Author Topic: unRAID vs Drobo  (Read 8978 times)

Offline Critter

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unRAID vs Drobo
« on: December 26, 2009, 02:53:18 PM »
I am not a geek, just looking for a robust, redundant and reliable file server/backup for a home business/non-profit organization.  Drobo looked good to me, but between the horror stories about lost data and less than satisfactory customer service, decided that wouldn't work.  unRAID looks to be similar concept.   Can you compare the two and also comment on reliability and customer service?

TIA

Doug
Doug

Offline BRiT

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Re: unRAID vs Drobo
« Reply #1 on: December 26, 2009, 03:46:59 PM »
It's pointless to do comparisons, but there are already many places which discuss the benefits of unRaid. The two are not similar concepts at the specific technical levels. Try searching (and reading) the forums, wiki, and website for unRAID. As a starter: http://lime-technology.com/wiki/index.php?title=Getting_Started_with_unRAID

Offline wholly

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Re: unRAID vs Drobo
« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2009, 04:35:15 PM »
I don't know if I'd say it was "pointless" but they are different animals.  Drobo is intended to turn on and forget while unraid does require a bit more knowledge and understanding.  Both address similar needs in similar ways but where a ball point pen is an appliance, unRaid is more like a fountain pen.  It takes a little bit more care and understanding to set it up in the first place.  As far as usage is concerned just about anyone that can use a windows share can use an unraid share.

Company wise, Drobo is much larger than Lime, but the support base for unRaid is probably bigger than Drobo as we have all these (sometimes opinionated) knowledgeable users that seem to be quite willing to help get things going and working well.

Rob

Offline Critter

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Re: unRAID vs Drobo
« Reply #3 on: December 26, 2009, 04:45:49 PM »
I don't know if I'd say it was "pointless" but they are different animals.  Drobo is intended to turn on and forget while unraid does require a bit more knowledge and understanding.  Both address similar needs in similar ways but where a ball point pen is an appliance, unRaid is more like a fountain pen.  It takes a little bit more care and understanding to set it up in the first place.  As far as usage is concerned just about anyone that can use a windows share can use an unraid share.

Company wise, Drobo is much larger than Lime, but the support base for unRaid is probably bigger than Drobo as we have all these (sometimes opinionated) knowledgeable users that seem to be quite willing to help get things going and working well.

Rob

Thanks for your helpful response.  So, if I understand you correctly, while the initial set-up may be beyond me, once I have a geek friend set it up, it's pretty straightforward to use?  Just treat it as another drive?

What about reliability.  Numerous Drobo users have written about losing all their data due to problems/hiccups with the Drobo software it seems. Given that's exactly what this concept is supposed to prevent, that is really bad. <~>  How does unRAID compare in that regard?  I know how it's supposed to work in theory, but given it's software driven and given that Drobo, also software driven,  has had these issues, I am concerned.

Thanks again.
Doug

Offline wholly

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Re: unRAID vs Drobo
« Reply #4 on: December 26, 2009, 06:35:37 PM »
Some of us are pretty new here but in the process of setting things up and getting hardware tested we've all see what a single drive failure would look like and watched a rebuild - and been totally amazed that while during the rebuild we could play a movie from what would have been on the missing/replaced drive.  The software definitely works.  The way things fail in unraid, as long as the controller/PC doesn't destroy the drives (as can happen with a lighting hit or something like that) the data is available on every functional drive.  (It's a little harder than just dropping it in a windows pc, but darned close).

Beyond that we're talking about hardware reliability and that really comes down to the hardware you use to implement unRaid.  Some lower end systems are painful to work with but others just run and run and run.  Lime Tech can provide you with a fully configured chassis and software that all you need to do is slip in  a few drives and hit a web page and it's up and running.  (all unraid management is generally through a web page making it usable from just about anything.)

