A warning for all Drobo users

I have a 2nd generation Drobo at home with approximately 1.2TB of data stored across all four drives that are installed. I’ve been using this setup for a couple of years now and it has worked out great! I have the drive connected via Firewire to my Mac Pro and while it doesn’t break any speed records for data transfer, it is sufficient for offloading storage and keeping it safe. FWIW, I also backup all of my data off-site via CrashPlan, but given that I have a 30/5 Internet connection, the speed of backing up and restoring large amounts of data is a horrible experience.

Last week I had one of my drives go bad and thus received the red light on that drive’s bay and a notice on my Mac to replace the drive. I replaced it with a known good drive of equal size, but one that had previously been used in another Drobo. Immediately after I replaced the drive the Drobo started rebuilding, or at least that’s what I thought. The “rebuild” turned to all of my drive bays flashing red along with my Mac Pro no longer being able to access any data on my Drobo.

I posted this to Twitter and Drobo was kind enough to respond and asked me to submit a support ticket even though my Drobo was well outside the warranty period. After submitting the logs from my Drobo Dashboard I was told that since the replacement drive that I inserted into the failed drive bay had previously been used in another Drobo unit that I would either have to get a new drive that hadn’t been used in a Drobo before or completely wipe my Drobo unit and start over. According to Drobo support, there is no way to wipe a Drobo “pack ID” from a drive, not even by doing a complete format on the drive. Removing the new drive from the Drobo reverted the three remaining drive bays to green so the Drobo is usable again, but the 4th bay is currently useless.

This is absurd! I’m not about to wipe my Drobo and have to restore the stuff from a backup (I don’t have enough local storage on my Mac Pro to handle this since I only have a 240GB SSD in that system). I’m also not about to buy a new drive when I have one that works perfectly fine.

I’ve always been one to advocate the use of Drobo’s products under most circumstances (they’re still horrible for things like ESXi IMO) but this event will certainly change the way I recommend their product line in the future.

Leave a Reply