Data Robotics says Drobo is the world's first data storage robot. It has a point. It's no C-3PO, but it can automate most aspects of data storage. It serves as a giant repository which, in theory, will never lose data, never run out of space and can repair itself if problems arise. It's available now for £349.
Drobo is an external hard drive enclosure with a difference. It accepts anything up to four separate 3.5-inch SATA hard drives and turns that combined space into one central repository for storing data. Nothing new here -- but what's interesting is that it lets you hot-swap hard drives back and forth while the Drobo and the PC are switched on and in full use.
It's like an external RAID device - which can copy files from one disk to another so you never lose data -- but is superior in many ways. Drobo uses a proprietary virtualisation technology that allows it to work with just a single drive or up to three others. Drives can be added by sliding them into the Drobo's empty drive bays – no screws or tools are needed.
Once up and running you can use the drive space as if it were a single giant dumping ground for files. You can even increase the amount of storage you have whenever you see fit by adding another drive to a vacant bay. By contrast, increasing capacity in a RAID-based storage system normally requires backing up all files, replacing disks, then rebuilding the entire array -- very time consuming.
Disk replacement is inevitable with the Drobo, but the good news is that you can simply remove the smallest drive, replace it with a larger one and enjoy the extra capacity. It's like replacing batteries in a torch -- except the light never goes off.
The Drobo is currently limited to 4TB -- but that's only because there are four bays and current disk drives are limited in capacity to 1TB. Once larger drives emerge, so will the storage ceiling of the Drobo.