DATA ROBOTICS GAINED a lot of interest from both the media and the public when it launched its first Drobo product a few years ago, as its BeyondRAID technology made it easy for the general consumer to get an external, expandable storage solution. Now the company is back with a solution that offers the same features, but with network connectivity, namely the Drobo FS.
Data Robotics’ first attempt at network connectivity was called the DroboShare which was an add-on for the original Drobo which was something of a hack that allowed the USB 2.0 port on the Drobo to be connected to the DroboShare which then allowed the Drobo to be shared over the network. The Drobo FS is somewhat similar to the Drobo S, as both have space for five drives and the enclosure design is very similar. However, the Drobo FS only connects via Gigabit Ethernet, while the Drobo and Drobo S rely on USB or FireWire connectivity, although the S also has eSATA.
The Drobo FS is, as such, different from Data Robotics’ previous devices – not counting the DroboPro and DroboElite which targets a different market segment with a price tag to match – as it’s the first device from Data Robotics that focuses solely on network connected storage. In the grand scheme of things this doesn’t really mean much, as the kind of data you’d store on the Drobo FS wouldn’t be that different from what you’d use previous Data Robotics products for, it’s just that it has some added benefits.
By being a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device, the Drobo FS is not tied to a single computer as often was the case with the previous devices, although you could of course share them over the network, just like any other hard drive. The advantage Data Robotics has is, of course, the easy of which you can add extra drives to the Drobo, compared to the slightly more time consuming and cumbersome way this is done with a traditional NAS. You also have the option to add one drive at a time, although at least two are required to really keep your data safe.
The Drobo FS is also price competitive compared to other NAS devices in its class, as the MSRP of $699 without drives places it about $100 cheaper than the Thecus N5500, which also supports five hard drives. Data Robotics keeps its actual hardware specs secret, so it’s a bit hard to compare the Drobo FS to other NAS devices in terms of specifications. The Drobo FS also supports DroboApps, which allow you to add a selection of features, much like you can with the latest generation of NAS devices.
It will be interesting to see how well Data Robotics can compete against more traditional NAS devices with its Drobo FS, as this is so far an unknown territory for the company. The price point is going to be a deal breaker for most home users, although we can see a lot of small businesses might pick up the Drobo FS due to its easy install and upgradability without a lot of technical knowledge.S|A
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