BUT - one important thing to know is that unraid does NOT protect against stupid.  If you or someone you love (or used to love) deletes a file - It's not likely to come back without a lot of heartburn.  It is possible to configure unraid to not allow deletion by certain users but that does involve making things a little more complex, but it's not really hard.

Others can speak to more of the data reliability experiences.  I know that I feel much better that I now have what I feel is a safe single copy instead of three copies of mostly similar data on multiple possibly failing systems.

Offline ftp222

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Re: unRAID vs Drobo
« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2009, 08:46:49 AM »
As someone who owns both a Drobo and an unRAID box, I strongly suggest going with the unRAID solution.

Drobo sounds like the absolute perfect product for anyone not wanting to manage data and just have things work, but that is not the way it ends up in the end.  I haven't checked the Drobo forums in a while, but I believe they are still locked and require a serial number to enter and browse.  This was done for a reason and don't let anyone fool you into thinking otherwise.  There were tons of complaints about speed and data loss - my two main complaints as well.  Any company that won't open up their support forums for pre-purchase support needs to examine their product and practices.  You can check my posts on that forum if you have access, they are under the same username as here.

Regarding Drobo support, the typical response time from the company was anywhere from 3 days to never.  This is as of 8 months ago, so things may have changed, but it was near impossible to get someone to actually support the product.  Unlike with unRAID, there was no way for anyone in the forums to really help you fix a problem or get back your data in case you did something wrong.  The RAID format is proprietary and the user community has absolutely no control over data recovery.  There are no tools in case anything goes wrong.  Your only option is to contact support and wait for a response.  Oh and I believe they started charging for support past a certain timeframe if you do not pay your yearly maintenance fees - Something unRAID does not do!

I have purchased 2 different Drobo's, the USB only version (returned after 3 weeks), and the firewire/usb version (still have it).  I really wanted to love Drobo.  As someone who has worked with literally hundreds of different RAID configurations, I had hopes that things would be easier for the end-user, but I now feel their technology is not destined for the enterprise.  One last note on Drobo, if you are using it in a Windows environment, you will never see Firewire 800 speeds.  The Firewire driver for Windows XP/Vista only supports Firewire 400 - I'm not sure about Windows 7.  I didn't believe this either until I read about it in their support forums and searched the internet.

The write speeds of Drobo (firewire version) are comparable to unRAID as long as you are writing only one file at a time.  Once you start writing multiple streams to the Drobo, transfer rates to downhill substantially - this is not the case with unRAID from my experiences.  Read speeds from Drobo are the same as writing, which is where unRAID really kicks in.  Read speeds for unRAID are 3x-4x what the write speeds are, so unRAID is the clear winner here.

Regarding unRAID, yes it does require a bit of knowledge to get set up, but not any more than installing Windows or building a small computer.  unRAID is simple enough that after it is set up, it just works.  If you lack technical know-how, one of your computer friends should be able to get you started and if you use a case with hot swap drive bays, you should be able to add or replace a drive without any help from him/her.

The biggest thing unRAID has going for it is the community support.  There are several members on this board who answer questions in minutes and take the time to walk you through any issues you may have.  They have helped me a few times and I can't say enough good things about the folks here.

All that said, if you want to buy a Drobo, PM me and maybe we can work something out.  Mine is being sold to make room for a second unRAID box :)

Offline Critter

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Re: unRAID vs Drobo
« Reply #6 on: December 28, 2009, 09:05:28 AM »
Thanks for the feedback.  No interest in your Drobo.  ;)
Doug

Offline kapperz

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Re: unRAID vs Drobo
« Reply #7 on: December 28, 2009, 09:53:33 AM »
DO NOT GET A DROBO

I looked into this option too before unRaid. Just do a search for class action lawsuits against Drobo for lost data. They use a proprietary file format (tisk tisk). I read some praise about the machine, but found a bunch of angry users who spent lots of time and in the end lost data. That is just unacceptable...especially for a device that claims to protect your data.

I'm happy with my unRaid and is fairly simple out of the box. There can be a learning curve if you want any customazation, but by default it does work well as advertised.

My advice, if you really just want a no-fuss/plug in and forget it option, maybe look into a NAS or home server (links are just for reference, I did no research on those products).
« Last Edit: December 28, 2009, 10:00:27 AM by kapperz »
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Offline abeta

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Re: unRAID vs Drobo
« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2009, 08:05:30 PM »
I have/use a Drobo and DroboShare at the office and I just recently purchased an unRaid MD-1510 system for home.

I'll just comment on my personal experiences with both. I've used the Drobo for a little over a year now (13-14 months) and the unRaid for just week or so.

The comparisons in my personal opinion are:

1) The Drobo is a little more "plug and play" and automated than the unRaid. You just install the drives and it figures itself out. One nice advantage is that if you have enough free disk space, if you lose a drive the Drobo will automatically shuffle the data around and after it rebuilds you'll be protected again. There's probably a way for the unRAID to do it automatically as well but I haven't figured it out yet. The Mac and Windows client files are nice for people who don't know anything about networking, etc. It'll install a dashboard and automatically map the drive for you in Mac's Finder or Windows. The downside is that their apps is a little wonky at times where you have to upgrade/downgrade versions because it doesn't work.

2) The Drobo when directly connected to a Mac supports AFP/Time Machine. This "advantage" goes away when you connect it to the DroboShare so I'd say not much of one if you're trying to share the Drobo, but still there. I understand Lime Tech is working on AFP support in unRaid 5.x as well so it might be a moot point.

3) The unRaid is far more flexible when it comes to additional apps and having the raid array do something else. One of my requirements was that I wanted the ability to potentially run other programs, do other things .The Drobo can do a limited amount with the Droboshare but there's absolutely no support for any of the apps.

4) unRaid's support within the community is significantly better from what I can see. It took me roughly 6 months to get the Drobo stable with the Seagate 1.5TB drives. I blame most of that on Seagate's firmware, but it was still a huge pain in the butt getting assistance. The big problem with Drobo's support has been their sometimes condenscending attitude. ie, Did you make sure you plugged the power supply into the wall instead of a UPS? Are there lights on the power adapter, etc. I know they have to ask the questions but it does fray on the nerves when you've just TOLD them in the email you've done all of the following and it isn't working.

5) The unRAID has the Drobo beat on drive expandability in my opinion. They both can use drives of varying capacities so that's a wash for me. I have 2 4-bay (fully populated) Drobo's connected to the DroboShare at work....and if I want to add any more drives I need to go to another Droboshare or go with a bigger Drobopro, etc. I bought the MD-1510/LL which has 15 bays. I'm still not sure I'll EVER use all 15 bays due to dropping hard disk prices and heat concerns, but its comforting to know it's there for me.

6) The turnkey Drobo units are a little more quiet than the MD-1510/LL even with a fan controller and at the lowest fan settings. That's just to my hearing and noise was a big concern for me, but given the other benefits of the unRAID something I was willing to give up for.

Bottom line, when it came down to spending my own money, I went with unRAID for its capabilities (now and future) and the forum support (which has been terrific to date).

Offline Chris Pollard

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Re: unRAID vs Drobo
« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2009, 05:23:51 AM »
Freenas might be worth looking at too but if you are looking to add disks regularly then its a pita.

There is good support here on the forums but for a non technical person the challenges of linux might seem a little daunting.

As others have said, once its up and running it just works.  Adding more disks is easy.  Making it do stuff that it doesn't do out of the box, like torrent or nzb clients is possible but not exactly beginner friendly.
unRAID : Lian Li 343-B, Asus M3A32-MVP Deluxe, Athlon 64 x2 4000+, 6gb RAM, Intel 330 120gb SSD Cache, Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8 x2 - Retired
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Offline RobJ

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Re: unRAID vs Drobo
« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2009, 11:34:17 PM »
See also the Drobo topic, a collection of Drobo-related discussion on the unRAID forums.

