Drobo & Mylio: The Best Keep Getting Better

Posted Apr. 15th, 2016 by Daniel J. Cox

Drobo & Mylio: The Best Keep Getting Better

I will tell you right up front, this is a bit of a long story but it’s well worth the read if you want a safe, reliable storage solution for your pictures that doesn’t expose them to the seemingly lawless frontier known as “The Cloud.”  Don’t get me wrong, I actually like the cloud, but there are some assets I just don’t want up there possibly floating around out of control. To solve that issue and keep my photographs firmly in my grasp, I’m continuing to use my favorite devices known as Drobo, and it’s the “continuing” part where this story gets interesting.

Drobo Ceo Mihir Shaw, CTo Rod Harrison, VP of Sales Tom Wong and Daniel Cox at Drobo headquarters in San Jose, Ca.

Drobo CEO Mihir Shah, CTO Rod Harrison, VP of Sales Tom Wong, and Daniel Cox at Drobo headquarters in San Jose, CA.

I guess it was about ten years ago when I bought my first digital robotics device known as Drobo. Drobo is basically a black metal box I install five hard drives in that combines them into one drive and gives me massive storage for my 800,000+ digital photo files, all in a super simple to use device. Along with the storage, it also magically distributes the photos over the five hard drives in such a way that if one of its hard drives fail, it won’t effect any of my pictures. This bit of magic has a fancy name known as Beyond RAID and

QA Software Engineer, Albert Langarica hard at work coding the great Drobo software.

QA Software Engineer, Albert Langarica, hard at work coding the great Drobo software.

there’s lots of regular RAID devices on the market. But Drobo Beyond RAID does it different by way of giving me the ability to mix and match virtually any drive I have available. They keep it simple by not requiring I know exactly what speed the drive is, what size it is, what brand, etc. I can pretty much just select a drive and plug it in. That is beautiful beyond belief.

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 3.24.27 PM

And speaking of pure Drobo beauty, no other device comes close to the gorgeous Drobo Dashboard which is the software you get to keep track of your Drobo devices. It may sound strange to be so thrilled with the design of the Drobo Dashboard, but if you’ve seen the competition, you’ll understand why Drobo takes the lead in simplicity and elegance. I bought a Synology device, a competitor to Drobo and was so turned off by the prehistoric looking, Windowsesque, Explorer like interface, I sent it back the next day.

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 3.08.18 PM

For me, Beyond RAID is a must have feature for those of us who don’t want to spend money on hard drive space we might not yet need.  An example of this is a very well known, high quality RAID device called the Promise Pegasus. I actually thought about moving to Pegasus but I had no desire to spend almost $6000 to move away from my Drobos. The

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 3.09.06 PM

Pegasus required that I buy the box with all the drives installed up front. For the one I was considering, that meant I was buying 3-4 hard drives I didn’t yet want. Not only did I not need them, but I would have also been paying for the drives at today’s prices, which in a year will be much cheaper, all for space that wasn’t necessary. Drobo let me do it with a minimum of three drives to start, then add the drives as I need more.

The reason I had to go through all of the above, learning about expensive RAID devices, was due to my migration from Apple’s Aperture to Mylio. One of Mylio’s requirements for its blazing speed is to put all photos being managed by Mylio on one hard drive. That’s not easy when you have a library of almost one million images. Before the newest Drobo

firmware update, my 2-3 year old Drobo 5D’s would only handle 16TB of data and I needed at last 20TB. With the new firmware update for the 5D’s, I can now handle as much as 64TB of data. So I’m set for quite some time.

So I’ve described a bit about what Drobo physically is. What’s equally interesting to me is WHO they are. In the early years of Drobo’s existence they were run by a team of very smart tech people who had amazing talents for building a better mouse trap, so to speak. What they didn’t do so well was customer service, promotion, and getting the word out. Because of this they had a difficult time making a profit which made it impossible to stay abreast of the newest technology solutions. About a year ago, a young man named Mihir Shah put some of his own money up as well as a group of investors and bought Drobo from the mother corporation known as Connected Data.

I became aware of Drobo’s new CEO Mihir Shah by way of an open letter that he shared on the Drobo home page. In his letter he describes some of the hardships the company went through and how he had plans to turn it all around. I came across his heartfelt letter one evening while searching the Drobo website hoping to find out if they planned to update their products to handle the need for larger hard drives. When I read Mihir’s post, I was encouraged I might be on the right track. I immediately went to LinkedIn, looked him up, and sent him an email which he quickly responded to. In short, he promised that what I needed was in fact in the process of prerelease. Below are some the highlights of that open letter from Drobo CEO Mihir Shah.

