Drobo 5N review: innovative network NAS storage on 5 discs

Drobo 5N review: innovative network NAS storage on 5 discs

Company Drobo is not as widely known in European markets, and it is in vain. With Drobo 5N model, we got a very interesting NAS 5 bays, which in many areas apart from the competition. Drobo 5N focuses on a simple connection as a network drive via SMB or AFP, proprietary technology BeyondRAID provides flexible storage capabilities and can offer much more than traditional RAID. For example, Drobo 5N You can use disks of different sizes without any problems, no additional user action is required. In our review, we consider the performance and affordable Drobo NAS option.

The company is present on the market Drobo network solutions for several years. At first she produced solutions DAS (Direct Attached Storage), which are connected through USB 2.0 or Firewire 800. In 2010, for the first time presented the network storage NAS (Network Attached Storage) Drobo FS for the consumer segment and DroboPro FS for the business segment. Models Drobo 5D (DAS), Drobo 5N (NAS) and Drobo Mini (DAS) came out in late 2012, but they still are a modern solution for the consumer segment. Is that the company recently released a model DAS Drobo 5D Turbo (5dt) interfaces Thunderbolt 2 and USB 3.0.

Drobo 5N – NAS network storage, which holds up to five hard drives in 3.5-inch format, are directly inserted into the slots without trays. As a special NAS function of the bottom cover can be installed SSD mSATA, which is used as SSD-cache. Storage is based on the Marvell processor with ARMv7 architecture, the amount of RAM is 1 GB. For the connection there is only a Gigabit Ethernet port, optional interfaces, the same USB, you do not get.

A key benefit is the use Drobo storage system. Drobo is based on a proprietary system BeyondRAID. Unlike other proprietary technologies such as the Synology SHR, where know-how is in the new logical RAID levels, BeyondRAID system is very different from the classic RAID arrays. These are distributed on the drive is not the traditional blocks in RAID, as a file-based. BeyondRAID or operating system Drobo 5N has direct access to the data at the file level, rather than considering them as an array of bits or bytes.

Drobo 5N review: innovative network NAS storage on 5 discs

When a file is written Drobo, BeyondRAID distributes the file and the information redundancy on multiple drives. Distribution executed dynamically and rather flexible, allowing you to use hard disks of different sizes. The latter feature is also an important advantage of the Drobo. Furthermore, after removing the NAS file operating system knows which disk memory area released.

Tom BeyondRAID can be easily expanded by adding another hard drive. You can also replace any hard drive more capacious model, without shutting down the store. These are distributed over the hard disks in a way that failure of one HDD will not lead to data loss. If you want, you can enable a dual redundancy. Of course, part of the physical space will be “lost” in the information storage redundancy.

Storage Drobo 5N can be purchased at retail at a price of about 450 euros.

Drobo 5N: Hardware

Even in appearance Drobo 5N differs from most other NAS. Front panel, fastened to the body magnets, made quite simple and does not contain any buttons, the display and interfaces. Provided that unless the manufacturer’s logo on the top. During operation, the front panel light indicators somewhat, but off, they are not visible.

The housing piece, it is made of sheet steel anthracite color, rounded edges, it looks pretty good. The front panel is made of polished plastic, but it is too clearly visible scratches.

Drobo 5N comes in a large cardboard box. Drobo 5N Self storage packaged in a fabric case and concluded between the shockproof plastic inserts. Over the NAS has another flat cardboard box in which the accessories are packed. There is also a Quick Start Guide.

Supplied with the NAS, patch cable, external power supply to IEC cable, Quick Start Guide.

The front cover is secured by magnets, it can be easily removed with minimal effort. For cover hidden storage compartments. Discs can be inserted directly into the compartments, without any additional trays. However, this approach limits the drives only 3.5 “format. Each compartment has a locking mechanism, if you click on the tab, drive a bit to expose. Inside the cover there is a brief description of the LED. Each disk refers its status indicator, and added LAN activity indicator. A special feature is a series of ten blue LED below, displaying an array of filling.

