Drobo Newbie frustrations

After 24 hours owning my DroboFS I am about to drop it from a bridge! I have 5 drives: each 2Tb “green” WD’s. I installed Dashboard on all 5 Mac’s before booting Drobo. I had watched all the videos on the Drobo site and noticed immediately I got no warning about the drives needing to be formatted. Apparently it’s automatic but I have no idea what the format “Apple Share” is. As a test I created a single share for the MacPro Documents folder after talking with Drobo Tech Support prior to trying to figure out the best approach to a network wide backup device… which it is suppose to be. The Documents file hold only 165 items so I thought it should be a pretty quick process. I should add I have several external G-Tech drives which via SuperDuper back up the individual Mac’s. An initial backup of one of the Mac’s takes about three hours with subsequent incremental backups taking on average 15 minutes. I “assumed” the documents backup to the DroboFS would take less than 15 minutes. Four hours later the single file was on the Drobo. I didn’t even attempt the Pictures folder which holds about 40k RAW images - I’m not sure I would live long enough based on the time the little Documents folder took! Something is really wrong here or the DroboFS is over rated. I should add I have the Drobo attached to my Apple Router. The Drobo is visible as a shared device in Finder but is not visible to either SuperDuper or Disk Utilities as any other external drive is seen. Finally, I have reset the device (from Dashboard) as an effort to start clean. I’ll toss this out to you all who may be able to give me some wisdom as to either what I am doing wrong or were my expectations set too high.

Drobo FS is a network shared device, and therefore won’t show up to standard disk utilities that talk to direct-attached drives.

Think of it like another computer on the network that’s sharing folders, because essentially that’s what it is.

As for speed, the limiting factors will be your network speed as well as the Drobo FS’s speed. Is your Apple Router Gigabit Ethernet?
Also note that after configuring the storage, Drobo will perform slower than usual as it “gets used to” your drives.

How much data is in your Documents folder? Since Drobo FS is “new” it’ll likely have to do a full backup.

if you put a new drive in one computer, do you get a notice on another that you need to format the drive?
the drives are formated as whatever drobo uses, then shared via AFP (apple filesharing protocol) or SMB (samba, windows filesharing),

what size is the folder, number of files really doesn’t matter. select it in finder and do CMD-I.
are you running parallels? the entire drive for that is in there, so there a good chance 1 item could be 20 GB.

what kind of network connection do you have?
if you’re on 802.11G than you’re at max 54Mb/s so a 1 GB file would take 3 minutes to copy, if you have a good signal.

Let me give you specifics: I am running MacOS X 10.6.6 and am not running any virtualization software. The DroboFS is cabled to the Airport Extreme, the Documents folder was 3.4Gb and the Pictures folder holds 168 files for a total of 561Gb. (That’s only one of several very large image folders on the network) Since the posting I have Reset the Drobo now for the second time and created new shares, etc. Documents copied successfully in 31 minutes which is acceptable. The Pictures folder ran for 14 hours and copied only 58 of 168 files then failed. The log indicated certain folders couldn’t be opened. For a photographer, this is totally unacceptable since my images are the primary reason for this whole exercise. It’s valuable to know the folders which “couldn’t be opened” are no different from any others. Thankfully I do have a very disciplined backup routine but my numbers of external drives are beginning to look a little like a junk yard. The Drobo seemed to be the perfect fit. Clearly I have a significant investment in this device and I expect it to function as advertised. But I quickly add that I may be doing something wrong and that’s causing the issues. I talked with Drobo Support on Friday and I believed I had the Share issue clear in my hard head. I plan to call back tomorrow to follow up on a second response to my original discussion. I realize the Drobo won’t function quite as quickly as a directly connected drive, but I would expect to be able to back up our network overnight. If you use the 3 minutes/Gb speed that should suggest a copy time of the 561 Gb folder of 28 hours - reasonable, I don’t think so. I just looked at the Drobo Copy result of my iTunes library which began at 10am and concluded at 10:25 – again, very acceptable but that’s only 3Gb. It appears non-images copy quickly but we’ll see. I’m presently copying my Lightroom backup folder which is 92Gb – We’ll see what happens. I hope I can get the Drobo working “better” than it has because I like the idea of a single source for the backup and the convenience of “set it and forget it” There’s a very good reason these devices are so well thought of but so far I am struggling

a 1.17GB file copied over my network (gigabit ethernet) in about 1 1/2 minutes.

