backup robot

A backup robot is an automated USB 2.0 external storage device that supports multiple removable SATA hard drives.

Data Robotics' "Drobo" is the first example of a digital backup robot. It doesn't use robotic arms to manipulate hardware. Instead, it automatically formats and distributes data between the different hard drives inside of it, using storage virtualization technology to back up each drive onto the other ones.

Each drive is hot swappable, which allows a user to switch out drives and continue to work with files stored on the system without powering down and reconfiguring the array (unlike RAID). Drobo can both sense and repair redundancy against unexpected faults by backing up to other disks in the device.

Additional software is not required to connect the robot to a PC. Once it has been connected, the backup robot appears on the desktop as a single external USB hard drive. Software on the CD bundled with Drobo includes a dashboard that allows simple, "drag-and-drop" manipulation and administration of the robot.

A system of color-coded LEDs provides a visual guide to storage status. Green indicates safe operation, yellow warns that drives are nearing capacity and red alerts the user that data is not being automatically protected. A series of blue LEDs along the bottom of the unit displays the total amount of storage capacity in use.

The Drobo backup robot includes its own operating system, CPU and RAM, along with four SATA drive bays that can each handle up to one terabyte of data. These capabilities make the backup robot similar to a home server, though it is not marketed as such. Drobo does not provide protection against fire or other natural disasters and its small, easily transportable nature does make it vulnerable to theft. Users concerned about irreplaceable or mission-critical data loss should consider an offsite backup or similar disaster recovery strategy.

Here’s a video demonstration of a Drobo by Jim Schaff.

This was last updated in October 2007

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