Hard drives can be installed or remove separately. Special function Drobo 5N operating system is its own ID for each HDD, which is assigned by the operating system. Unlike traditional RAID, you can change the position of the hard drive without the collapse of the array. This option is quite handy, because in our tests for the lower disc, which is located next to the motherboard with the CPU, hotter. So it makes sense to install the hard drives in the 7,200 rev / min in the upper compartments.

Vibro HDDs done well, while the access noise is almost not noticeable. If the slot is not used for HDD, automatic plug rises. Technically Drobo 5N supports disk capacity up to 64 TB, so that you can easily install even the 10-terabyte HDD – the largest available capacity at the moment. Furthermore, since Drobo 5N hard disks inserted directly into compartments, problems with incorrectly positioned holes for bolts have here.

Drobo 5N review: innovative network NAS storage on 5 discs

Behind Drobo 5N clearly shows that very little storage interfaces. Almost the entire back panel is reserved for the ventilation grille. In addition to the power switch and a small socket for connecting an external power supply has a Kensington lock hole and an RJ-45 port for Gigabit Ethernet. Unfortunately, Drobo 5N user will have to forget about connecting external hard drives via USB.

For metal bars mounted 120mm fan that throws the hot air outside the NAS enclosure. Unfortunately, the network interface Drobo 5N does not support the Wake on Lan.

The bottom cover is installed, which can be opened by simply pushing the latch. Under the hood lurks mSATA slot for SSD installation. It is used automatically by the system for caching, but add the drive to the total amount of data or as a separate volume is impossible.

Front have installed Drobo 5N aforementioned multiple LED, indicate the status of storage devices and a LAN port. During the launch of storage all the lights turn green and then go out and show the access activity.

Hardware Drobo 5N leaves a good impression, although we are somewhat surprised limited number of interfaces. Software Drobo also differs from other NAS manufacturers.

Drobo 5N: Software

The main objective is to NAS reliable data storage, which should provide quick access at any time. But today, NAS often perform other tasks. Many users opt for NAS relatively low power consumption as compared to PCs, as well as various functions that convert into a compact storage server. Modern NAS can play media, web-application support and hosting features, server virtualization, etc. Do not forget about the additional data protection, cloud services and the ability to backup data to other NAS.

Drobo 5N review: innovative network NAS storage on 5 discs

But Drobo has chosen a different path, which can be called minimalist and quite close to Apple products: everything is simple and intuitive, the user is not charged with an abundance of advanced features. Of course, you can extend the functionality through Drobo application, but the basic version 5N supports access to network drives via SMB / AFP protocols. That is, in fact, we have an external hard drive that connects over the network.

The first setting

Installing Drobo 5N quite simple. The storage must be installed at least one hard disk drive, followed by a PC or Mac to install the program “Drobo Dashboard”, download it on the manufacturer’s website. Then simply turn Drobo 5N, after some time Dashboard utility will detect the storage.

Operating system

Problems with the modern or outdated web-interface is not here, because Drobo 5N does not support itself. Managing storage is possible only through the Dashboard tool. It is only available for Windows and Mac OS X, Linux users will have to find another network storage.

Interface Drobo the Dashboard is optimized for management of multiple Drobo systems, both the NAS, and DAS. A few seconds after the start Dashboard utility found our store Drobo 5N, having given his condition and occupied capacity. You can then select the desired option. At the first connection, we recommend that you change the Administrator account password.

In the Dashboard you can view information Drobo system state, all beautifully decorated graphically.

As we have noted above, Drobo BeyondRAID system differs from traditional arrays RAID. In the case of RAID 5, for example, data is divided into blocks (user information and redundancy), and then evenly distributed among all RAID disks. Recording information in the RAID is always carried out on all available drives.

BeyondRAID, on the other hand, uses a more flexible approach, namely several modes of data distribution and data redundancy. Each disk is divided into smaller areas, and then distributes the data BeyondRAID different areas on different disks. All this allows you to use drives of different sizes more effectively than in the classic RAID arrays.