Here are some of the highlights from the last several months:

  • We have distilled our mission down to what we do best, which is to Preserve Simplicity. Technology is complicated, but from our very early days, Drobo was able to design products in a way that kept that complexity in the background so our customers could enjoy using our products. We are focused again on doing more of that!
  • We have assembled a world class management team by promoting Drobo team members and hiring new executives from leading technology companies.
  • We have introduced new products including the B810n, an 8-bay state of the art Network Attached Storage device that is the easiest product in that segment to set up and use.

Here are some of the things to look forward to in 2016:

  • We are currently working on another new product that will be launching very soon and have re-started our product development pipeline.
  • We are developing a rich set of Drobo Apps that will dramatically increase the ways you can use your Drobo; as always, the focus will always be simplicity and ease of use.
  • We are developing a 3rd party app ecosystem that will allow anyone to develop an app for the Drobo.
  • We developed a plan to dramatically enhance the Drobo customer experience, including more changes in our customer support operations.

A few emails ensued where I explained my desire to find an end to end solution for our Natural Exposures Explorers. That solution included Mylio—software to handle keeping track of their pictures—Drobo, the storage devices to hold those photos, and Lumix for those who wanted to downsize their camera gear. He loved the concept I was working on and I appreciated hearing about the resuscitation of a company and product I greatly admired.

Whenever I get jazzed about something I want to meet the people behind the scenes. With that in mind I asked Mihir if I could come down to meet him and his crew. He agreed, so last week I made the trip to San Jose, California. While there I had a chance to see their offices and meet some of the folks who are bringing this company along with new products, new attitudes, and a desire to succeed. Drobo has several new products about to be released but I’m sworn to secrecy until they hit the ground.

Mihir Shaw and Daniel Cox holding a copy of the Arctic Documentary Project brochure. One of the projects Drobo is indirectly supporting through the donation of a Drobo 5D to hold that Dan's photos are archived on.

Mihir Shah and Daniel Cox holding a copy of the Arctic Documentary Project brochure. One of the projects Drobo is indirectly supporting through the donation of a Drobo 5D to hold all the Arctic Documentary Projects pictures.

Finally, I know for many reading this Blog you might be thinking that such a large data storage device is more than you need. And if you’re only shooting JPEGs you might be right. But keep in mind, I’m setting this new device up in my home where Mylio will be moving photos from my office Drobo to my home Drobo automatically, so I have an entire backup of all my originals in a second location. Additionally, one of the great features about Drobo is the ability to start out small and grow slowly. With my Drobo 5D, I originally started with only three drives, you need to have three to get the Beyond RAID technology. If you have only a few thousand pictures you could start with three 1TB drives or maybe three 2TB drives. Once those get filled you have two more slots for additional drives in the Drobo 5D. Everything in our lives is going to be saved digitally sooner or later. A Drobo 5D will give you massive amounts of storage for years to come.

BJ Kirschhoffer working with Mylio, Drobo's holding the images in the background in the PBI photo library. Bozeman. Montana

BJ Kirschhoffer working with Mylio. Drobo’s holding the images in the background in the PBI photo library. Bozeman. Montana

One final thought for those of you who are working for a nonprofit. Our office partners, Polar Bears International, are now running three 8 Bay Drobos for their massive video and still photography collection. To keep track of those files they’re also using Mylio. Drobo and Mylio have made a commitment to the nonprofit world and both their products are just what many nonprofits need for managing their digital assets.  Both tools come at a price that is very inexpensive compared to anything the competition offers.

So yes, I do like to talk about things I really believe in. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, too many companies in this world make it in spite of themselves. Maybe they have the first product to market, maybe it’s the best location on Main Street. Whatever reason, lots of companies out there are not stepping up to the plate with service, interesting ideas, or new products. Drobo and Mylio are doing that in spades and I’m happy to help them get the word out. Give them a try. You can see Drobo’s products at on their website at Drobo and you can try Mylio for free at Mylio Free Trial which is free for life if you shoot only Jpegs, don’t have more than 25,000 pictures, and need your pics on only three devices.

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There are 16 comments on this post…
  1. Portrait of Jane Scott Norris

    JaneOn May. 22nd, 2016

    Well I am on my second 8-bay Drobo NAS device (DroboPro FS). The first lasted several years through a variety of upgrades and reorganization of my photo library. Then at the beginning of 2016 I had a “Mount Failed” issue. It took three months back and forward with Drobo (they only sent an email reply about once per week), through a 9-day plus “repair”. Finally, I had all my shares and files back – for about a week. After repeated “Mount Failed” and “repairs” which now only took a minute and did not actually effect the repairs, I gave up and threw the Drobo out. I researched a replacement and finally came back to Drobo the Drobo B810n. It seemed to be the best solution for me. I was extremely disappointed to find I had to buy all new drives for it as I had been assured by the Drobo technician that my drives would work in the new chassis though of course the data would be lost. So after a lengthy and expensive order I am back with Drobo. I even bought a Drobo mini which is a dream. I am happy to read your blog, Dan, as I feel better with my choice of staying with Drobo. I had also read the new CEO’s open letter on their site and think Drobo’s future is bright. Now to consider Mylio …

  2. Dean SwartzOn Apr. 24th, 2016

    I love Audi automobiles. Audi survived its “unintended acceleration” problem and now makes some of the best autos on the road. Perhaps Drobo will make a similar recovery from it’s earlier, well-documented problems. I certainly trust Dan’s experience on the matter and, with new management, perhaps Drobo will finally deliver on the amazing promise its systems are capable of delivering.

    But, Drobo” bomb proof” and fire proof? Flood proof? As far as I know, IoSafe is the only way to go if you want fire proof and water proof on-site storage. Unless you stick your Drobo in a fire proof safe each night, your image files will be toast if you experience a fire!

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Apr. 28th, 2016

      We’ll see Dean. So far the new management has impressed me greatly. It’s a competitive world however and only time will tell who will be left in the market. Fireproof is a nice option but I looked in to fireproof vaults for my 35mm transparencies in the 90’s and what I found is was there are lots of “fireproof” ratings in many different products but what is truly fireproof is another story. My answer to this potential flaw is I keep an exact replica of my files on a second Drobo at my home. I feel more comfortable relying on this than believing in Fireproof ratings that may or may not be true.

  3. Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

    Daniel J. CoxOn Apr. 19th, 2016

    Captain Cool, Mylio software engineering guru JP Duplessis working his Mylio magic on his Mac keyboard. Mylio headquarters in Seattle, Washington.

    Captain Cool, Mylio software engineering guru JP Duplessis working his Mylio magic on his Mac keyboard. Mylio headquarters in Seattle, Washington.

    I just heard from JP of Mylio. He responded to my comment that Mylio does not work so well on NAS devices. In short he’s corrected this misconception for me and I’m adding his comment below.

    Dan,

    Mylio works perfectly well with NAS:

    You just have to set it up as a Mylio NAS device, NOT as a Mylio USB Device. The way to do this is simple. you choose one of your office computer to be the one and only Mylio computer that connected your NAS-Photos and it will take care of keeping your Mylio Library and the NAS “photo folder” in sync with your entire Mylio library on all other computer. Yes it is correct that copying files over Ethernet is slower than accessing directly to an attached drive over thunderbolt. But that’s why a NAS exist the ‘N’ in the word NAS stands for “Network” : )

    No other computer or mobile device needs to connect to the NAS. I’ve been using my personal library in this setup for over 1 year. I works great.

    Nice JP, thanks for the quick response.

    • JPOn Apr. 19th, 2016

      Actually, Mylio works perfectly well with NAS — you just have to set it up as a Mylio NAS device, NOT as a Mylio USB Device. 
       
      The way to do this is simple: choose one of your office computers to be the one and only Mylio computer that’s connected your NAS-Photos, and it will take care of keeping your Mylio Library and the NAS “photo folder” in sync with your entire Mylio library on all the other computers. 
       
      Yes it’s true that copying files over an Ethernet is slower than accessing them directly through an attached drive over thunderbolt. But that’s why a NAS exists — the ‘N’ in the word NAS stands for “Network” : )

      No other computer or mobile device needs to connect to the NAS. I’ve been using my personal library in this setup for over 1 year. Works great!
  4. JenOn Apr. 19th, 2016

    Great review Dan. you updated me on Drobo and its situation and also its plans and also Mylio. I use Drobo for my Storage 5d and 5n.. the 5d is a dream the 5N has never worked. Im still working on sorting that one. I wanted it to back up the 5d but think it would take years to back up. Any ideas to help would be grately received. I wanted it to be on my ethernet network in my detached office away from my main gear so I have a offsite backup. my plan hasn’t worked. I also need to move from Aperture if I want to upgrade my OS so Mylio might be the answer for me. Thanks

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Apr. 19th, 2016

      Jen, first I’m going to get you in contact with Mihir Shaw, new CEO of Drobo, and he’ll then get you in touch with somebody to fix your 5N issue. Secondly, I will tell you that using Mylio on a so called NAS device, which is what the 5N is, can potentially be problematic. I don’t know why but Mylio works best with a hard drive that is directly connected to a computer. It still works like a NAS but is more effective connected to a computer. Not sure what the issue is with NAS devices but I will find out more and report back. I’m solving my issues by having the Drobo 5D connected directly to my Mac Pro. Mylio then has the ability to share the Mylio catalog across all my devices as well as share the catalog on my assistants computer, a computer at my home and any number of other computers I choose.All of this does depend on the Mylio package you buy in to. But it’s seamless once the other machines are signed on as a Mylio computer. Let me each out to my contacts and try to get you up and running as well as I’m running. Hold tight.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Apr. 22nd, 2016

      Jen, has Drobo contacted you on your 5N issue yet?

  5. Dean SwartzOn Apr. 18th, 2016

    Different Point of View — My experience with Drobo is the opposite of yours, Dan. Mine crashed and burned (figuratively burned) after a little over a year. Nearly 100,000 photos would have been lost if I had relied on Drobo. Fortunately, I had them backed up to two other external hard drives. (The Drobo was my main storage device.) Sadly, Drobo tech support was of absolutely no help. All Drobo was willing to do was replace the hard drives; my data was unretrievable. Now, I use IoSafe Solo G3 NAS fireproof, waterproof drives bolted to a concrete floor for security (plus an off-site hard drive for a total of three complete sets of all my photos). So, notwithstanding your success with Drobo, mine was a near disaster. I personally would never recommend a proprietary system for backup. IoSafe uses RAID systems that don’t require a magic wand to access. Dan, you are so very right about so many things (like Mylio — which I love), but my brief marriage to Drobo ended in a very messy divorce! 😉

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Apr. 18th, 2016

      Nothing is perfect Dean. I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to trump your one Drobo experience but I have to tell you that I do have 12X’s the experience you’ve had with Drobo since I literally own 12 different Drobo devices. Yes, in the early years, 2006 or so, there were a few issues that were eventually resolved. Since then, these boxes have been bomb proof and certainly fire proof for me. Without a doubt, it’s always scary to have something go wrong with the devices we trust our images to. However, the old Drobo guard, that you dealt with, is gone and they have a new team on the job that is very impressive. I don’t expect you to forget what happened but I can tell you it’s a different company than the one you experienced. As I said, nothing is perfect but my Drobos have been almost flawless, to the point of putting these things in closets, hooked to a Mac Mini and forgetting about them. They just work.

      Additionally, lots of techies, not saying you’re one but you’ve probably read there missives, don’t like proprietary anything. Why? Because they’re cut out of the ability to screw around with the product. I personally like Drobo’s proprietary system due to the fact none of my drives can be stolen and moved off to a generic RAID box and accessed without my permission. Apple is a perfect example of proprietary and we know there equipment is secure as computers can get. Not perfect, but pretty hard for others to infect. There’s a reason why Android devices have 95% of all hacks and viruses and it’s called nonproprietary. I don’t have any problem with Drobo’s proprietary system since it makes the devices easier to use and more secure.

      Thanks for your input. Always love to hear from our readers.

    • mihir shahOn Apr. 18th, 2016

      Dean:

      Sorry to hear about your experience with Drobo. Drobo is now under new ownership and as the new CEO, I am maniacally focused on the customer experience. I wrote an open letter (http://www.drobo.com/ceo-letter/) a few months ago and we have already made tremendous progress. If you have some free time, I would like to speak to you about your past experiences. Please reach out to me. Thanks.

  6. Jim McCannOn Apr. 17th, 2016

    I’m in the process of buying a new computer for my outdoor photography business. Along with that decision (PC again, or MAC?) I have been wondering which backup system to buy along with it. If DROBO is good enough for Dan Cox it’s plenty good enough for me. Thanks, Dan!

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Apr. 17th, 2016

      Jim, it’s virtually bomb proof and now that we have the most current volume layout of 64TB’s we have tons of room for our ongoing pictures. Thanks for stopping by to add your voice. Greatly appreciated.

  7. Portrait of Jay Murthy

    JayOn Apr. 16th, 2016

    Thank you for this review Dan. I have been using Drobo for at least 5 years now, and the back up process from my Mac laptop as well as the desk top has been seamless. I love the fact that I can mix and match the storage drives and it also automatically takes care of the data redundancy in case of drive failures.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Apr. 16th, 2016

      Jay, thanks for your input on this. Great to hear Drobo is working great for you. They have some great new products coming down the pike.

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