Drobo, one of the most popular brands for storage among photographers, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. While this doesn’t mean the brand will disappear, it might be time to look for an alternative option just in case.
Drobo has had major difficulties keeping its supply chain intact through the COVID-19 pandemic, and the company says that it has had delays in production across its entire line. This issue might be at least partially responsible for the company’s current financial woes.
Those who are nervous about Drobo’s future and its ability to maintain software support might want to start looking at alternatives, and luckily there are other great options on the market. Drobo offers two direct attached storage (DAS) options and two network attached storage (NAS) solutions and below you’ll find solid replacement options for each.
At a Glance
Best Drobo Alternative for Direct Attached Storage
While laptops and desktop computers tend to come with sizeable built-in storage options, they often can be pretty expensive and don’t necessarily provide as much storage as photographers will need over time. That’s why many professionals will pick up some kind of local attached storage solution for data backup.
Hard Drive Disks (HDD) options tend to provide the best price per gigabyte of storage because they’re a lot cheaper to produce than solid state drives (SSD). The downside is that individual HDD disks can fail more easily over time and they are slower, so photographers will often deploy them in a RAID array which makes them work together to offer better speeds and RAID arrays allow for one or more drives to fail and not lose any data (depending on the RAID setup and the number of attached drives).
Drobo provides two options for RAID arrays: the 5D3 and the B810i. The 5D3 supports up to five HDD disks while the B810i can take up to eight. The more drives an array can hold, the higher the backup capacity and the more RAID options are available.
Best Drobo 5D3 Alternative: OWC ThunderBay 4
OWC, which stands for Other World Computing, makes a host of affordable PC and Mac peripherals including hard drive arrays and Thunderbolt Docks. The ThunderBay 4 is our pick to replace your Drobo because of the sheer number of options that OWC provides for the price.
The ThunderBay has four HDD bays, which is one less than Drobo’s five-bay 5D3, but it still allows for RAID 0, 1, 4, 5, 10, and JBOD configurations and transmits data via a Thunderbolt 3 connection. OWC supports the array with its SoftRAID drive management software that allows you to determine what type of RAID to use, monitor disk health, and is cross-platform between macOS and Windows.
Compared to the Drobo 5D3, which retails for $700, the ThunderBay costs $629. Bear in mind, both these prices are before the addition of actual drives and in both cases you’ll have to purchase four (or in Drobo’s case, five) HDDs in order to actually start using them. OWC provides options between 4TB and 72TB, but the enclosure will work with any standard 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch HDD or SSD. OWC also has an outstanding five-year warranty on the enclosure.
OWC equips its drives with Toshiba HDDs, and Backblaze has shown the company’s drives are performing well so far in 2022. If you’d rather go with a different HDD manufacturer, you can.
Other great options in this category include the SanDisk Professional G-RAID Shuttle and the LaCid 6Big. The G-RAID is a lot more expensive at $2,100 for the base model because it ships with drives included with no option to just purchase an empty enclosure. That said, SanDisk includes four 6TB Western Digital Ultrastar HDDs in that package, which retail for about $172 each (about $688 total). The G-RAID Shuttle can be equipped with up to 72TB of storage at the time of purchase as well.
LaCie is a Seagate company and the 6Big has a larger capacity than Drobo’s 5D3, OWC’s ThunderBay 4, and the G-RAID Shuttle. As you might have guessed from the name, it has six total bays and can be purchased for $2,300 for a similar total storage amount of 24TB (just like with the G-RAID, the enclosure and the drives are included together). The benefit of the 6Big is that it can take more drives and therefore theoretically hold more total capacity, although the company only offers up to 108TB for $6,500.
Best Drobo B810i Alternative: OWC ThunderBay 8
For many of the same reasons we chose the OWC Thunderbay as the best alternative for the Drobo 5D3, the 8-bay OWC ThunderBay 8 is the best choice to replace your B810i. While it is difficult to find an array that can immediately plug-and-play swap out for the 5D3 since it uses the rather unusual 5-bay configuration, the ThunderBay 8 can take over right where the B810i left off.
The ThunderBay 8 supports Thunderbolt 3, compatibility between macOS and Windows, the company’s SoftRAID XT disk monitoring and management software, and an excellent five-year warranty. The ThunderBay 8 can be purchased as just an enclosure for $879 which is a significant discount over Drobo’s B810i and it can be equipped with between 16TB and 144TB of storage via Toshiba HDDs.
SanDisk offers the G-RAID Shuttle 8-bay as well, but it doesn’t come cheap. The giant array starts at $7,300 for 96TB of storage, but the company will go as high as 144TB of storage for $9,000. The limited customization options and the high price probably makes it a poor fit for those who are trying to replace their Drobo B810i, but it is an option for those who really want to stick with the WD or SanDisk brands.
Best Drobo Alternative for Network Attached Storage
Best Drobo 5N2 Alternative: Synology DiskStation DS1522+
Synology is basically the undisputed champion of NAS storage options, and the recently-announced DS1522+ added a five-bay array to the company’s lineup that is an excellent fit to replace a Drobo 5N2. the DS1522+ has a relatively small footprint, can be expanded to up to 15 drives (by connecting multiple enclosures together), and supports NVM3 SSD caching and 10GbE networking via an adapter.
The DS1522+ is managed through Synology’s DiskStation Manager software and can be used as a dedicated local backup solution. There is even a photography-specific app within Synology’s software called Synology Photos, which enables hobby photographers looking to manage their growing collection to quickly pull and back up media from their phones, sort and organize pictures, and make them easily shareable with permissions control.
The Synology DS1522+ is a bit more expensive at $700, which is more than Drobo’s $499 offering, but given Synology’s sterling reputation, the price means reliability. If you’re okay downsizing to a four-bay NAS array, Synology’s $550 DS920+ is a solid alternative. Synology doesn’t offer HDDs included with its enclosures, so you’ll have to acquire those separately.
Best Drobo B810n Alternative: Synology DiskStation DS1821+
If you’re replacing your Drobo B810n eight-bay array, we still recommend you go with Synology. The company’s DiskStation DS1821+ is its 8-bay solution that can handle demanding application workloads and a great number of concurrent users. It is powered by an AMB Ryzen Quad-core 2.2GHz processor, can be expanded to up to 18 drives with optional expansion units, and it features 10GbE networking support.
Everything on the software side that makes Synology the best pick in the five-bay department carries over to the eight-bay option as well, and it’s hard to beat Synology here since the company’s entire business is built on excellent NAS performance. The Synology DiskStation DS1821+ is available for $1,000, which is less than Drobo’s $1,200 B810n, but in either case you will have to supply your own HDD or SSD drives.
Image credits: Header photo via OWC