For the tests we took HDD Toshiba different sizes instead of our classic WD Red to 2TB. And we typed “hodgepodge” hard drives of different sizes, from one to six terabytes. But this combination is not the most optimum in capacity because of the total volume of 13,64 TiB (= 15 TB) five drives we received only 8.17 of TiB, information on redundancy of TiB gone 3.65, and 1.81 of TiB lost iz an unfortunate capacity allocation. Moreover, the unused space is automatically taken into account in the expansion drive. For example, when we replaced the 1-TB drive capacity HDD to 6TB, the unused area has disappeared, and the useful volume increased to 12,71 TiB (information redundancy 5,47 TiB). The site has a calculator Drobo capacity (Capacity Calculator), which makes it easy to calculate the available capacity in any configuration.

In the case of five identical disks (and a simple redundancy) Drobo works like RAID 5, that is, the capacity of one hard drive goes under the redundancy information. In the case of dual redundancy, we obtain an analogue of RAID 6 that is available capacity of three of the five disks. When a single redundancy configuration Drobo always lost the largest capacity hard drive.

Drobo 5N review: innovative network NAS storage on 5 discs

Compared to traditional RAID modes from BeyondRAID has its advantages in efficient use of space when disks when using different HDD capacity. However, many NAS is used not pure RAID 5, so that the benefit is not unique Drobo. For example, it focuses on the Synology SHR mode, which is different from the classical to the RAID level of management (LVM), providing great flexibility. On Synology sites and Drobo calculators available capacity, which allows to calculate the usable capacity HDD in the case of different configurations. And on the available capacity, both companies are on an equal footing.

The benefits of BeyondRAID include switching to higher-capacity hard disk drive “on the fly”. Storage will automatically start rebuilding the array, as well as optimize the available capacity.

BeyondRAID always tries to optimally distribute the data, using a total of seven modes. If the system has only one hard drive, it will BeyondRAID simply copy its data from one place to another that protects against single disk failure surface. Other modes involve copying data to other disks (up to three), analogue of RAID 5/6 (data distribution and data redundancy across multiple drives), as well as cloning. But, in contrast to RAID, data redundancy information not always distributed across all available HDD, but only by a few. In an array of several HDD to a hard disk can contain, for example, only the data without data redundancy.

In the event of hard drive failure to complete the restructuring of the array you want to install a new hard drive. But you can also add to the configuration of the unused hard disk for hot replacement of that array to reduce the time of restructuring. In addition, when there is significant BeyondRAID unused spare disk space may play a role space, distributed over existing HDD. Drobo calls this function “Virtual Hot Spare”. In our tests, when we are filled with little available that feature worked well. After removing the HDD launched a process of restructuring, and in a couple of hours of the array is completely ready, with full information redundancy. Installing a new HDD instead of the defective leads to a new restructuring with optimal configuration. If you remove the drive for a short period of time, then the Drobo 5N recognize such a scenario, a complete overhaul is not required, all hard drives are active.

Of course, BeyondRAID has its limitations. If you come down a second hard drive, without the active dual redundancy, most of the data is lost, they will have to restore from backup. We hope that you do not forget to back up data.

You can check the status of installed HDD. Unfortunately, detailed SMART information is not provided, but Drobo storage automatically monitors the status of hard drives. Fixed HDD failures, delays and other errors. Based on the Drobo data, if necessary, may remove a damaged hard drive from an array and require replacement. Unlike other systems, BeyondRAID HDD stores ID, so that reuse in the future will not work.

Administration Options from Drobo 5N less than other NAS systems. You can create a shared network folder for which you can set permissions on a user basis. Shared folders can be set as a target backup Time Machine. Encrypting drives or folders from Drobo 5N is not supported.

In Drobo Dashboard, you can easily connect the shared folder to the computer

In addition to simple functions, such as storage off, you can restart the NAS, to carry out checks for updates, or perform a factory reset. Also, there are some additional settings that are scattered on the four sub-menus.

