Drobo FS first impressions


My name is David. I work for the broadcasting media industry at a high position, as well as a partner in a B2B Executives recruitment Agency. I’m not native English speaking so please accept my apologies for approximative ways of formulating things. I’m gonna try to do my best, promise.

I’m a Mac user, always have been …
When looking for a NAS (in fact two) for our Agency, I searched the market looking for something as user friendly and mac friendly as possible.

Drobo came immediately as making very Mac friendly products, their philosophy was also very Apple oriented : simple but open to new possibilities.

One of the main goals of that purchase was to create a redundant backup of one Drobo on the other one (off-site) for increased data security: great !! Drobo was about to release with a partner a cloud service.

I then decided to buy two FS plus 6 2TB disks. Big investment.

I first decided to set everything up concerning the data backup (folders, permissions, etc.)
At first i was surprised to have to install a client software to do so, whereas Synology or others already rely on 100% web based interface, but, hey!, let’s trust the company, that has to be on purpose for increased interface quality over the “100% web” way.
Once installed I was in front of a very strange interface, not very up to cocoa graphical standards. There is even a persistent icon on the dock, for nothing, just like good old freewares rapidly ported from other OSes. But nevermind, let’s move on…

I then noticed a sound coming from both power supplies, very similar to a whistle or a gas leak. Very annoying… well they must be defective, I will call support for an exchange, but it has started to make me suspicious about the investment i’ve just made.

Ok let’s move on, the backup over the internet : argh!! Cloud is not yet release whereas announced since a long time.

Any additional functions to explore in the installed Carbon-like utility named Dashboard ? No ! Simple indeed … maybe a bit too much “simple”.
Ok ! Let’s try to install the DroboApps, as Drobo products are aiming simplicity it should be very easy to do so.

Ok let’s download one to try … tgz ? what’s that ? A documentation somewhere ? No…
Ok, let’s move on to the forum to try understanding and finding some help.
.sh start ? WHAT ?
svn ? command line, arguments ? Double-WHAT ?

Ok let’s move to iTunes sharing : THAT should be standard and simple at least !
mt-daapd ? oh no not again !!! nevermind…
ok where do I put my library and playlists ? Let’s find a doc … Barely none … Not very user friendly anyway …


That’s where the REAL nightmare begins for a regular, simple, mac-user as I am, the moment when you realize the super simple, mac-oriented, product you thought you have just bought is closer to a linux development toolbox or SDK platform than a finished, usable, seamless, packaged product.
The moment when you realize that you will have to learn things you don’t want to because that’s precisely why you are on mac and NOT on Linux.

Most of the apps have no GUI, all are pure Linux tools, unreachable immediately for regular users like me.

So you have from that moment two alternatives : you use your Drobo FS as a simple storage management, whereas your friends using Syno does the same but with the CHOICE to use additional functions over a GUI, sometimes mocking you and saying “I told you …”

To Managers @ Drobo :
I am not against learning new things but I’m not a techie, don’t want to become one, and don’t get paid to become one.
To me, there is a different between building a simple secure storage management (“because that’s what 99% of people want” ™ ) and building a remarkable piece of hardware with such a small software side to exploit it.

You may count on the community to produce additional functions ? Let’s face it : the community is great and motivated, counting great and talented people among it, but small, disorganized and your “apps” have sometimes 2 years old !
Meanwhile competition has started proposing a first implementation of an equivalent of BeyondRAID technology (for one of them at least), alongside with bunch of other functions that can be used IN A SIMPLE WAY.

So I am a bit bitter. Bitter and frustrated to see that you are able to produce so great pieces of hardware but not able to follow up with the software side. Bitter that your remarkably done Marketing focused everything on simplicity, whereas simplicity is so much absent from anything beyond basic file sharing.

People from the community do help improving pieces of software but you cannot relay on them to produce the core functionalities EVERY NAS have nowadays.

