access 5N from WAN?

Got my 5N up and running with 256GB mSATA + 5x3TB WD Red…


Is there a way to access the shares from outside the LAN? I assume you can access it via the AFP port (Mac) … but not sure. Can’t find info on this …

File-sharing protocols like AFP (Mac) and SMB/CIFS (Windows) are designed to only work on the local network; there’s no direct support for using them across the internet.

Now, that said there’s ways to do it (or use protocols more suited for it, like FTP/SFTP). The biggest hurdle is making it so you can find your Drobo from the wider internet. That involves two things - determining your home IP address, and accessing the stuff on your home network.

First things first - Dynamic DNS

Most people have a dynamic IP address handed out by their ISP, meaning it can change (depending on the ISP, that could be every few years or daily). The first step in accessing anything at home is knowing where your home is on the internet. The easiest way is to set up what’s called Dynamic DNS. This involves a domain name, and a piece of software that runs on your network watching for your public IP to change. When that happens, it updates the DNS entry to point to your new IP, and thus you can always connect to that name and locate your home network. The oldest provider is (formerly, and I’ve used them for many years and been very happy with it. The client that watches for IP changes can run on a computer, possibly on the 5N (I assume there’s some app or another that will do this), or even on some routers. Where you run it really depends on what you have at home running all the time that supports it. If your router does, that’s by far the best.

Option 1 - Port Forwarding

Port forwarding is the easiest way to get access to a single device/protocol on a network. If you’re just planning on accessing the Drobo and don’t have more ambitious plans, this may suffice.

Okay, now you can reach across the internet and hit your public IP address. That means you’re reaching as far as your router - but then what? What happens next is port forwarding - you tell the router “when something connects on this port, send it to this device on the home network”. Two things happen here - first is you need to ensure the Drobo 5N’s IP address on your home network doesn’t change. The best way to handle it is via what’s called a DHCP Reservation. What that means is your router still doles out IP addresses as needed, but certain specific devices will always be given the same address (it identifies devices by their Ethernet MAC - nothing to do with Apple - a permanent address assigned to the ethernet port when the device is built and guaranteed unique).

The final piece of the puzzle is the port forward itself. You can get to the router, the router knows where the Drobo 5N is, you just have to tell it what traffic to send and where to send it. This is done via port number. Protocols have various well known ports - HTTP (web) is 80, HTTPS is 443, SSH is 22, and so on. You’ll need to look up the ports for the protocol you want to use, and forward these to your Drobo’s IP address. If I recall correctly, AFP is 548 - you’d have to look these up.

At this point, everything should be set, and you can connect from anywhere. On Mac OS X, that would be using “Go > Connect To Server…” and entering the dynamic domain name you established earlier.

A final thing to consider is security. Definitely make sure anything you’re going to use over the internet is encrypted. The last thing you want is someone to sniff your traffic and get access to your Drobo from the internet! Which brings me to an alternative method.

Option 2 - VPN

Rather than port forward, you may be able to set up a VPN (Virtual Private Network). What happens here is instead of just forwarding specific traffic from the router to a device, you establish a connection between your computer and your home network, and it acts like you’re home and directly connected. This has a lot of advantages - you can do pretty much anything you can do normally, no further setup required (obviously you’ll still need the dynamic DNS to find home in the first place). Decide you want to use a different protocol, like NFS? You can. Screen share to another machine? Easy. Print halfway around the world? I’ve done it.

The one complication with this method is there has to be a VPN server on your home network running 24/7. Some routers can act as a VPN server, but not as many as can act as a Dynamic DNS client (if yours does both, then man you’ll have it easy). There’s been some work on setting up a VPN server on the Drobo 5N itself; I don’t know what the status of that is. Otherwise, you’re stuck needing an always-on computer to act as the VPN server, and not everyone has that luxury. Then you have to get and configure the VPN server software itself - Mac OS X Server contains a very easy-to-use VPN server (and is only $20); I’m not sure what comparable servers are for Windows and Linux.

Okay, that was a lot to digest. You can do what you want - I do it routinely - but it can be involved. Definitely search the forums, as it’s a pretty common need.

The super easy way that I use from a Mac:

Also available in the app store. Has tons of additional features as well (I like the proxy browsing over the VPN tunnel).

The super easy method I use is to use Slink (available in the app store or slinkware dot com).

Has tons of additional features, I particularly like the secure VPN tunnel proxy browsing.