I’ve ditched Drobo

I got the Drobo Gen 3 on 28 Feb 2015. It gave me a good 5 years of ease. It met the requirement of install and forget, allow me to add harddisk as I go while providing redundancies and allow me to swop out the already installed harddisk when I want to upgrade. As of early May 2020, it runs with 2 x 8Tb and 2 x 4Tb.

It went into a infinite loop of reboots in Apr 2020. It was the covid19 pandemic and Singapore is on partial stay home order we call the Circuit Breaker. Newegg managed to deliver a 8Tb harddisk. Popped it in, it booted up fine. I was testing out FreeNAS on a spare PC so popped in all the 4Tb I have on hand and rushed through the last few tests I wanted to feel confident for it to hold my production data. Photos of my children, from them being pulled out of the womb to their growing up photos. These are irreplaceable. There are also the assignment shoots and past projects that are important as well.

Don’t make the mistake of building a FreeNAS or for the matter, even getting a Drobo or Synology and not testing it. Trying to Google how to replace a failed harddisk the right way when it has failed is the way to get things worse that it is. Get your array up, pull a drive, see what error message appears. What to do to replace the harddisk properly.

As of July 2020, I’m using both FreeNAS and UNraid. I have them synced and one more copy to a 8Tb that’s on my main desktop PC. There is also the continuous backup to Opendrive with unlimited space but I’ve found there is a lag of 3 months of data at times. It takes time to sync to Opendrive cloud.

I hope not to go back to fully close systems like Drobo or Synology. Your harddrives fail, you buy new ones, you pop it in, it rebuilds. If your Drobo fails, you’re stuck. You’ll have no access to your files or photos in the Drobo just like me when it went into a reboot loop. You can of course, get a new Drobo. They do have an (costly) upgrade path…With FreeNAS and UNraid, if your drive fails, you buy new ones, you rebuild. If your hardware fail, your boot device, USB drive, SSD you install UNraid into fail, you replace. it boots up. Your motherboard fails, you take out all the harddrives and install them on any other motherboard with the same number of ports. you do not have to care if harddrive 1 was in port 1, or harddrive 2 was in port 2. Just install all the harddrives in, connect all the harddrive into the motherboard and boot it up. It will be imported automatically.

For me, FreeNAS (11.3-U2):

  • Enterprise class stuffs, ZFS.
  • Reading the Forums usually will an answer already as others have encountered it.
  • If I was using this strictly as a Drobo replacement only. It is superb and it’s cheap. Im running a 8 year old motherboard with DDR3 rams in it. I’ve tried replacing the motherboard. The USB drive it boots from. It just won’t die. The data are always intact. Search youtube on people intentionally trying to kill FreeNAS. It’s robust. It refuses to die.
  • Compression built in is great.
  • Out of the box snapshots. Roll back to any file version you please within Windows.
  • Encryption is great but I did ransomware myself during one test when i forgot to export my latest keys after a hard drive swop test.
  • Lawrence Systems on Youtube is all you need to get started. Professional video, to the point. No techno music. He knows his shit and he knows it well.

UNraid (6.8.3):

  • The community is more readily to help.
  • You’ll see more newbie question. The crowd is generally different. Home users etc.
  • Generally slower even with a SSD cache disk.
  • VM and Docker containers are awesome, easy. Managed to run Fedora, Apache, Windows 10, PRTG with ease.
  • GUI is great.
  • ZFS support is not native. I’m not using anything that is not native for now.
  • Snapshots are not native. Command lines available in BTRFS or ZFS.
  • Help videos on Youtube…you’ll run into SpaceInvaderOne at some point if you are using UNraid. It’s not the highest production quality and i like techno but not when it’s blaring so loudly when trying to listen to what he’s trying to explain.

Drobo

  • Limited expandability. With the 5D Gen 3. You are stuck with 4 bays. Forever. There’s also the Drobo B810n 8-Bay. Sure. It cost 1.8K USD. You can build a FreeNAS/ UNraid and have money left to upgrade your main computer with a brand new monitor, keyboard and mouse.
  • Proprietary technology. you break it, you MUST go back to them.
  • Install and forget. Easy peasy.
  • Photographers love it as with Synology too. Not everyone knows how to build a PC. There’s more free time I hope with the covid19, maybe time to learn a new life skill.

Running FreeNAS and UNraid alone are not backup solutions. Having one of them or even both of them and not doing backup will be your fault when you lost things.