As you can see for yourself, it simply does not work. Several hundreds of active members on the forum, barely tenths of answers to a question, at best, that cannot be qualified as huge ultra active communities, at least for the Drobo FS one.

Moreover letting anyone modify the code via linux apps on the device itself, with no OS security control, is not very data security-friendly (your core argument) …

Making a product simple, focused on security and file sharing, does NOT prevent you from offering to those who need them new software functionalities. There is not even documentation on “official” apps, come on !
Each new firmware on similar products offers new services, functions or format compatibilies, ALONG WITH bugs deletion.

So I will go on using both drobos as simple file sharing devices, really hoping that you will revise your point of view concerning your “software policy” in order to better use the wonderful devices you have created, because I still remain certain that your hardware is second to none.

I think that sums things up very well…

(None of the following is meant to offend or denigrate the fine people who have put their own time into providing the apps that are available. I commend them for their work despite the apparent disinterest of DRI in the whoe DroboApps idea, beyond a marketing bullet point or two…)

DroboApps need a LOT of work before they have ease of use and power that approaches what people’s new expectations are when they are told something “has apps”. These expectations have been set by things like the iPhone, Android, the Roku box, even TVs with things like Yahoo Widgets. A few Linux programs recompiled, with cryptic configuration files and no support on the actual Drobo website is not an “App Store” or “Market”.

I too am left wondering why there is no native web interface on the FS. That would be the obvious place to install, configure and manage apps. I suppose that could be done through Dashboard, but why bother? You can even look at a web interface from a phone while sat on the couch.

PogoPlug has their “personal cloud” type of service running on hardware of similar capabilities as far as CPU and operating system. Users love it, just look at the reviews. Where is the equivalent on the FS? Just partner with PogoPlug, pay them a few bucks per FS and bake it in.

Oxygen Cloud looks more like Vapour Cloud every day. Ship it, or give up.

Drobo needs a concerted effort to get the apps to today’s standards and to meet the expectations of the average consumer, so that “real people” like @Ambrius can use them.

Very well put. I believe that most people here including power users and developers would agree with your statements. I’ve personally approached DRI about the lack an “Apps Partner” classification and I’ve had a few discussions about improving Drobo Apps but it went no where after telling them I wasn’t looking to be a reseller right now.

Yes, very well put.
I bought the FS with the intention of having access to by “clouding” or FTP, but I don´t even think of learning have to work with Terminal etc. to get it function. Im also not a big fan of having Dashboard in the Dock. Moving away from connection thru the Dashboard is too loate for me now since the adress you get with this connection is not the same as by connecting in OSX, meaning all links will be broken:
Dashboard: /Volumes/DroboFS/0db102270026/1/Media/Movies
Finder: /Volumes/Media/Movies

The box looks nice, data is secured, but its noisy, slow compared to the competitors and Apps is just not user friendly at all.

I couldn’t agree more with everything that has been said here. The DroboFS is marketed as a highly simplistic and user friendly NAS device, but in reality in full use, it is anything but. It lacks many of the core basic features of other NAS devices costing a fraction of the price, and to get those functions working you need to either be an experienced Linux user or donate hours and hours of time trying to get even the simplest things working.

DRI’s stance that these additional features are supplied by the ‘community’, and it can therefore wash its hands of providing any shred of documentation and support, only dramatically weakens what could very easily be a very good product.

  • Speed could be better, although I haven’t tried Jumbo frames yet.
  • Droboapps not supported by DRI … either don’t advertise them or at least support a core list of apps like FTP.
  • Simplicity is possible but not without decent documentation, I got external FTP running with like setup of 5 things including creation of dyndns just for my drobo, but how many normal users would even think of things like this if they don’t know where to start?
  • Noisy fan, well, I’ve got it as well but I don’t mind, as long as it can sit in a place outside of my rooms.
  • Bugs like ‘source already in use’ need to be fixed in weeks not months …
  • The concept of BeyondRAID is to say the least, imo the best selling point, people don’t need to buy 5 new disks of the same type/size, just put your old HDD’s in and your set, 2 disk redundancy is still no option for me cuz I use too many different ones ranging from 500GB to 2TB.
  • Linux in the background, I can only say, excellent, but don’t try selling it to people as being simplicity itself, I don’t find it difficult, information is all you need and a little confidence goes a long way.
  • The smaller the apps, the fewer bugs there should be, so imo keep em small but for the love of god, create gui for all of them with basic settings.

