review - More Bays!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Drobo

Installation and Drobo Dashboard Features

For those looking for a teardown, the Drobo 5C is similar in construction to the 3rd gen Drobo that we disassembled in its own review.

Installing the Drobo is about as easy as it could be. Plug in the power supply, connect to your system with the included USB 3.0 cable. Install the Drobo Dashboard software, and you're off to the races. Note that you may need to update any dated version of Drobo Dashboard already on your system.

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Well, you *do* need to actually install drives if you want to use the Drobo for its intended purpose. Once done, simply follow the automatic prompts to format the array. This process takes just a few minutes to complete, and then a drive letter appears and Dashboard shows the connected device in 'green' status:

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Exploring the interface further we can see how the available capacity has been determined:

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Here we are using a set of five WD Red 8TB drives, with the default 'Single Disk Redundancy' (equivalent of RAID-5). Essentially, one drive worth of capacity is donated to the cause of keeping the array safe from any single drive failing or being removed for replacement or upgrade.

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In the settings screen, you can set the device name, enable or disable idle spin-down, and adjust the brightness of the front panel LEDs. This is also where you can enable Dual Disk Redundancy.

The process of switching redundancy modes takes time proportional to the amount of data stored on the Drobo, so it's best to choose this while setting up the Drobo for the first time. What also takes time proportional to data stored is the rebuild process that takes place during a drive failure. We simulated this by removing drives one at a time. The Drobo takes only a few minutes for each rebuild if the array is mostly empty, but can take hours or days for a completely full array to be re-stitched back to a redundant state. A sequential failure of drives can occur over time with no operator action and the data will still be protected until you reach the minimum number of drives needed to hold one full copy, or when you reach one drive remaining, whichever you reach first:

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(This image was borrowed from our review of the 4-bay Drobo)

The above shows how desktop notifications work. Email notifications are also configurable from within the Dashboard. Even in the particularly grave condition shown above, the Drobo volume was still available to the OS and completely usable (with caution). It's a bit comical how the point of warning here is how any given single external HDD operates normally. Most people don't realize they are operating on a single point of failure until the drive crashes and their data is gone.


October 10, 2016 | 09:26 PM - Posted by Chris Covington (not verified)

With Drobo having a VP of Ops who previously was caught offering to bribe hardware sites for good reviews, it makes me wonder about them.

October 10, 2016 | 09:45 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Just in case there is any doubt here, I was not offered anything above the typical pre-briefing and sample for testing. Same thing that happens with any other item we review. I've never had any interactions with Drobo that I would consider immoral.

October 11, 2016 | 03:24 AM - Posted by Prodeous13 (not verified)

Since this 5 bay DAS shows a nice reduction in price, I wonder how long (or if ever) then 5 bay NAS will also see a price reduction.

As for the review, it does follow the great reviews I'm used to seeing from PCPer as a whole.

@ Allyn Would you recommend a DAS over a NAS? I'm trying to figure out where such a product fits. with NAS you can access it from an entire network... ok well I guess speed wise, 1GB limits to max 120is MB/s... kind of answered that myself :)

I do wonder, now that 2.5/5Gb nics are coming out, how soon Drobo will announce support.

And finally, Asus just released a "cheap - $250usd" Switch (2x10Gb + 8x1Gb). Wonder if 10Gb ports would be backwards compatible with 2.5/5 via some update.

Overall more speed the better. and having DAS speeds via NAS would be a welcomed improvement :)

October 11, 2016 | 11:59 AM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

The argument for DAS is when you want to have your mass storage closer to your main editing system, where it can enjoy the throughput and latency bonus of not having to pass over a gigabit network. If that system happens to be always-on, you can simply share the DAS out via that system, effectively making it into a NAS. One bonus there is that you are covered by the security updates on the host OS instead of having to ensure yet another box (NAS) is updated. You won't get the additional remote access bells and whistles seen on some dedicated NAS boxes, but much of that functionality can be replicated by applications run on the host.

Backwards compatibility for 2.5 and 5 Gbit will likely require new hardware, as the point of those lower grades is to use lower cost / lower power hardware to drive the copper.

November 14, 2016 | 05:14 AM - Posted by TinkerToyTech

Allyn,

Could you move drives from a 5N to a 5C?

Can you potentially increase throughput by adding MSATA?

I will be plugging this into an USB 3.1 port on a Z170X-UD5 Mainboard.

Thank you!

Proud Patreon supporter!

November 15, 2016 | 10:36 AM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

The 5N and 5C have competely different file formats. The N uses its own internal file system, while the C is directly mounted to the host (and uses a file system managed by the host PC).

Drobo has a migration guide here, complete with a matrix on what can move to what.

November 23, 2016 | 12:27 PM - Posted by Sharma (not verified)

Just curious on the migration you did for this test. Which Drobo did you migrate the disks FROM to the 5C?

I have a 5D and looking to move current disks to the newer 5C so that I can upgrade the 5D with new disks but Drobo's migration matrix only lists migration from 5C to 5D/5Dt not the other way around.

Would appreciate any comments on this.

November 27, 2016 | 04:33 PM - Posted by arbiter

Just got my 5c yesturday, has 5x4tb WD red's in it with 5.4tb used. Used ATTO just now i had as high as 260-270MB/s write speeds and seems maxed 230-240MB/s read.

December 16, 2016 | 10:15 AM - Posted by modo (not verified)

My new drobo is quite slow 60/90 mb/s (drives tested in a pc were 230/230). I'm using 2x8t seagate skyhawks. Any advice?

The enclosure is also very loud, and often starts to resonate and vibrate.
HHD's where also quieter in a pc, in a drobo they have this grinding sound when working.

February 6, 2017 | 04:26 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Does the 5C appear as an external drive? network drive? or only accessible via the drobo app?

Does it have backup (snapshot) or file versioning? If the PC gets a crypto-ransomware, can it be use to rollback to an earlier date?

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