the speed numbers i posted are the theoretical maximums, so depending on signal strength and interference your speeds may be much less.

how are the macs connected to the airport?
you might want to consider hardwiring your network if it’s not already, the increase in speed and stability will be worth it. and these days decent network hardware is not that expensive.

try copying files to one of the other macs in your network, and see what the speeds are.

as far as “doing something wrong” there really isn’t much you can screw up in the settings of the drobo to cause problems.

when you say “the log indicated” what are you using to copy the file over?

also just as a side note, a return every so often in blog posts will keep them from becoming a giant imposing block of text

As a test, my MacPro is hardwired to the Airport and the DroboFS also connected to the Airport and that’s been the scheme from the beginning.

RE: the above post, I cancelled the LR backup as I discovered it had image folders inside which would create a misleading time for copy. I shuffled the folder to contain only the LR backup so I can track things a little more accurately and started over.

I’m using DroboCopy and there’s a “Last Report” tab which is the source of the information.

Sorry about the Billboard of Text – my bad

since you seem to know superduper.
a google for “superduper network drive” turned up the following link.
these instructions are old though, you want sparse bundle, not sparse image.

mount the share in finder.
in superduper, select “to disk image”
brose to the share on the drobo, and select image type “read / write sparse bundle” give it a name, and off you go

Thanks for the direction – as a follow up on the network speed - I copied the Documents Folder in MacPro (3.39 Gb) to the desktop of an iMac hardwired to a network hub in 12 minutes total or 3.5 min/Gb. To copy that same folder to the DroboFS was 31 minutes. An “incremental” backup of Documents to the Drobo was about 17 munutes. As with the external drives the first copy is much longer than subsequent and apparently the same is true of the DroboFS (imagine that)

I’m still working on the Lightroom Backup and had to start over as “something” disconnected DroboCopy during the process. I suspect the internet went down so the router went flatline.

I’ll report my talk with Tech Support tomorrow

Continued thanks to the newbie

Peter, for the initial load and backups, I would recommend you connect all computers over Ethernet and not use wireless. Also enable “jumbo frames” on your Drobo as this will give you another 15-20% boost. Finally, for the duration of the initial load I would disable dual-disk redundancy on your Drobo as that does come with a performance tax if you have set this.

Is your airport extreme the new dual wireless model of an older one? I noticed I got better ethernet performance when I installed the new airport extreme unit that replace an older model I had.

Hope this helps…


Hi Ryan - the Airport Extreme is about three years old and is UTD on all software. Wireless is turned off on the two Mac’s I’m using to do the initial load. I’m hardwired to one port on the router in one case and the 10/100 hub with the iMac.

Dual Disk is not elected. I’ve not enabled Jumbo Frames (I’m unfamiliar with the settings on that other than you should not exceed 1500 MTU) I’ll let the Lightroom Backup run until it finishes then will make the MTU setting. Another thing to put on my list for Tech Support.

I’m about convinced that once I get the initial backup behind me the Drobo will live up to its reviews. My point of reference for years has been external HD’s which are really vanilla where the Drobo is dealing with an entire network and all that entails. I won’t give up on it or drop it in the river quite yet –

Here’s the final disposition of my DroboFS after talking with Drobo Tech support. My hat is off to Drobo for their absolute honesty in this whole matter. After sending a diagnostic report to Drobo, the agent indicated I had two choices: My Airport Extreme is older than those achieving gigabit rates so I could purchase a new router and go on. Without prompting, etc the agent suggested I may never get the kind of speed I want and need from the FS and that I might want to look at another Drobo device which would do what my G-Tech drives do but would give me some HD protection vs using one or two external drives per computer (as I am now).

I hate like anything being “wrong” in a purchase decision, but I am pleased beyond words at the direct and bluntly honest advice I got from Drobo. There are lots of companies out there who would do a whole lot less. In the end, I’ve returned the DroboFS to B&H Photo (this is an absolutely Super company as well) and will go back to the drawing board.

fair comments Peter.
(would have been nice to have been able to try it with a newer airport device, just to have tried it but fair enough)

I’d look to a direct-attached Drobo like a Drobo S or Drobo Pro. Maybe a Pro FS if you need the “always on the network” shared aspect. Or a more-traditional RAID box from another vendor.

Depends on your intended usage (which seems to be more intensive than average SOHO documents use).