About to take the plunge and get a Drobo 5N

Hi all,

i’ve been looking for a replacement NAS and have come up with a short list of two!

Its either the WD EX2 NAS or the Drobo 5N. I’m leaning towards the Drobo 5N for a number of reasons and have got to the point of registering on this site to see if existing users would be able to answer some questions about the 5N please.

  1. Am I correct in saying that the 5N uses ‘BeyondRAID’ to allow a single drive to go faulty, but the data is protected no matter what drive it is that goes wrong? And based on this, if I selected Dual redundancy this would double the protection?

  2. If I got a bigger drive and decided to replace an existing drive thats being used for a back-up, can I just replace that drive ‘on the fly’ and leave the 5N to sort itself out and no data would be lost?

  3. I’ve looked at many reviews of Drobo and one thing that seems to be an issue is the support you get. Could I ask an honest opinion please - is support good?

  4. Is the Drobocare a good option?

  5. I am looking to use WD Red drives, has anyone had any bad experiences of these drive? Would there be a better alternative?

  6. I’m looking to format the drives so that some of the space will be used as a Apple Time Machine Back-up for 3 Macbook Pros, and the rest as storage for other files such as work document, photos and videos. Is this supported ok and can I configure the system to do this easily enough?

Thanks in advance for your time here, I just want to be sure that this is the right choice.

  1. Yes

  2. Yes - but you would not be protected while it was rebuilding… if you removed one drive to replace it with a bigger disk… then one of your remaining drives failed during the rebuild, then everyone is gone. With dual disk redundancy, everything would still be safe.

  3. No - partly because they’re just not very good… and incredibly slow to respond… and partly because of Drobo’s “black box” (figuratively, not just literally) nature… there’s only so much they do do to actually trouble shoot it! if something goes wrong, wipe it and restore from backup is the only option. With my Synology unit… their support team were able to remotely log into my Synology and use the linux command line to fix my broken volume!

  4. Yes - mainly because once you’re out of warranty support wont even talk to you.

  5. They’re fantastic and i have almost 30 of them.

I’ve only lost data once in my life… when a 4 bay drobo decided to assume that all four perfectly good disks had died simultaneously… and nothing would convince it to take them back and let me use my disk pack (this was before they implemented a “read only” mode; so supports only advice was to wipe everything and start over… so i did… with a Synology unit.

I’ve also had a problem with an 8-bay DroboPro which ran out of “free” space (it actually had 800Gb of FREE hard disk space.) but i was moving data around faster than its garbage collection could work, so it ran out of space in which to do its beyondraid magic… and got stuck in the now-infamous reboot loop, so the only thing i could do was flip it into read only mode… and move ALL the data off it (which meant going out and buying another 8 hard disks… which i did… and put them in a lovely new 12 bay Synology DS2411+ and once that was done i promptly sold the DroboPro)

They also seem to be very slow in terms of supporting the new larger disks… you can put five 8 tb hard disk in a 5N… for 40Tb total / 32Tb usable space… and then you’re crippled by the fact it cant support more than a single 16tb volume:


even with the 6tb drives which have been available for a year now… you would still end up with a lot of space you cant use.

  1. Yes.
  2. Yes.
  3. I’ve contacted support only once and my problem got sorted out. No complaints.
  4. Don’t know, did not use it.
  5. All my drives are WD Red - works really good for me.
  6. Can’t answer that - not an Apple user.

Hi, thanks for the replies. Docchris based on your answers I guess my first question would be why are you still using Drobo devices if the support is crap and it would seem your history of using Drobo devices sounds bad too?

Your reply has made me stop and wonder if this make is the correct way to go now. the WD EX2 seems to tick all the boxes, however its not as upgradeable as the Drobo and if I used RAID1 i’d be restricted to only a maximum of 6TB.

Synology and Netgear were two other makes I was looking at, the Netgear option was not a choice due to a lot of reviews saying it was very slow. Synology seems another option now, I guess your experience of this make is a good one?

I guess I really don’t want to pay more than around the £900 mark (UK Pounds), so that does restrict my choices, however if it means buying a better NAS and have a smaller drive space initially, then I can look at that option?

Theres just far too many choices here!

I’m not, havent owned one for a while!

Yes, i would highly recommend Synology… i even bought a 413j (a small 4 bay one) as a birthday present for my little sister (and i can remotely log into it and troubleshoot it)

and you can run a LOT of extremely useful apps on it… things you probably didnt even realise you may want to do.

I’m in the UK too.

