I'm thrilled to welcome Drobo as a new sponsor of iPhone J.D. because my Drobo is one of the rare products that I use every day and really love. What is Drobo? At its core, it is an external hard drive so that you have space to put your files. But Drobo is better than other hard drives because it safe, protecting you even if a hard drive fails, plus it makes it easy to expand your storage.
Safety: protect your files
For over a decade, I have used external drives to store files that I didn't want taking up space on my home computer's internal hard drive, such as home movies and other videos, older documents, photographs that don't really belong in my Photos library on my Mac, etc. The problem with using a hard drive is that every hard drive will fail eventually, and often it happens a lot sooner than you expected. I myself have had about six external hard drives fail on me during the last 10-15 years, and every time that it happens, it is a royal pain. The most obvious danger is forever losing irreplaceable data. Unfortunately, I did lose some files over the years, but fortunately, most of the time I was able to recover from another hard drive that I was using as a backup. But even if you have a backup, it is a real pain to have to go through the recovery process.
Drobo solves this problem by using multiple hard drives. There are several Drobo models available, but the one that I use is the standard one called just the "Drobo" or the "Drobo 4 Bay." This is the third generation version of the Drobo and it has space inside of it for four standard hard drives. Drobo uses a version of a technology called RAID which gives you built-in redundancy, so that every file is stored in multiple places. That way, if/when any one hard drive fails — and I should just say when, because they will all fail at some point — Drobo alerts you to replace that one hard drive, but you haven't lost any data because every file is also contained on another hard drive. For my Drobo, I have four 1 TB drives in the four drive enclosures. Because some of that total 4 TB space is used to for redundancy, my computer sees the Drobo as a 2.67 TB hard drive.
If you want extra protection, you can turn on dual disk redundancy. In this mode, all of your data is protected even if two of the hard drives fail at the same time. If I were to turn on that mode, my four 1 TB drives would give me usable hard drive space of around 1.8 TB. By default, dual disk redundancy is turned off, but the option is there if you want it.
On the front of the Drobo, there is a light to the right of each hard drive. When all four lights are green, I know that each drive is doing fine. If a light starts blinking red, then I know that I need to jump on Amazon and get another SATA drive to replace it, but I don't have to freak out because all of my data is also stored on the other drives. When the new drive arrives, remove the face on the front of the Drobo — which is connected with magnets, so it just pulls right off, no tools required. Then eject the old drive, and slide in the new drive. That's it.
I've been using my own Drobo for about nine months now, and in that time period I haven't had any hard drive crash. But I have removed drives and put them back in just to see how the process works, and it couldn't be easier. And I really mean that. Even though I've been using computers since the 1980s, I don't have much experience with the insides of computer hardware. I've never built my own computer or anything like that. The only internal component that I've ever replaced in a computer is RAM; for anything else, I've taken it in for repair. If I have no trouble removing and inserting a hard drive in a Drobo, anyone can do it.
This is the #1 reason that I love my Drobo. I simply no longer need to worry about a hard drive crash.
Every year, you have even more files to keep, and those files get larger, so you need more space to store your stuff. This is especially true for me because I keep so much video on my Drobo. For example, the iPhone 6s has the option to record 4K video, and I have that turned on. 4K is a little overkill for now — I don't even currently use a TV that can show 4K — but I know that I'll be looking at home movies of my kids that I shoot today for many decades in the future. I remember being excited on my 27th birthday to get a huge 27" TV, which I cannot even imagine using today when I have a widescreen 65" screen. Who knows what technology I'll be using 10-20 years from now, so I figure I might as well create and save the highest quality video files today.
Of course, 4K video requires more disk space than lower-quality video files. And even if you don't need to store 4K video, we all have larger files to save than we did years ago. Although I use my Drobo connected to my home computer, if you want to use a Drobo for your law practice, you know how the number of files associated with your matters proliferate every year. As attorneys become more and more paperless, we are all getting more PDF files, more JPEG files, and even videos associated with our cases, all of which take up more space. You can be sure that whatever is enough space for you today won't be enough space in another year or two.
