Storage

Increase capacity the easy way with the Drobo B800i

The Drobo B800i is an all-in-one-box designed to be deployed as a Storage Area Network server that can add needed storage capacity to an existing system.

As a small business grows, the need for additional data storage grows with it. One of the most cost-effective ways to add storage capacity is with a Storage Area Network (SAN) server. If your business has reached the point where SAN capacity is vital to continued operations, then perhaps it is time to consider the Drobo B800i.

Note: The reviewed device was provided by Data Robotics.

Specifications

  • Product: Drobo B800i
  • Company: Drobo (Data Robotics)
  • Connectivity: 2 x 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet ports, USB 2.0 port for management
  • Capacity: 8 drive bays, 3.5" SATA 1 / SATA II drives, expandable by hot-swapping drives with larger ones
  • Network Protocols: iSCSI, CHAP Authentication
  • Operating System Support: Windows 7, Vista (Service Pack 1), XP (Service Pack 3), Windows 2008 Server, Windows 2003 Server, Mac OS X 10.5.6 or greater (Intel Only), Mac OS X Server 10.5.6 or greater (Intel Only), VMware vSphere 4.x, XenServer 5.6
  • Size and Weight:
    • Width: 12.17 in (309.1 mm)
    • Height: 5.46 in (138.7 mm) - 3 rack units
    • Depth: 14.10 in (358.1 mm)
    • Weight: 16 lbs 3 oz (7.34 kg)
  • Cost: $3,500 with no drives
  • Additional information
  • TechRepublic Photo Gallery

Who is it for?

The Drobo B800i is an all-in-one-box designed to be deployed as a Storage Area Network server that can add needed storage capacity to an existing system.

What problem does it solve?

Because the Drobo B800i is designed to be simple to set up, use, and maintain, small businesses do not have to spend much time or many resources deploying a SAN system.

Special features

  • Compact: The Drobo B800i is about the size of a desktop PC and can sit on a desk or table in an office. It is also relatively quiet once it the boot process has completed.
  • Stand-alone: One important feature for a small business is that the Drobo B800i does not need a server room with specialized environmental controls.
  • Expansion: The Drobo B800i is designed with future expansion in mind. Businesses can add new drives and replace old drives with higher-capacity drives. The system can currently accept 3TB drives.
  • Easy setup: The set-up process is relatively simple if you follow the instructions provided by the manual. However, in order for the Internet Small Computer System Interface (iSCSI) to work properly, you are going to have to know your internal IP addresses.
  • BeyondRAID: The Data Robotics BeyondRAID system is really what separates the Drobo B800i from other SAN boxes. There are many features associated with the BeyondRAID technology, but for small businesses, the ability to use drives of different capacity and to swap out drives and have the server adjust accordingly is a game changer.
  • Drobo Dashboard: The Drobo B800i is managed via the Drobo Dashboard, which makes maintenance about as simple as it can be. To see what the Dashboard looks like, check out the TechRepublic Photo Gallery.

What's wrong?

  • Cost: There is very little wrong with the Drobo B800i when you are talking about features; however, at this moment the device is relatively expensive. At $3,500 with no drives, this is definitely a SAN solution that will appeal only to the businesses that really require its capabilities. I think the price will have to come down before the Drobo B800i will appeal to a wider range of small businesses.
  • Wizard: While the Drobo B800i is easy to set up, I was surprised that there was no software wizard to drive the installation and configuration process. I would like to see a set-up wizard that analyzed my network and suggested IP addresses and other configuration for my SAN server based on what it found.

Competition

Bottom line for business

Drobo has made a name for itself with data storage devices designed for consumer use like storing DVR recordings, multimedia, music, etc. I want to emphasize that this is not one of those consumer Drobo devices.

The Drobo B800i is serious SAN solution for small businesses that need a quick-to-install and easy-to-maintain system. The box is compact and relatively quiet and can sit in a corner in an office and not cause much disruption. For a small business, getting a large amount of storage capacity without having to dedicate a room to a server is a definite plus.

However, all this convenience comes at a pretty hefty price, which makes the Drobo B800i a product that you should consider only if and when the SAN capacity it can provide is needed. The 800Bi is much more than just a bigger hard drive, and it should be deployed only as part of a larger business strategy.

User rating

Do you have a SAN server? Have you considered the Drobo B800i or one of Data Robotics other storage solutions? Share your experiences with Drobo systems in the discussion forum.

About

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.

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