Thoughts on the Drobo Sync feature coming for the DroboPro FS


When I read about the new DroboPro FS from Data Robotics, aimed at the small business market, I saw a new feature, Drobo Sync.  It is coming as part of a new release of Drobo Dashboard in late October/Mid-November 2010 .  I thought, wow, how timely, they read my post about why I don’t recommend a Drobo, and had this just waiting in the wings to tell me a big “told you so”.

Sorry, but I think this feature, while nice, falls a little short.  And, so far, Drobo Sync will only be available with the DroboPro FS.  For other Drobos, there is still DroboCopy, which isn’t identical in functionality, but can setup scheduled backups to even non-Drobo based disk storage.

Data Robotics are touting the Drobo Sync feature as:

Integrated offsite backup – The main new feature with the DroboPro FS is Drobo Sync which allows you to replicate your data from one DroboPro FS to another DroboPro FS on the network.

To make use of this “integrated feature”, you need two DroboPro FS at $1,999 each without disks, and an internet connection, or some sort of connection between them that is fast enough to keep up with all that data.  They also state, on the FAQ, that:

Drobo Sync is a data replication process and not a generational backup utility. The end result of using Drobo Sync will be to have the exact same set of files on the destination system as you have on the source system. If a file gets added or deleted from the source system that same file will be added or deleted on the destination DroboPro FS.

While they do say that it is a “not generational backup”, they don’t come out and say that they recommend the use of another means of backup for really having a backup of your DroboPro FS.  Even on Data Robotics’ “Best Practices” guide, they manage to not make mention of this for any of the Drobos.
I fear that this marketing pitch, while I won’t call it lack of disclosure, can be very dangerous for an uninformed small business and may result in some severe data loss, should something go wrong with one of the devices.

Backing up a DroboProFS

The DroboPro FS maxes out at around 12.5TB or 10.89TB if you enable dual disk redundancy, which I’d recommend, of usable space.  And since a Drobo does make it very easy to just keep expanding that capacity to the max, backing that all up to the only medium with anywhere near that capacity that can be  generational, means using tape.  “Disk Packs”, are also not generational, so they won’t solve that problem either.

As of right now, the highest capacity tape is LTO 5 which can hold 1.5TB uncompressed, per tape.  A tape drive, with a loader to handle that capacity is upwards of $10,000.  And guess what, you will need 2 of those.  Remember, if you need to restore, and you’ve lost the tape drive you created the tape with, your off-site location will need one to put the tapes you want to restore in to.  You would also have to consider the cost of a service to take those tapes, catalog and maintain your tape rotation off-site, and the server to connect the tape library to and more as well.

At those kind of prices, I don’t think the average small business should dive into this technology without knowing the full cost of ownership of this much data.  I think Drobo should have partnered with someone like Mozy, which I doubt would happen since they are owned by EMC2, who makes some nice storage solutions of their own, or, come up with their own cloud storage, or, partner with Amazon’s S3 setup, which could work seamlessly with Drobo Sync.  I think this would be a much more solid offering for small businesses.  Maybe Data Robotics are working on something like this…