Drobo resurrects, greatly improves its 4-bay network-attached storage


posted Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 3:41 PM EDT


Back in November 2012, network-attached storage company Drobo discontinued its popular entry-level, four-bay NAS system in favor of a new five-bay unit. The Drobo 5D was quite a bit more capable than its predecessor, but it was also much more expensive, putting a Drobo NAS out of reach of many potential customers. Now, Drobo has resurrected its four-bay product with the debut of the third-generation Drobo. (Ed. note: Drobo's website seemed to having intermittent issues at press time, likely due to a surge of traffic with the new announcement.)

Sure, in the meantime the company has also offered the four-bay Drobo Mini, but that uses smaller 2.5-inch drives -- so if you want generous capacity, what you save on the unit itself ends up being spent on the drives. That makes the return of the 4-bay Drobo -- and at a new, lower pricetag, to boot -- welcome news indeed.

So what's changed beyond the price, now US$350 or thereabouts for a bare-bones chassis? Like the 5D and Mini before it, the third-gen Drobo 4-bay switches from USB 2.0 to USB 3.0 connectivity, for a generous improvement in throughput. (And like its predecessors, the new model simultaneously drops the FireWire 800 connectivity of the second-gen unit. Unlike those models, however, it also forgoes Thunderbolt connectivity.)


Performance of the third-gen Drobo 4-bay is also improved, according to its maker. Specifically, the company promises three times faster operation thanks to a new architecture, as well as 4x faster rebuild times in the event of a disk failure. Battery backup has also been added, ensuring the drive has time to shut down gracefully in the event of a power failure. And the new Drobo 4-bay can also tame Apple's Time Machine backups, allowing a set area of storage to be set aside for the function while the remainder of space on the array is still available for data storage.

Available from late April 2014, the updated Drobo 4-bay can be preordered immediately from the company's website. As well as the US$350 barebone, driveless Drobo, versions including disk drives are available from US$600 for a 4TB array to US$1,450 for a 16TB array.