Fortunately, Drobo can easily grow as your needs grow. Blue lights along the bottom of the Drobo show you how much capacity you are currently using up, with one light for each 10%. I used to have only two lights, then three, and now I'm at four and pretty soon I'll hit five. For now, my total of 2.67 TB of usable space is sufficient, but at some point I'll need more space. Fortunately, I don't need to worry when I do get close to capacity. When you get to 85% capacity, the green light next to a drive will turn yellow, a sign from Drobo that it is time to replace that drive with a larger hard drive. If you get to 95% capacity, the light turns red. It doesn't matter if the different drive bays have different size hard drives; Drobo will just use whatever you give it. So just get a larger drive and add it, and it is OK if some of the other drives are smaller. Best of all, you don't need to worry about manually moving files from an old drive to a new drive; Drobo takes care of all of that.
Thus, with a Drobo, you don't need to worry about planning for the future. The capacity of a Drobo grows as you need it to grow. Drobo even has a handy Capacity Calculator on its website so you can see how much usable space you get when you add different sized hard drives to the different bays in a Drobo.
Drobo comes with Drobo Dashboard software that you can use to work with your Drobo. (I use my Drobo at my house connected to my Mac, but it also works with a PC.) In the Dashboard, you can see specific details on drive capacity and health, dim the lights if you find them to be too bright, format drives, etc. I rarely have the need to use this software because the great thing about Drobo is that it just works.
The Drobo model that I use has support for USB 3.0. I use it at home connected to my iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Late 2014 model) and USB 3.0 speed has been plenty fast enough for my needs. I even keep all of my raw video files and my iMovie database on the Drobo, so when I edit home movies using iMovie I am working with files on the Drobo, not on my iMac's internal hard drive. The Drobo has been more than fast enough to keep up with me as I work.
If you need more space and speed, there are other models available. For example, the Drobo 5D have five bays, plus it has a Drobo Accelerator Bay port where you can add a super-fast SSD so that files accessed frequently can be accessed with SSD speed, and you can use a Firewire connection. I suspect that model is overkill for most iPhone J.D. readers, but it is nice to have the option available if you want it.
Drobo also sells the Drobo 5N model, which is a model that is designed to sit on your network with a gigabit Ethernet port instead of connecting directly to a computer. There are other Drobo models too, such as the Drobo B810n, a NAS device that can handle up to 100 users and grow up to 64 TB.
I like that my Drobo is connected via USB because I also use Backblaze for online backup, and for no extra charge Backblaze will create a backup of any hard drive connected to my computer. That includes the full contents of my Drobo. If my house goes up in flames, it won't matter how many redundant drives I am using if they all melt. But thanks to the USB 3.0 connection, every file on my Drobo is also online, so I'll still be protected.
The model of the Drobo that I use costs $299 if you get it with no hard drives included, handy if you already have some SATA drives that you want to use. I bought it with four 1 TB drives included, and that model costs $549 — a fair price because a decent brand 1 TB SATA drive currently costs around $60 on Amazon. So you can pay about $240 for four drives on Amazon, or pay $250 to just have Drobo send you everything that you need.
But Drobo was nice enough to come up with a special deal for iPhone J.D. readers. For a limited time, if you buy a Drobo 4-bay (the one I use), Drobo 5D, or Drobo 5N on the online Drobo Store, and use coupon code Jeff100, you'll get $100 off. So it will only cost you $449 to get the same configuration that I use and love, or only $199 to get the Drobo with no hard drives included.
Thanks again to Drobo for becoming an iPhone J.D. sponsor. As you can tell, I'm a big fan of this product. You get all the usefulness of external storage, but Drobo solved the two problems with other external hard drives: at some point they fail, and at some point you'll find that they aren't big enough. If you are in the market for external storage, Drobo is a great solution.
I'm including links to both the Drobo Store and Amazon, but note that with the coupon code it will be cheaper for you to buy one from the Drobo Store.