Can go on but we all know the shortcomings and the good things about the FS, maybe we should give it a lil’ bit more time and wait and see.

On top of all this, well said BTW, iTunes 10 breaks Firefly on almost all NAS including DroboFS.
Worse development of Firefly’s underlying code has pretty much ended.
Maybe Apple with send a fix so iTunes10 will work with third party boxes but I’m not holding my breath.

This is going to boil down to “Me too”, but I also agree with everything here. The Drobo FS is a bit of a bizarre and half-baked product. The Dashboard interface is simple to the point of being useless (no logs, no app configuration, no quotas, etc), nevermind it shouldn’t exist at all for a product like the FS - network connected devices use web interfaces for management. It works better, is typically easier to develop, and can be accessed from anything with a web browser - you could admin it from your Wii if you were so inclined.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum are DroboApps, which are so poorly designed, documented, and supported (ha!) that I’m just ignoring the functionality completely. Far too complex for an average or even most proficient users, and as others have pointed out, it may as well not exist as far as Drobo is concerned.

Ambrius your post sums up my sentiments entirely !!

Ok, how do I sue DRI?
I’ve had it with this pos resetting password to root whenever it feels like.

After reading this great review. I am going to hold off getting a Drobo FS until its has been greatly improved. As a Drobo S owner I’m still waiting for DR to release an updated Dashboard that includes a way to properly report the Drobo’s capacity to the OS. As other have said the Drobo FS need a simple Web interface or a much better Dashboard.

After saying that, it make it look like DR weakest link is its Dashboard. Well maybe after reading these comments they maybe improve it.

From what I’ve read it is because they need to make sure that a user cannot go over the maximum TB stored data limit (10TB), so once 4TB disks come out they’d have to up it once more :slight_smile:

3TB disks already supported I guess?

I agree!

I dont post on many forums. I read lots of them but am normally too lazy to bother posting.

I have just bought the DroboFS and have to agree 100% with this thread.

Yes the drobo is a great “idea” and I love the idea of being able to add more storage as required.

BUT the Apps and the App Support are a huge disappointment so far.

It is suppose to be so simple - and it is not. You should not expect normal users to start playing around with code.

Firefly is a prime example. Why is it so difficult to add playlists.

The other annoying thing is not being able to see this forum until you have actually bought one.


I don’t really think thats a good enough reason to hold such a great idea like true space reporting back. Right now on my Windows 2008 Server the Drobo is shared and reports 5.33 TB of 7.99TB. Which if I had apps watching the space usage, I would would never get a report that the drive in almost full. I have to go down to the server closet and check the units blue usage bar or remote in to the server and be luck enough not to have someone else using the Dashboard app. With the True Space reporting I could just look at the network mapped drive and see oh I’m using 2.5TB out of 4.52TB.

This could be a check mark box in the Dashboard app. Not everyone has to use it, but I would think most people would. Wish we could have a poll on this and see how may would like the idea.

I’m new to the world of Drobo and these forums. Sadly I have to agree with the OP and subsequent comments in this thread. While the Drobo works fine as it’s designed to be I so far have been disappointed in the Droboapps and (lack of) support of which I was looking forward to using.

The outlay of big money for Drobo for what it is (and what it’s not) has me wondering if I should have stuck with my original plan of building an unRaid server. However I remain optimistic that DRI will eventually come through and provide the support and user-friendly functionality Droboapps deserves.

If you figure out how to use an App, can you please post screen shots / walkthrough / youtube video of how to set everything up? a video review of what each app does?


Here’s how to change the admin password and make it stick: