I use a 4-bay Drobo (2nd generation) to backup my iMac’s hard drive and to archive stuff which doesn’t need to be permanently on the computer anymore. The Drobo is marketed as an easy-to-use system which will protect you against data loss due to its intelligent RAID system. The device has four slots for hard drives and the data is distributed in such a way among the discs, that two drives can fail and you still have all your data. Sooper safe, isn’t it ?

Well, no. A few years ago the data was not accessible anymore. The Drobo was recognized by disc utility but could not be mounted in the Finder. That time a friend was able to rescue the data with DiskWarrior. That’s when I decided to alter my backup strategy and not rely on the Drobo alone. August last year my Drobo refused to mount in the Finder for the second time. All four drives were ok, but again Mac OS’ disc utility recognized the Drobo but was unable to repair it. With a corrupted file system (and I have absolutely no idea how that occurred) the device could not be mounted, the data is effectively lost. Thanks to my totally paranoid backup strategy (I have three separate copies of my archive) I could reformat the Drobo and copy the complete archive back on the device from one of the other two copies. The time machine backup was lost, but since there was nothing I needed to recover I just made a new time machine backup from the current content of my iMac’s HDD.

Now the very same problem occurred. Drobo refuses to mount, all repair attempts failed. I could reformat the Drobo and start all over again, but I can not trust the product anymore. Whatever the cause is – I won’t use a Drobo as my backup system in the future, sorry guys !

Looking for alternatives I have purchased a Synology DS414. It has also 4 slots and is not only a RAID system but also a NAS, meaning I can use it as a file server and access data from anywhere. But that will be the topic for another post. The message of today’s entry is

a.) no more Drobo for me and
b.) a single backup / archive is not enough !

Have at least two copies of your archive. To further minimize the chance of data loss use hard drives from different manufacturers and store the hard drives in physically different places, ideally in separate buildings (e.g. your home and a good friend’s home or your office).