Drobo Update

So, good news... After almost of month of waiting, My Drobo 5D has finally shown up. Just to remind you how we got to here, last month I submitted my website for a contest where the prize was a Drobo... and I won!  So I had a few weeks to get excited and to prepare for the new arrival in our family and Thursday it came.  I thought I would let you know how the process of setting it up went, because to be honest, so far it's a totally awesome product. 

Now let me start by saying that the Drobo 5D isn't for everyone.  It retails for $699 and that's before you buy the drives to go inside of it.  But for those in the market for an expandable, safe storage system for their files, photos, etc., this sucker can't be beat.  It's so sweet and it has little lights on the front.  Who doesn't like a new gadget with lights!?

The Drobo 5D isn't just super functional, but check out all these lights on the front.  That's the sign of a sweet product! ;-)

The Drobo 5D isn't just super functional, but check out all these lights on the front.  That's the sign of a sweet product! ;-)

So what is it? 

According to the website, the Drobo 5D is basically a fancy storage system "that's built on award-winning BeyondRAID technology with single or dual-drive redundancy, Drobo 5D protects your data without any user interaction, even in the event of multiple drive failures. Drives can be added or hot-swapped on-the-fly for storage expansion with zero downtime. If you’re running low on space, the lights on the front tell you what to do. Just add a drive in an empty bay or remove a smaller drive and replace it with a larger one."

So you can have all your information backed up once or even TWICE with the Drobo 5D

So you can have all your information backed up once or even TWICE with the Drobo 5D


So what does all of that mean? Well, basically it's a small box that holds multiple hard drives in it. These drives can be whatever capacity you want, or can afford.  I chose five, 1TB drives to put in mine, but you can use any size up to 4TB (so if you had five, 4TB drives, you'd have a storage capacity of 20TB!) and you don't have to fill all the drives to start out.  You can start with two and upgrade as you need them.  So the box pools together the storage of these drives, so instead of having five, separate, single terabyte drives, the Drobo pools the storage together, so I have basically 5TB of space available.  The redundancy feature means that it's basically backing up your information in the same place as your storing it on your drives.  However, if a drive fails, the Drobo moves the information to the other drives, allowing you to swap out the failed drive and replace it with a new one.  No fuss and you're up and running again in minutes and haven't lost any of your data.

Here is an image from my Drobo dashboard.  It tells me the health and capacity of my drives and I have control over the whole unit from this screen.

Let's talk about how my install went.  First I got home and opened the box and took out the Drobo.  This was literally the hardest part of the whole process as the Drobo comes beautifully packaged in a box that's just big enough to fit the unit.  So slipping it out was honestly the hardest thing I did all night... and it wasn't that hard. :-)   Once it was out, I first had to decide if I wanted to hook the unit up to my computer with the USB 3 or the Thunderbolt cable.  I opted for the Thunderbolt connection as I wanted the fastest possible option.  So with everything out of the box, I proceeded to add each of the five drives.  They slip right in and lock into place.  Then I put the MSATA, 120GB, solid state drive in the accelerator port which is on the bottom of the unit. This optional drive allows for frequently accessed data to be stored on the faster, solid state drive rather than the more traditional SATA drives mentioned above. Again, you don't have to put a SSD in this port, but if your looking for the best performance, you won't want to ignore this option.  Once they were all in, I plugged in the Thunderbolt cable and the power cable and turned on the unit.  While it was booting up, I downloaded the dashboard software for the 5D from the Drobo website.   Okay, now we're cooking with gas!  It's all going great and totally simple.  Once it was all going, I used the dashboard software to name and format the Drobo and drives (which is literally two clicks of the mouse) and then it was ready for use. First thing I did was move all my photos to the unit, as that's what I'm going to use it for.  Photos, photos and more photos!  Now this process was really simple too, but because I archive my photos with Lightroom, I had to move the photos from WITHIN Lightroom!  This is REALLY important.  If you just move the photos without "telling" Lightroom you're moving them, it won't be able to "find" your photos and you'll have problems.  Easily fixable, but you'll have problems.  So let me be really clear because this will help you avoid major headaches later.  If you're going to move your files, you can't just take your photo folder and move them over to a new drive.  Lightroom won't know you did this and won't be able to find the files.  You'll find little question marks on top of all your images signifying that Lightroom doesn't know where they are.  You'll have to then manually relink all of them.  Instead, just move your photo folder to the new drive from within Lightroom.  Then Lightroom will know where you moved the folder to and all will be right with the world.

So here's my settings window for Backblaze.  As you can see it was easy as checking both the boxes for my hard drive and the Drobo and it was good to go!

So here's my settings window for Backblaze.  As you can see it was easy as checking both the boxes for my hard drive and the Drobo and it was good to go!

So the photos moved over and I was ready to go.  It all worked great and my photos were all safe.  As a reminder, I have all my photos on the Drobo with redundant backup, so that's one safety measure.  I have the additional hard drive with all my photos on it hidden away, in case something happens to the computer, and then if you remember, I use Backblaze, for online backup to the cloud, just as an extra safety measure.  So what about using Backblaze with the Drobo?  Well, that was easy too! Once the Drobo was all set up, I went to my Backblaze preferences and checked the box next to my hard drive AND the Drobo which meant I wanted both my hard drive and my Drobo backed up to the cloud.  It immediately started moving files over and within 30 minutes all of my computer's hard drive and all of the photos on the Drobo were backed up to the cloud.  It was much faster than the initial backup to Backblaze since the files where already backed up... they were just moved from one drive to another.  Now I'm ready for anything...  I think.

So if you're in the market for a safe, expandable storage system, I can totally recommend the Drobo 5D.  Again, it's not for everybody, but for those who have a need, it's a fantastic device and sure to exceed your expectations.  I know it did mine.

And don't forget it has all those cool lights!!!


Baby got back... up.

So, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to write about this week as I watched my photos being backed up from my hard drive to the cloud with a service called Blackblaze.  I thought about writing about taking glamour portraits, as I'm taking an all-day class on the subject tomorrow, but since I hadn't taken the class yet, that didn't seem like a good option.  I thought about an entry focusing on taking photos of uncooperative adults, but I couldn't find any.  I thought writing on how much I hated the Dodgers and wanted them to fail miserably in the playoffs wasn't a good idea, as that could alienate many of the tens of people who read this blog.  Then it hit me... why not write about the back-up process I'm going through right now... remember Blackblaze?  Come on... I just wrote about it two or three sentences ago.  Now you remember?  There are many ways to back up your photos and some are right for some people and some for others, but whatever you do, back-up your photos!  Your hard drive is going to fail. It's not a matter of if, it's when.  You'll want to be prepared.  I back up my photos three different ways right now and as soon as I get my new Drobo system all hooked up, it will be five.  Well, technically four, because when I hook up the Drobo I'm going to remove the hard drive I'm currently using, but you get the idea.

This is the view I have right now while I'm typing this.  I have over 28,000 files being backed up to the cloud.  I have just under 2,000 to go and then everything on my computer will be backed up and accessible when I need it, in the cloud.

1) You're going to want to back up your photos online, or "in the cloud," as we nerdy guys like to say. Come on, it just sounds cool when you say you're doing things in the cloud!

Storing photos in the cloud means you can access them from any device that has an Internet connection. Your pictures will live online, available on a personal, password-protected website; you can sign in to that website, just like you would your email, to view those pictures or download them onto your computer.

Most cloud storage service sites are free to sign up for, and each service gives you a certain amount of free space before you have to pay a yearly fee. Backblaze, which I mentioned earlier is one of these sites.  You can back up your entire computer... all of it for as little as $3.50 a month if you sign up for two years.  Even if you go month to month, it won't cost you more than $5 a month.  It's totally simple too.  You literally sign up and set up a password and then download their software and push "start."  You're done.  That's it.  It's that easy.  It will initially take a couple days depending on how many files you're backing up, but once you do it, the software will continue to monitor your system, looking for changes and will back-up any new changes you make as you make them.  Then, if something should happen to your computer, all your files and photos will be in the cloud, on this back-up website, waiting for you to download and put on your new computer or hard drive.

Which cloud should you choose to park your ass upon? These cloud storage sites are all easy to use and function essentially the same.  What really matters is that you select one and commit to it. They all do roughly the same thing for roughly the same amount of money.  I did a lot of research before I chose Backblaze, so feel free to email me if you have any questions.

2) Buy an external hard drive.

The other option, which I use in addition to the online back-up system, is an external hard drive.  An external hard drive is a portable storage space that plugs into your computer and can be used to store huge amounts of data and files.

If you own a computer, you really should already have a portable hard drive -- backing up your entire hard drive and operating system regularly can dull the pain of any number of digital catastrophes that could otherwise wipe out your data.

You can buy an external 1TB hard drive wherever you buy computer equipment for under $100; a good rule of thumb is to purchase one that is at least twice as much storage as your computer's hard drive. Most external hard drives are easy to operate, as you just plug the drive in to your computer and drag the folders and files you want saved into the folder that represents the drive. There are also several free programs you can download that will automate the backup process for you without changing anything on your computer.  If you use a Mac, you can use the built in Time Machine program, which couldn't be easier to use.  

So what do I do?

I have an external drive plugged into my computer that copies all my files.  I have another external hard drive that I keep elsewhere and once a month I download all my photos to it.  That way, if something bad happens to my computer and the external drive that's plugged into it, I have this one as a back-up.  AND, I'm backing up my whole system to the cloud.  So hopefully I'm totally covered.  If anything happens, I'm covered a bunch of different ways... just in case. 

Unless you have magical powers, you cannot know when your computer will fail, your hard drive will break, you'll be abducted by aliens, a car will crash into your computer, or your dog will piss on your hard drive. Backing up your computer isn't the sexiest or most fun activity, but it just might be the one that saves the all-too-vulnerable bundle of memories on your hard drive.  We all know people who have lost everything on their computers.  It's a horrible feeling and it's relatively easy to avoid if you're prepared. 

Stop putting this off. Back up your photos today.  DO IT NOW!  I'll wait.