  1. Time Machine is indeed supported. You use the Drobo Dashboard to create a separate Time Machine-enabled share for each Mac you want to back up and allocate a maximum size for it. The space it occupies won’t grow beyond that maximum size.

Thanks again Docchris, I’m going to go off and look at these Synology NAS devices again. I think the DS414 was the one I was looking at. Its a bit more expensive, but I can get an 8TB option for about £700, plus theres the option to upgrade all the way to 20Tb if the needs arise.

Funny how i’ve got more information to help on the Drobo website than I got anywhere else!

Thanks again

It’s pitiful that die-hard Drobo fans like us (past and present) are at the point where we can’t even recommend Drobo products any longer. The lack of communication from company reps and support is deafening!

i still mention drobos to my windows friends, just usually the DAS models as thats what i know more about.[hr]
for roger above, id probably have a look to see if you can still achieve what you would like to achieve, with as DAS model, because you might be able to get 2 das models for about that price (especially if you already have enough hard drives at hand).

(maybe in your case a nas model is better since you mention 3 macs and timemachines)

Let me add my voice to those of the current Drobo owners who would absolutely NOT recommend you buy one. If I had the money I’d replace my 5N in a heartbeat, unfortunately I’m stuck with it for the time being.

I’m curious to know why you wouldn’t recommend the 5N, Dave, and what you would choose as a replacement, for your own particular purposes.

I too, wouldn’t recommend it but I chose mine fully informed and with my eyes open and I’m happy with it. A statement like that requires qualification, of course, so here it is. I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who is technically savvy because they would find the “black box” approach and the dumbed down user interface frustrating and there are other products that such people would probably be happier with. It’s probably aimed at less technically savvy people, or people, such as photographers, who want to concentrate their efforts on their own field of expertise and have something that just works without the distractions of having to set up and maintain a complex storage solution. If that was indeed the case, I would strongly recommend the 5N to those people. Unfortunately, they don’t always just work and when they go wrong you’re pretty much on your own, regardless of your technical expertise, judging by the repeated criticism of Drobo support I read in this forum and elsewhere.

So where do I fit in? Well, I’m technically savvy, having managed a number of large storage arrays (including Avid Unity, Avid ISIS and Apple Xsan) in a broadcast (read “mission critical”) environment for a number of years so by my own argument I ought to find the 5N frustrating. Well, I would if I let it get to me but I bought it to fulfil a purpose - to provide non-critical, expandable storage at home - and so far it has done that pretty well. There’s no chance I would ever use it in a professional environment, or even trust my own data to it exclusively - everything is well backed up and the alternative is simply foolish. So far it has performed adequately well, with only one system crash in the first three months, from which it recovered without data loss. I’m interested in the technology behind BeyondRAID and, I suppose, what I’d really like to see is the release of the technology into the public domain because I believe that it is capable of much more than Drobo is getting out of it, if it were to be nurtured as an open source project, along the lines of, say, FreeNAS. Maybe it will happen one day because I can’t see the company continuing for long along its current path, alienating as it does its long time supporters.

I have a Drobo 5N among others. Still using it, sort of.

The issue is, I cant trust it for anything important and there are so few apps for it that its not all the functional for me as a toy for the home either. It is OK. Bit Synch works well with it and for me this has been the thing that stopped me simply turning it off and getting rid of it.

It randomly disappears, unmounts shares when it feels like it, sometimes just because I logged out of the dashboard, allows me to open files, then locks up all files with a permissions issue. Then it will work flawlessly for a month shortly followed by a week of hell. Then it will decide to disappear completely and need a restart or accessing through the admin panel before it will do anything. I just dont see this sort of inconsistent behavior with anything else I used.

I often access it remotely and it likes to pick those moments where I am far away to be a real pain.

However, if you dont care about the lack of apps for it (If Apps are required Synology is a better option) and just want something simple, the Drobo is plug and play, when it feels like playing nice its great. It just often decides not to and does some incredibly random things until you intervene. What I can say, is that so far (around 18months) I haven’t lost any data.

What apps would you want to run on it? There are media servers, download clients and backup managers. I’m not the least bit interested in running such services on a storage device and they can only affect its stability in a negative way - get a NUC or a Mac mini to do that sort of thing. I do have Dropbear installed so that I can ssh into it and I’d be interested in an app that allowed the SMART status of the drives to be monitored, but that side of things runs behind an impenetrable wall. The geeky side of me wants to build a FreeNAS or unRAID server to give me something to tinker with.