Drobo FS reliability

Years ago I bought a Drobo FS (no longer made, but more-or-less equivalent to the Drobo 5N they sell today.)  It’s a nice little package using Drobo’s very easy-to-use RAID system, combined with a Linux-based file-server.  Drobo gave it the ability to have other applications installed on it (they call them DroboApps).  I installed rsync, so that I could use it (with the magical “–link-dest” option) to do Time Machine-like backups of my desktop Windows PC.  Once I got this all working, I was delighted… for about a week.

Then the Drobo started making my life miserable.

Sometimes, in the middle of a backup, rsync would start failing.  Every file copied would fail, with a “read-only file system” error.  Meanwhile, the Drobo’s network share itself would be gone from the network, and the connection to Drobo Dashboard was gone.  The box itself appeared to be fine, nothing weird going on.  But it would be dead to the outside world, and would not come back until it was power-cycled.

This kept happening.  Over and over.  I tried all kinds of debugging strategies, using a remote shell (which still worked) to try to get the file-system to work again, to look for resource leaks or anything that might explain the problem.  Tried rebuilding newer versions of rsync from source and installing those.  Nothing worked.  I worked for a while with Drobo support, which was a generally unsatisfying experience.  They never gave me anything beyond the usual “unsupported third-party software” run-around.

So, my very expensive Drobo FS was basically completely unusable for the primary purpose for which I had bought it.  I stopped using it for backups, instead I installed an rsync package on my antiquated (and much less expensive) Western Digital MyBook World box (which has been happily receiving my backups ever since).  I still kept the Drobo running as a media server for XBMC.  But even in that much reduced role, it sucked.  Every time I wanted to fire up XBMC, the Drobo would be crashed again.

I spent the last few years impotently cursing the miserable overpriced piece of shit and swearing I’d never buy another Drobo product, or recommend one to anybody.

Then something changed.

All this time, I had had the Drobo FS plugged into a UPS.  I recently had reason to make some changes, and the Drobo ended up plugged into the wall, no UPS.  And it’s stopped crashing!  It’s suddenly and miraculously become rock-fucking-solid, I swear to God.

My guess is that the Drobo’s power-supply really doesn’t like the “modified sine wave” output from the UPS.

4 responses to “Drobo FS reliability”

    • Yes, and while I was muttering curses at my Drobo, I was occasionally thinking about building a Drobo-type box of my own, using ZFS. But it’s not easy, if you want it to be really Drobo-like, with hot-swapping, and a cool looking little enclosure.

      I wanted to use a Mini-ITX mainboard. But to find a little toaster-sized chassis with four or five externally-accessible hot-swappable 3.5″ drive slots, that will accommodate a Mini-ITX motherboard… that’s not easy at all.

  1. Drobo has been notorious for their drive crashing. We have an FS in our office for a month at the beginning of the year and have had nothing but hard drive failures. We had 3 drive replacements in 2 weeks. Called drobo for support and they blamed it on the drives, we used drives from 3 different manufacturers and still had an issue. Ended up buying a synology and have had no problems whatsoever. Be cautious with your backups on the drobo.

  2. Interesting story, but please unblock users on the Tor network; I understand that this blog isn’t very active (perhaps it is dormant), but something is blocking requests when browsing from the Tor network.

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