You can activate double redundancy in the general settings submenu, which will lead to the restructuring of the array. You can also dim the brightness of the LED and activate the HDD spindle stop after a certain idle mode. In the latter case, you can not specify the exact period of inactivity, just select the number of minutes. Drobo also indicates that the NAS verifies the integrity of data in the background and, if necessary, performs correction. Verification is performed when the store is idle. Probably for this reason, for a limited period of test drives and did not stop spindles.

In the setting “Admin Settings” you can configure the administrator account and activate Drobo Apps application.

Finally, the last item on the settings in the Drobo Dashboard can be activated by sending alerts, via an email, although the system log is missing.

Drobo Apps

Like most modern NAS, Drobo 5N offers the functionality of the application “Apps”. The Dashboard is integrated similarity AppStore, which contains about 60 applications. Among them are quite well-known programs such as Plex, Owncloud, BitTorrentSync and WordPress, using ProFTPD FTP server, you can add functionality, nominally missing. And through NFS – support the appropriate protocol. Online Drobo present an overview of the most important applications.

To program with its own interface can be accessed via a browser. Some applications with Apps portal contains a link to the configuration page, where you can make the appropriate settings. Depending on the application, it should be the IP-address Drobo and corresponding port to access the browser.

On Drobo 5N can install Plex, but transcoding “on the fly” on the CPU Marvell can not be performed.

Data backup

Considering Drobo 5N should be remembered that the focus is on the Drobo storage DAS, which are connected directly to the system through USB / Firewire / Thunderbolt, and the entire “intelligence” is shifted toward the host-system, whether it is a PC or Mac. Storage Drobo 5N good job with a reliable data storage, but it can be used for Time Machine only as a backup target or to perform file backup via SMB / AFP. Drobo 5N in standard configuration does not provide data backup to external storage, external servers or other network repositories.

Among Drobo Apps, you can find the application to connect to cloud services and CrashPlan ElephantDrive, but that options are exhausted, as the same functionality does not support rsync repository. Other NAS storage typically offer a large set of server functions, including data and enhanced backup repository may serve as a backup source and target. If Drobo 5N we have only basic NAS functions. In other words, we have more of a “smart” external hard drive connected via the network, which can run Plex server.

Drobo 5N: Benchmarks


Storage Drobo 5N is equipped with a 4-core processor Marvell on the ARMv7 architecture, which provides all the control and BeyondRAID. We could not get information about the clock speeds, but the chip is likely refers to the range of the Marvell Armada XP. Rather, we have a design MV78460, shown in the middle of 2012. The clock speed of 1.2 GHz, it seems quite likely.

We handed the data over Gigabit interface in different scenarios to test the speed of the Drobo 5N. Because Drobo 5N does not offer encryption and RAID modes, the tests we carried out not so much. Since Drobo 5N in standard configuration does not support FTP access, we have established through Drobo Apps FTP-server ProFTPD. As usual, we used to test hard drives Western Digital Red 2TB (WD20EFRX) in an amount of five units.

Drobo 5N for transmission SMB (Windows network) showed nice high level of reading and writing speed. By reading the gigabit interface is loaded completely, according to the recording we got level just above 100 MB / s. Speed Reading with Drobo 5N via FTP is also performed at full gigabit interface speed, except that the recording we have received no more than 50 MB / s.

Initialization time

Initialization Drobo 5N performed relatively quickly. After installing the hard drive in minutes required system. Rebuilding the array runs a little faster than other NAS, which can be associated with a well thought-out concept BeyondRAID, which accounts for less than overwriting data. At the start Drobo 5N usually takes about two minutes, but much faster off the vault – in seconds.

Energy consumption

As energy consumption Drobo 5N showed pleasantly low for the NAS to a 5-compartments.

In idle mode, the storage consumed about 34 watts when access operations we got the level of just below 40 watts. Power consumption with spindle stopped we were not able to measure because so and failed to make the stop spindle rotation.

Noise level

The level of noise Drobo 5N showed mixed results. In our tests, we have established five WD Red 2TB, the noise level was at an average level.

Fan operation was clearly audible in the background of hard drives. Storage Drobo 5N can not be called overly loud, but his work will be noticeable in a quiet room at a distance of half a meter. The noise from the access to the hard drives is suppressed quite effectively, it is barely noticeable.

