Drobo B810n is hands down, the best 64TB NAS device around.
If you haven’t noticed in the past few weeks, I’m a huge Drobo fanatic. This is a company that I both respect and admire. You don’t get my admiration by having a cool name. You have to have a product that is amazing. Drobo from day one has been my go to for storage solutions. Heck, I own four of the seven Drobo’s in their lineup. I love my little black boxes so much that I still have my very first Generation One USB Drobo. It used USB 1.0, so it’s quite slow when it comes to data transfer now, but I have an emotional attachment to this electronic storage device. So I keep it locked up, stored in a firesafe in a closet, safe and sound with a backup of files of photos and family stuff I would hate to lose.
My point here is finding an emotional connection to a brand is what every company wants, but little achieve. So, why do I have this connection to this brand, and why should you? Like Apple says, “It just works.” For the many years, that I’ve used Drobo as my total backup solution, I’ve never had a problem that was not simple to fix. The company strives to give the end user power and simplicity wrapped up in the blackbox with the glowing green lights.
I’ve been super fortunate and given the great opportunity to review the Drobo B810n – the World’s First 64TB NAS with Data-Aware Tiering. Just like the rest of the Drobo family, it’s an amazing machine. The Drobo Mini is my favorite portable storage device and the B810n is my all time favorite Drobo. Period.
The Drobo B810n US Part Number DR-B810n-5A21, isn’t just a great storage solution – it’s also a problem-solver. One of the major issues with NAS systems is that when multiple users access them, overall performance of the system drops. The B810n solves this issue by providing all users with uniform performance through Data Tiering and a feature called Hot Data Cache. Both of these features works as a prioritization of sorts to make sure the data you access the most is the most easily available.
Data Tiering looks at the data you are using and demotes it across the different types of hard drives, or tiers you have in the Drobo. If you have it available, your ‘hot’ data will be stored on your SSDs so that you don’t experience a delay when attempting to access it. The Hot Data Cache works with the Data Tiering process. Basically, this feature accelerates data reads and prefetches data based off of how you normally call up files. It’s a faster way to access your data. These two features will really help you to consider your hard drive planning for your Drobo.
mSATA is a must have add-on to the 5N, 5D, and Drobo Mini. So, why am I not including the B810n in that list? It’s because there is no mSATA card slot on the device. Because of Drobo Data Tiering and Hot Data Cache, all you have to do is insert two SSD’s into any of the slots of your Drobo B810n and the Drobo will use them in the same manor as it would an mSATA card. You can even use 2.5 inch laptop drives with your B810n by putting them in an icydock that will convert your 2.5″ drives to 3.5″ drives. There are no tools required for the 2.5” SSD carriers.
The Drobo B810n has a drive capacity of up to 64TB and it’s the first NAS system to offer that kind of capacity. There are 8 hard drive bays that can each hold up to 8TB per bay. Part of Drobo’s system allows for you to upgrade your drives individually. What is cool about this is that you can gradually work your way up with higher capacity drives instead of upgrading them all at once, which can be very pricey. For example, let’s say you acquire 2 new 4TB drives. You have the option to swap out the older 2TB drives from 2 of the bays and the Drobo will continue working flawlessly even if the capacity sizes in all the bays a mismatched. The B810n is compatible with SATA or SSD hard drives. You also have the freedom to choose any drives (or brands) you prefer.
BeyondRAID & Disk Management
Drobo utilizes a BeyondRAID technology. Basically, it’s standard RAID technology with an added layer of virtualization. This is the part of the system that ensures disk redundancy (single or dual-disk). With BeyondRAID, the system makes sure your data is safe and the Drobo will automatically layout your data, if there is a drive failure, and then return the disk to a protected state. It does this without any intervention from the user. To read more about this, check out our review of the Drobo 5D.
Even though the process of protecting your data is automatic, replacing failed drives is not. Drobo strongly suggests, as do I, that you replace bad drives as soon as possible. To aide with this process, Drobo has built-in a system that involves its bright LED lights. The colors change with the health of your system. So, if there is a failed drive, the entire Drobo will flash red to let you know that it’s time to change a drive out. There is a color legend attached to the inside of the cover so that you can always stay informed. In addition to the LED alert system, Drobo has a wonderful, user-friendly dashboard that gives you access to files, settings, and apps.
The speed of the B810n is incredible. The Drobo 5N is no slouch, but the B810n really walks circles around it thanks to its Hot Data Cache and Dual Ethernet Port Bonding features. Because of the Ethernet Port Bonding, I went out and got a new Gigabit switch to plug in all my ethernet connected devices. Before using the new B810n, I had not used any devices that bonded Gigabit ethernet cables together. You’re getting twice the read/write performance that you would get via a single port. In addition to the port bonding, the Drobo B810n features some highly advanced network protocols including CIFS, SMB, and AFP. The designers have also worked in a couple of additional Ethernet features including connection failover, which helps to ensure you have a stable Internet connection even if one part of the Drobo fails, and jumbo frames compatibility. All of these factors make data transfer on the B810n super speedy.
A new feature that is included with the B810n is DR: Offsite Data Replication. It’s a new option in the Drobo Dashboard that allows you to set-up a pair of B810ns to automatically make an offsite copy of your data. Because the B810n stores your user account information, recovery from the offsite Drobo is simple. So, for example, if you have one B810n at work and one at home you can keep all of your files secure because the Drobo at your home location will backup to the Drobo at your work location, or vice versa. Pretty much, it becomes your personal offsite online back-up cloud similar to Backblaze or Crash-plan, but only better because you have full control of your data from end to end. There is no middle man.
The B810n is also optimized for Time Machine and one or more users can use it to back-up. You can separate shares and assign each a maximum size to have. The Drobo software controls how much space Time Machine can take up on the share. Drobo gives you multiple options for backing up your data and keeping it safe. It’s just one more reason that I love this system so much.
Critical Data Protection
Something all Drobo’s have had that’s not been publicized much is how Drobo can protect the user from critical data loss. Drobo uses a built-in battery in case of a sudden power outage. The Drobo will cache your directory structures to an internal flash-based non-volatile storage to ensure when you connect again that your data is safe. This small battery will recharge itself and lasts the life of your Drobo. So, there is no need to worry about replacing it. Because the Drobo is using RAM memory to cache these files, it does not take up any space on your current front 8 bays. This is a very cool feature and it really helps restore peace of mind that your important, irreplaceable data is safe.
Apps & System Compatibility
Not too long ago, Drobo started offering apps that work hand-in-hand with the Drobo ecosystem. This is an option that started with the Drobo 5N and continues and gets stronger with the Drobo B810n. From amazing apps like Plex Media Center to OwnCloud, you can find a great array of apps to increase your productivity or entertainment with Drobo apps. Personally, I’ve been using the Plex Media Center and have had wonderful results with it. It runs smoothly and accesses data quickly and efficiently.
I have been using my Drobos almost exclusively with my MacBook Pro. That being said, I have also viewed files using my iOS devices at times (via third party apps like Plex). I can personally vouch for how well Drobo works with those system, but if you aren’t a Mac user, you might be interested to know that the Drobo B810n is compatible with all major modern operating systems including:
- Mac OS X 10.8 or higher
- Windows 10 32- and 64-bit
- Windows 8/8.1 32 and 64 bit
- Windows 7 32 and 64 bit
- Windows Server 2012 32 and 64 bit
- Windows Server 2008 R2 32 and 64 bit
Drobo makes some of the best devices in this marketplace. I love the technology behind them and when it comes to the competition, Drobo stands high above the rest. If you’re a consumer, prosumer, or business class user, Drobo has what you’re looking for. You won’t be disappointed with the B810n. I love mine.
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