And see Getting Started with unRAID for a fairly comprehensive introduction.
Need help, start here:  Troubleshooting      Questions?  Try the FAQ      Please contribute to the unRAID Wiki

smnas

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Re: unRAID vs Drobo
« Reply #11 on: March 04, 2010, 06:38:09 PM »
I'd have to agree with Chris on this one. FreeNAS is my former NAS solution, which I still use now. It is ultra fast, good/clean WebGUI, has the option to do F/W updates via it's web interface, and gives you the option to do RAID0, 1, 5, supports multiple FS inc the new ZFS, and being built in UNIX, it is rock solid.
I use it as a redundant backup for my unRAID server (just important files like pictures and doc's, things you can't get again). It runs well in both physical/virtual environments as I have implemented in both scenarios. The only thing it can't do over unRAID is data volume expansion, which unRAID is great for. If you need to expand the RAID array in FreeNAS (larger file system support), you have to copy all you files off it, break the RAID array, and replace drives/add drives, rebuild the array and copy everything back to it, which is too messy and not everyone has storage larger then their current NAS solution.
I don't anything about Drobo, but I can vouch that both FreeNAS and unRAID would have to be the two best NAS solutions out there (well unRAID is better though :) ). If you're after speed and are not concerned about data volume expansion, FreeNAS is a winner, but if you're after expansion, full file redundancy (something FreeNAS can't do in a RAID 0/5 setup if a drive fails), unRAID wins hands down.

Freenas might be worth looking at too but if you are looking to add disks regularly then its a pita.

There is good support here on the forums but for a non technical person the challenges of linux might seem a little daunting.

As others have said, once its up and running it just works.  Adding more disks is easy.  Making it do stuff that it doesn't do out of the box, like torrent or nzb clients is possible but not exactly beginner friendly.

Offline eek

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Re: unRAID vs Drobo
« Reply #12 on: March 05, 2010, 01:02:28 AM »

I use it as a redundant backup for my unRAID server (just important files like pictures and doc's, things you can't get again).

Ages ago I investigated windows home server and ran away as soon as I saw their backup method was to create multiple versions of directories (on different disks).

Thinking about it later I decided it is a suitable method of ensuring your really valuable documents are save on unraid. So I've now implemented the following:-

two user folders documents and photos can only write to disks 1 and 2 (small older disks).
these two folders are rsynced (on a daily basis) to a backup folder on disk 4 and a backup2 folder on disk 5.

Unless my maths are wrong I think this gives me enough protection from everything bar fire and flood. if 1 disk goes I can replace it and rebuild the dodgy disk. If two disks go I should still have at least 1 backup of everything. If 3 disks go I've got a problem (but I've also probably lost half my media library so it was going to hurt regardless).

Offline mcs

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Re: unRAID vs Drobo
« Reply #13 on: March 05, 2010, 01:31:07 AM »
two user folders documents and photos can only write to disks 1 and 2 (small older disks).
these two folders are rsynced (on a daily basis) to a backup folder on disk 4 and a backup2 folder on disk 5.

I use a system which is remarkably similar, except I use disk shares instead of user shares.  The disk shares are exported with meaningful names so you dont need to do mental gymnastics to remember what is on diskN.

The important stuff is also backed up off site on removable disks... which should help in the case of fire or other disaster.

Offline eek

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Re: unRAID vs Drobo
« Reply #14 on: March 05, 2010, 02:47:58 AM »

I use a system which is remarkably similar, except I use disk shares instead of user shares.  The disk shares are exported with meaningful names so you dont need to do mental gymnastics to remember what is on diskN.

The important stuff is also backed up off site on removable disks... which should help in the case of fire or other disaster.


I actually use a couple of gmail accounts for that. I've discovered over years that the information you really need to save you also need to be able to access very quickly usually from somewhere awkward.