server with 'virtual drive' like drobo


I have a drobo with droboshare, that I was intending to use as the fileserver for our small business network. We’ve grown a little bit, and I’m finding that the USB is causing traffic to be too slow. Instead, I’d like to use the drobo as our backup drive.

I’d like to set up a server where drives are configured in a similar way to drobo in that we can use multiple drives under one drive letter, and expand capacity by simply adding extra drives under the same path. Would this be some sort of cloud configuration? I assume I would need some server operating system which would handle the data across multiple drives as one virtual drive in the clever way that drobo does.

I found this article…
…but it didn’t make much sense to me I’m afraid.

I’m new to servers, and would welcome any advice about operating systems/drive configuration/hardware. As I say my main concern is that our drive space is expandable without us needing to copy everything to new drives. This will allow us to take advantage of this feature on drobo. Without having it on the server, we may as well have individual backup drives which are the same size as the server drives. Our server budget would be around £1000 mark, hopefully not to much more. I will hopefully be investigating requirements for remove access via VPNS later too.

Many thanks for any advice or thoughts.

Careful here… DRI probably won’t like it if things start heading in the “how can I make Drobo, without buying a Drobo?” direction. But in the spirit of a Drobo being part of this “giant storage tree” I continue. :slight_smile:

What OS does your infrastructure run? For NTFS, you can mount a local volume as a subdirectory of another volume. Other OSes let you do this as well.

Yes indeed! As I say, I am a proud drobo owner and think it’s an absolutely great thing. That is why I own one. I just want to use it as a backup option rather than an actual server.

We haven’t got a formal server at the moment. We’ve just got a bunch of PC’s running vista, and we share one of the drives in my machine. So I’m open to suggestions.

When you say NTFS, our drives are formatted with NTFS - is this what you mean?

Would you recommend a windows server, why would I need anything other than just another PC?

Apologies for my inexperience with servers. I’m obviously missing something! All my googling attempts result in information that is a little above my head. AFS for example…

I’m aware that this may not be the best place for this discussion, but any help anybody can offer on a practical solution which I can implement relatively easily would be welcome.


Since your Drobo is formatted as NTFS, you’re heading in the right direction.

I’ll start from the NTFS part, then address the machine…

NTFS filesystem supports mounting a drive’s contents within a folder of another volume.

For example, you might have…
D:\ -> Hard disk on server
D:\Drobo -> Drobo
D:\NAS2 -> external NAS

When you access D:\Drobo, you’re really accessing the content of the Drobo, but to the user, it just looks like a subfolder of the D: drive. This way you don’t have to worry (so much) about different drive letters and such.

To achieve this…
[li]Go to Disk Management (Start|Run|Diskmgmt.msc)[/li]
[li]Right-click your Drobo in the list at the top (the Volume/Layout/Type/File System/…)[/li]
[li]Choose Change Drive Letter and Paths[/li]
[li]If there’s a drive letter listed, select it and click Remove (this might kick you out of the Change Drive Letter and Paths menu, if so, repeat the previous two steps)[/li]
[li]Click Add and choose Mount in the following empty NTFS folder:[/li]
[li]Click Browse and choose an empty folder on the drive where you want to “graft” the Drobo on to. The folder must be empty, so click New Folder to make a new one if you need to.[/li]
Now the Drobo’s storage is being accessed via the folder you just mounted.

As for a “server” choice, one important consideration is the number of clients. Workstation-class Windows operating systems (ie, anything without “Server” at the end) are limited to 10 simultaneous client connections at any time. Clients can be other Windows machines or other clients capable of accessing SMB/CIFS.

In other words, if you have more than 10 devices that’d potentially access the machine simultaneously, then you might need Windows Server (Windows Home Server might be a good choice - though I’m unsure as to its client limits).

Beyond that, it doesn’t take a lot special stuff to be a fileserver. The main points to consider are network bandwidth, reliability and power. If this server is going to be up 24/7 and your files are important to you, a good UPS is a wise investment.