Friday, April 5, 2013

I have seen the light!

I have recently purchased a Synology DS213+. This piece of equipment is nothing short of a marvel of modern technology. It is everything a NAS should be. The interface is AMAZING.

I encourage everyone to try the web interface here:

It required zero software to configure. The logs are excellent and, more importantly, unencrypted. The built-in backup works flawlessly. The permissions, user groups and sharing is equally good.

Low and behold, I did have a legitimate drive failure. The nas notified me immediately, cut off the drive and continued to run without failure.  I replaced the drive, and it rebuilt flawlessly.

This thing just runs and runs and runs. I have had months of 'UP' time. I was so thoroughly impressed, I purchased two more identical units and installed them at other offices that I manage. And then I bought one more for home to host all the network backups. All 4 have been working flawlessly.

Seeing this makes me wonder why the DROBO insists on being so closed without any form of web interface. I'll never understand.

Monday, September 26, 2011

One More Point to Ponder - Returns

I recently received this comment which brings up an important point:

"Got this last 1/2 of June. Then waited for about three weeks for HDD to arrive from NewEgg, I was traveling anyway. So it was July before opened the black box. I couldn't get my iMAC to see this or quit loosing the connection when it went to sleep so I put it aside because the Lion update just came out.

I upgraded to Lion and it got a lot worse, hard to believe, but it did. So it went back into the box waiting for updates.

Over the past month I got it out of the box again and updated the drobo dashboard to "fix" the Lion issue which didn't work (drobo solution on the forums is to roll back Lion to Snow Leopard, yeah that's' not going to work for me).

I can not use it with Apple Time Machine because it looses the connection every time it wakes up or like yesterday NEVER connected without rebooting both machines AND took over 5 minutes to see it AND I still couldn’t save anything to it (yes I was logged in as a registered user).

About 1/3 of the time it doesn't show up on my Win7 laptop at all either, but to be fair even then I can usually still access it using a \\drobo\ even when it doesn't show up in Explorer.

I'm really not happy with the product and have been very patient in waiting for updates, etc, from the company. So I contact the supplier B&H Photo. Yes I know your usual policy is 30 days, however I waited for Apple update, Drobo to update, and guess what it still doesn’t work. I explained this, it’s too old? Go sell it myself?

So I should have just returned it earlier because you say it’s too old because I waited for updates to see if that resolved the problem. Nope, go sell it on your own.

Okay, as promised there will be a WHOLE lot of bad press around me selling it on my own because I’m going to have to agree with drobosucks here (interesting the points to drobo) should tell you something."

This is a warning to those who think that they will buy a Drobo and return it if it doesn't work.  Due to the nature of the Drobo, it is very time consuming. It takes a long time to set up, diagnose, troubleshoot and get support. You will inevitably wait and wait for updates and/or support. As the weeks of waiting go by, this is when the typical 30day vendor return policy to lapse. This is especially true if you attempt to have a replacement sent from Drobo.

All the time and headaches spent trying to make it work will ultimately cause you to be unable to return it. On my first encounter with a drobo, I had to pay my vendor a 40% restocking fee after unsuccessful attempts at making it work. In reality, it only worked for two weeks but it took 3 months to determine it was crap.

Be warned... if you decide to purchase a Drobo and have difficulties, return it immediately. Attempting to diagnose the problem will cost you valuable time and may cause you to be an owner of an expensive brick.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Pleasant Surprise

I was recently contacted personally by one of the Drobo support staff. Data Robotics came across this blog and offered me a refund for the troublesome Drobo S which I happily accepted.  I am thoroughly impressed by the gesture.  I think that I have been a little hard on the support staff at Data Robotics. In general, the support staff were good but the product is poor.

After receiving news of the refund, I will admit that I felt a little guilty about starting this blog in the first place. At this point, I have no major complaints about the service and support staff.  Throughout the numerous problems, they were attentive and helpful. In the end, though, I am leaving this blog in place because I still wouldn't recommend the Data Robotics products to anyone.  An outstanding support staff can never make up for an inferior product.

Here is an excerpt from my e-mail response which sums up my overall thoughts:

Thank you very much for the follow up.  I am very impressed and happy with your offer for a refund.  It was certainly unexpected.  For simplicity, I will happily ship the working Drobo S back to you at my expense.  All you need to do is give me a shipping address.  When you receive the package, you can refund the same Visa I used for the order.
I’m sorry it had to come to this.  In the end, I would rate the service and support excellent with one small exception.  Sometimes the support tickets submitted online are not responded to in a timely fashion. In general, the service and support goes above and beyond expectation.  The problem is more fundamental.  The product is generally finicky, unreliable and does not offer any chance for self diagnostics.  Even the smallest problems require a support ticket to diagnose... even if the problem wasn’t caused by the Drobo itself (ie. hard drive failure).  In addition to the ‘closed’ nature of log files, there are reported instances of data corruption through no fault of the user.  The forum is filled with cases like that; especially using the network attached devices.  Data protection is the cornerstone of your business. Considering the price of the products, random data corruption is completely unacceptable.  In the instances of seemingly predictable data corruption, a CHKDSK repair is the usual solution which does sometimes work but it should never come to that. I haven’t had to use CHKDSK since the days of DOS yet I was running it twice a day using your DROBO!!!  It is a shame because your storage systems offer so many advantages over traditional external hard drives and network attached storage devices.
As always, I am more than happy to respond to questions and provide comments regarding technical and non-technical issues.  Feel free to contact me further if you would like any more information.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Last Time

I have successfully received the replacement Drobo S.  I inserted the drives as instructed and my data is good again. In the next few weeks, I'm going to transfer it to a different storage system but I'm not sure which one yet.  The Drobo S is going on Kijiji shortly thereafter.  Anyone want a slight used Drobo S?!?!

