DAS vs. NAS: Drobo 5D vs. Drobo 5N

Drobo Storage Intro:

A DAS (Direct Attached Storage) is different from a NAS (Network Attached Storage). In this article, let us look deeper into two popular storage products from Drobo – Drobo 5D (DAS) & Drobo 5N (NAS).

How is a DAS different from a NAS?

A Direct Attached Storage (DAS), as the name implies, is attached directly to one device and is expected to work only with it. In this case, a DAS is attached to one computer (at a time) and can be used to store/backup data from it. Or it can be used by the computer to extend its storage capacity, externally.

A Network Attached Storage (NAS), on the other hand, is connected not to any one system (although that can be done), but is connected to the common network – think Network Switch or Wired ports of a Wireless Router. The NAS unit stores data – generally from more than one computer – and enables multiple computers connected to the network, to access it.

Drobo 5D (DAS):

  1. Direct Attached Storage (DAS).
  2. 5 bays: Can hold 5 x SATA I/II/III Hard-drives or SSDs.
  3. Additional Accelerator bay: 1 x mSATA SSD.
  4. Thunderbolt/USB 3.0 Interface for connecting to the computer.

Drobo 5N (NAS):

  1. Network Attached Storage (NAS).
  2. 5 bays: Can hold 5 x SATA I/II/III Hard-drives or SSDs.
  3. Additional Accelerator bay: 1 x mSATA SSD.
  4. 1 x 10/100/1000 Mbps (1 Gbps) Port for connecting to the network.

Important (Common) Features for both models:

Beyond RAID:

RAID is a technology used by storage devices to ensure disk-level redundancy. There are many types of RAIDs and in certain situations it maybe difficult to set-up and maintain RAIDs. See the above embedded video for more details on BeyondRAID.

The BeyondRAID from Drobo – although proprietary – simplifies the RAID process by allowing customers to create RAID automatically, irrespective of the size and the manufacturer of the disk-drives inserted into the Drobo units. So, you can remove any drive, put another one in (preferably larger, to increase capacity) and still expect all your data to be intact!

Built-in Battery:

This is an excellent feature offered by Drobo. Power-cuts might result in data loss, sometimes. Even though it is recommended to connect storage units behind UPS, many users don’t do it. Drobo has solved that problem by placing a battery (enough not to result in data loss during power-cuts) that recharges itself, whenever needed.

Simple installation & Maintenance:

Drobo offers one of the simplest and easy-to-use GUI (Graphical User Interface) that enables users to install and get the units up & running, quickly. It’s almost plug and play and the user dashboard offers simple monitoring options. The LED lights outside the units also help in identifying the health of the device/drives and the capacity. These LEDs can be dimmed – useful for dark rooms. These units are meant to be used 24×7 ~ So, you can keep them ON. Tool-free installation of drives/SSDs makes installation, a breeze.

Important features specific to Drobo 5D:

  1. Thunderbolt port & USB 3.0 port for connecting to a Computer/Laptop. No network (RJ-45) port.
  2. Thunderbolt port offers higher read/write speeds in excess of 200 Mbps (practically) while USB 3.0 offers a read/write speeds in excess of 80 Mbps (practically).
  3. In addition to the 5 storage bays, there is an accelerator bay that can hold one mSATA SSD to improve the performance (128 GB SSD maybe optimum).
  4. SATA I, II, III interfaces supported, SAS interface not supported.
  5. The Drobo 5D supports/integrates with Apple TimeMachine natively. Supports both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 connectivity with Mac systems. Excellent option to use with Mac systems, some restrictions apply for usage with Windows systems (support for high-speed Thunderbolt port not available – currently).
  6. Two Thunderbolt ports enables users to daisy chain multiple Drobo 5D units to create much more storage space (up to 96 TB), if required.
  7. RAID is proprietary, hence if the system fails (instead of hard-drives), data cannot be recovered unless you buy another Drobo system that can recognize the RAID format. So, it’s better to have another copy of critical data on user’s computers or in the cloud. Also, Firewire port is not supported.

Important features specific to Drobo 5N:

  1. Single Gigabit Ethernet port (10/100/1000 Mbps, RJ-45 interface, Cat 6) for connecting to Network Switch or Wired ports of a Wireless Router.
  2. User can also connect it directly to the network port of a Computer/Laptop, if they want.
  3. Remote access of files (in addition to access over LAN) is possible with a few tweaks.
  4. Compatible with Apple, Windows and Linux systems (supports their respective file-formats).
  5. It is possible to restrict access to folders, based on user.
  6. It is the next version of the hugely popular Drobo FileServer 5-bay system.
  7. Competitively priced, when compared to other 5-bay NAS systems in the market.
  8. User can store/access files and stream media (music, movies) from the Drobo 5N.
  9. Practical speeds of 80 Mbps+ realizable.
  10. Try to use it with Gigabit switch or Gigabit ports of Wi-Fi router, for maximum speeds.
  11. User may have to use the backup utility provided in Windows 7/8 systems or purchase a backup software, if they want automatic/incremental backup.

Please note:

  1. Standard 2-year Warranty for product and Tech support for first couple of months included. DroboCare @ Additional cost needs to be purchased to get 3-Year Warranty with Tech support.
  2. Have a look at the Drobo capacity calculator to determine the total storage capacity & usable storage capacity (after RAID space is deducted). User can also opt for dual-disk redundancy, but usable storage space will be reduced further.

Further Technical Details: Drobo 5D, Drobo 5N (Manufacturer’s web-page).

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