Drobo FS Slowly Failing Completely? Help please

Summary: Since April I have been having issues with my Drobo FS, starting with a drive failure/replacement. Accessibility is worsening, and currently I cannot access data on it.

My objective: Copy off all data (family photos, home movies, personal records) to cloud backup service.

I have a Drobo FS purchased 2012 (warranty ended 2014). Originally, I mainly used a Windows machine to setup and access the drive. We also have had a MacBook Pro since the beginning that could access the shared drive, and for a few years had it’s TimeMachine backup on the Drobo. Today I am using that old Mac and a new one to manage the Drobo. The Drobo is for family photos, family videos converted from an old camcorder, and personal data backup.

April 2, 2020 - 1 TB HD, next day I purchased 4TB drive to replace, installed around April 6. As expected, it entered data protection for a couple days, then was all green. Top to bottom the bays were like this:
-4TB (the new one)

Later in April (as I remember), it re-entered data protection mode. I don’t remember how long it was “all green,” but it wasn’t long. I don’t remember for sure if it had an estimated completion timer initially, but by the time I became concerned about how long it was taking, it there was no time estimate. I observed that sometimes I could access the shared drive on it, other times I could not.

June 14, I submitted a support request because it had started to get into a cycle where it was frequently rebooting. About every 15 minutes it was restarting. I followed help instructions I found in support materials to turn off the Drobo while rebooting, and restarted it with drives removed. It came back on with one red light on bay 1 and a green light lower left as the instructions said should happen, and I created a diagnostic that I sent in with my ticket.

Drobo kindly reminded me I was out of warranty and gave me links to everything on their site, and suggested I purchase DroboHelp if I needed it. It’s $99, and I am considering this option still.

With online Drobo resources and Google searching, I figured out how to put the Drobo in read-only mode, which I did. At the time I had two questions about Read Only mode:

  1. Was data protection “working” to optimize the data layout while in RO mode, or does that mode stop all read/write? Still don’t know this answer for sure, but I think that data protection still works.
  2. Would I be able to access my data in RO mode? I think, but again am not sure, that while in RO mode I cannot seem to mount a share. I am uncertain, because in June/July, I think I was accessing files while in RO mode.

In July, I decided it was time to move away from Drobo as our only data backup solution and I subscribed to a cloud backup service (iDrive). My objective then was to copy files off the Drobo and place them in the cloud backup in case I could not fix the Drobo.

I checked settings on the Drobo and found that the data/drive redundancy setting was off. I am not sure how long it was that way. I switched it back on and was happy to see data protection mode start over with a 26 hour timer! However, within 2 days the timer was gone, and data protection continued. I believe I had to turn off RO mode in order to mount and access the share.

Then, I was able to start copying off photos. I got a few hundred copied off in an early attempt (many thousand yet to go).

Following this initial effort, I observed that the share started to cease functioning, resulting in partial copies or no copies. Over the past three weeks, I tried the following (not sure of the order):

  • Different laptops
  • Direct LAN cord connection (using now)
  • Replaced LAN cables
  • Toggled back to RO mode
  • Different versions of Drobo Dashboard
    -Currently on 3.4.1 on old MacBook Pro, which is what I started with. But I reverted back as far as 2.6.4. per Drobo’s page showing the legacy dashboard suggested for Drobo FS.
    -New MacBook Pro on Dashboard 3.5.0
  • Reloaded firmware 1.2.7 [4.45.10288]
  • Replaced home’s router with mesh wifi system

I was able to mount the share, open the drive and folders, and sometimes even start a copy operation, but very seldom would it complete. More and more frequently it wouldn’t even kick off. On Drobo dashboard, I would watch it lose the share and lose sight of the Drobo, then status would come back on. At the same time, I get a message saying the connection to the shared file location has been interrupted.

This week, I tried putting it back into RO mode, because I just couldn’t remember if mounting a share and copying was possible in this mode. This did not work (perhaps it should not, again this is an open question for me).

So I went back to read-write mode, and this time I encountered all red lights. At first I believe it said bay 3 needed a new drive. I shut it down and re-seated all drives, and it told me something different the next time, and different the third time, but all times they were all red.

I returned to RO mode, it’s in data protection status again, I cannot mount or access my data, and I’m worried.

Thanks for any advice, and I appreciate any suggestions!

Update: I was able to resume Read-Write mode. Data Protection continues. I can view and mount the share at times, and even start a copy operation. But it never finishes. On a small file even, it will hang for a minute or two before the share “disappears” and the dashboard refreshes, but the copy fails.