I'll post again after I migrate to the new system and sell the Drobo.  Talk to you all soon.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cold Starts

Ever since the new Drobo S was new, it was always a challenge to get it started.  It would frequently get stuck in the reboot cycle.  This is apparently a common issue because they provided a knowledge base article to cover it ( website link ).  The procedure involves removing the power cord during a startup sequence and removing the drives. It is a very risky procedure and it made me nervous every time.  It always got going but I just learned to never turn it off. 

I shut it down to blow out the dust but was unable to get it going again after hooking it up again.  I followed the familiar startup procedure but it was still stuck in the reboot cycle.  Time to get in touch with the dreaded tech support again.

Due to an upcoming vacation, I was in a small time crunch.  I put in a support ticket online and hoped that they would respond soon.  They didn't.  I had to call them, just like all the other times.  Because of my frustration and time restrictions, I wanted an advance replacement.  I wanted them to send me a new unit and I would ship the defective unit back in the same packaging.  They only offer advance replacement to customers who have purchased 'Drobo Care'; their version of extended warranty.  Did I mention that it is $250????  In so many words, I told them that they can stick their Drobo Care up their asses and they can send me an advanced replacement at their cost in consideration for all my time and frustration.  The low level employee on the phone wasn't able to grant this request but promised a call back from a manager. I was skeptical.

After two days and no phone call, I called them again.  They promised a call back the same day. Within an hour, I was on the phone with the RMA administrator.  He informed me that he would not grant my request.  After a heated discussion of the facts and history of problems, he was very understanding.  They sent out a new Drobo S on a courier the same day at their expense (both ways).  I pre-authorized a visa but it would not be charged unless I don't send the defective unit back.  It was pretty nice of them to finally see things my way, but it was two days too late and I did not get the unit before I went on vacation.  Oh well...

New Generation

After a few months, Data Robotics released a new generation of Drobo storage devices. The Drobo S has capacity for 5 drives and includes an eSATA interface.  I was in the market for a new storage device for my home and I thought I would give the Drobo another try.  After all, home use is a little different than office use.  It also won't be network attached.  How bad could it be?

It was pricey to say the least. After shipping, it set me back almost $750.  I bought it directly from Drobo just to give me a little more leverage if it gives me trouble. I also bought a couple new drives to fill it up.  Again, I'm in this thing for more than $1000.

For the first few weeks it worked fairly well. I had a little trouble getting it started, but I'll discuss that in another post.  Starting about a month after I first used it, the drives would randomly start to rebuild themselves.  The exact cause was not reported on the Drobo Dashboard.  When these random rebuild sessions started locking up the Drobo and / or the computer, I requested support. They reviewed the log files and determined that one of the drives had failed.

I can live with a drive failure.  None of the data was lost and, in a convoluted way, the Drobo did its job. Unfortunately, I had to deal with their exhausting tech support to determine that a drive had failed.  Again, according to the bubbly website rep, Cali Lewis, a failed drive should have been indicated with an obvious red light.  Instead I found out through multiple restarts, computer lockups, hours of array rebuilding and phone calls and e-mails to tech support.

I replaced the failed drive and everything was back to "normal".

Data Corruption and Drives

By now, I am into this Drobo and Drobo Share for more than $1000 and that doesn't include the hard drives or countless hours of frustration.  At least the office is getting some use out of the system and it is relatively stable.  I regularly need to restart it to reestablish the connection but it always seems to get running again. But there is a new problem that I just can't explain, random file corruption and folder oddities.

The majority of our office work involves AutoCAD.  Some mornings, the AutoCAD file I was working on the previous day is corrupt and I am unable to recover it.  Restoring a previous backup file was necessary to keep working. I thought it could have something to do with the nightly backups so I continued to monitor the situation. Eventually the random file corruption started happening throughout the course of the day.  We were constantly having to restore backup files all over the place.  Another complaint was placed with tech support.

Over the next few weeks of screwing around with log files and tests with tech support, they finally sent me a replacement unit c/w drives.  It was at this time that admitted that they don't recommend certain hard drive brands and models. One of the main reasons I purchased a Drobo was because I could use any drive and any size. At least that is what their perky Cali Lewis website demo videos explicitly say.

I hooked up the new Drobo and Drobo Share and installed the new drives directly from Drobo with high hopes of success. When the first file became corrupt, I took it out of service immediately.  In the end, I only had about two weeks of working 'up' time for the three months I owned it.  I was able to get a refund from the reseller but with a 40% restocking fee.  I purchased a real NAS (Seagate BlackArmor) and all new drives. It has been working flawlessly for almost a year without even one minute of down time or maintenance.

Over the course of the Drobo experiment, I lost $400 on restocking and countless hours of troubleshooting and headaches (100+) which I will never recoup. Not impressed.