Drobo 5N: conclusion

Drobo 5N – quite an interesting product, even if it differs significantly from other NAS systems that we commonly test. he copes very well with the basic tasks of network storage. Inside, you can set up to five hard drives, access is possible via the protocols SMB (Windows) or AFP (Mac OS X), there is the possibility of the administration network shares and users.

Drobo 5N peculiarity is that the store is focused on maximum simplicity. In the case of other NAS systems, users are faced with a simplified, but still technically sophisticated tuning and administration of the RAID arrays and volumes, in case of the Drobo 5N just install inside the hard drive and NAS and install the utility. Additionally, you may need to specify what type of redundancy you prefer (single or double), as well as a few clicks to set up shared network folder. Everything else will do BeyondRAID: when changing the configuration of hard disk array is rebuilt in the background automatically, you can also add a spare hard drive, which will be activated in the event of a HDD failure. If you need more storage space, it is enough to add a new HDD or replace your old HDD high capacity hard drive. Drobo 5N automatically rebuild the array through BeyondRAID system, the data is striped across the disks differently than conventional RAID arrays. Above we mentioned the flexibility of changing the array configuration, the same applies to background checks and recovery. Is that somewhat bothered by the fact that BeyondRAID is a proprietary system, so in the worst case you can not read the data from the array in the same Linux system.

Drobo 5N review: innovative network NAS storage on 5 discs

Drobo 5N is positioned as a “pure” network storage, without all the excess. Therefore, the NAS does not have many functions that users are accustomed to modern network storage. You can not back up data to external drives, because they simply do not have the connection interfaces. Also, Drobo 5N is not possible to back up data to the NAS via other common rsync or FTP protocols. Before us is still “pure” network storage, which can be operated except as a target for backup Time Machine, also supports synchronization with a pair of cloud services. However, some advanced features yet supported through the application installation “Apps”, including present and Plex server that may cheer some users.

The performance of the Drobo 5N showed themselves well. Via SMB or FTP (after additional server installation) can read data at full gigabit connection speed, if the background is not running any applications. When recording through SMB storage rate is more than 100 Mbytes / sec, while in the case of FTP, we get a much lower efficiency. Encrypting data storage Drobo 5N is not supported. As energy consumption Drobo 5N also showed quite good results. Drobo 5N can not be called noisy, disk access operations are drowned very effective, but the fan work is too noticeable to be attributed to the category of NAS quiet.

In general, Drobo 5N as a network storage provides a very flexible namely storage and data protection. Add to this the ease of use, so that the store has something to stand out among competitors. But the functionality of simplification in comparison with the classic NAS systems have their drawbacks. At least, advanced reservation here would not hurt.

Probably, Drobo 5N should not be regarded as a high-end network storage with server functions, like the Synology or QNAP products. Under Drobo 5N better understanding of “intelligent” drive connected to the network, which can offer several bonuses, including the installation of additional applications (the same Plex server). In contrast to host-connected DAS storage system, where the data can access multiple systems.

In the retail Drobo 5N will cost from 450 euros, or by 55.5 thousand. Rubles, and for the money store can offer a lot, especially if the NAS usage profile will suit you. On the other hand, the model sold in the market for more than three years. If you need a NAS encryption, good expandability and redundancy features, and you are willing to “dig deeper” and spend more effort to administer and configure, it makes sense to take a modern NAS from QNAP, Synology, Thecus and Asustor. If this functionality is not required, and the complexity, Drobo 5N cope with their work.

Benefits Drobo 5N:

  • Very easy installation
  • Fully automatic operation of the repository
  • The intelligent control system drives with a high degree of data protection (BeyondRAID)
  • Easy replacement disks
  • High speed data transmission

Disadvantages Drobo 5N:

  • There is no support for encryption
  • No Wake-on-LAN function
  • The relatively high level of fan noise
  • Only suitable for SMB / AFP
  • No advanced features of data backup

Source: drobo

Drobo 5N review: innovative network NAS storage on 5 discs was last modified: August 6th, 2016 by Tomas Shellby