Would you be my “Friend”?

I have a problem.

I need to sort out my offline backups.

After trying Crashplan, I’ve cancelled my online account as the upload speeds just weren’t cutting it. I have a 100MB down, 10MB up connection with Virgin Media and despite an initial high speed upload, the speed has fallen up dramatically. Yes, it’s a brilliantly cheap deal, but I really want a fast upload.

After some research on the CrashPlan forums, it seems I’m afflicted by a routing issue out of their control with some carriers throttling traffic to CrashPlan (not VirginMedia BTW)

So I tried BackBlaze, another online service, but their upload speed isn’t too hot either.

So I tried Arq.

Brilliant! Getting 1.2MB upload speeds, right into Amazon’s S3 service.

The problem is though, it’s going to be expensive. Not so much Arq, but S3 itself. To store 500GB on S3 will cost $70 per month (ish!). I’ve got a fair amount of data I’d like to store. Several terabytes in fact!

So how about this for a solution.

Find a “Friend” living within a hours drive of Liverpool, who is also on a Virgin Media 100MB connection and who is prepared to enter into a “symbiotic” relationship i.e. they would host my online backup and I will host theirs.

It would go something like this:

  • I would configure a Mac mini and a 4 bay Drobo and do a local backup of all my stuff.
  • I would transport the Mac mini and Drobo to the “Friends” location.
  • They would power it up and connect it to their local LAN and be OK with leaving it on 24×7
  • I would be able to backup incrementally to the remote Drobo and do the same for them (if required)

The Mac mini could be left to run without a monitor and I could arrange for Remote Access (if required).

So once in place, how would this work?

CrashPlan has a facility to allow you to setup a remote backup location with a “Friend” for free. Once configured, CrashPlan would start incremental backups automatically from my local data to the remote location. Because I would have already made a full backup locally before before transporting it, there would be no requirement to backup Gigabytes over data over the internet.

Other than the initial hardware costs, the running costs would be nil (except for power)

Physical security is another matter, but again, by setting up a CrashPlan “Friend” system, access to the data on the remote system is protected.

To prevent negatively impacting the bandwidth in the remote location, you can configure the inbound connections to only work overnight, but as they would only be incremental backups, this would probably not be an issue.

As I’d only really need to access the backups in the event of a catastrophe, there would be no real need to download stuff (other to validate the backups are working), and in the event, I could always just drive over and pickup the Drobo to connect to my local system.

Actually, I wonder if there is something already built into the Drobo to do Drobo to Drobo backups remotely. I’ll need to do some research.

So what do you think?


Have you ever set up a similar system with CrashPlan and how has it worked out?

Are you within an hour of Liverpool, have a Virgin Media 100MB connection, be happy to have a Mac mini and a Drobo powered 24×7 and willing to be my “Friend”?

Let me know!

Droboshare experiences

This post is basically an email I received from John Sammons following his experiences with the Droboshare. He purchased one as part of the same bundle I did but decided to experiment further. I’ve not had chance to replicate this on my system but the results he came up with were very interesting. I’ve reproduced his email in full below with his permission.

Thanks John….

Got the Drobo and am very pleased with it. Interestingly I have found that a bit of time with DroboShare pays dividends in the performance stakes.

I used the HD Benchmark program linked within your blog and found pretty much the same result as you. When I linked the Drobo to the Time Capsule via USB I got slightly improved network share performance but was concerned that the Airport Utility was reporting it as a 256GB drive instead of the current 2TB/16TB drive it should be.

My next test was to download the JumbShare application and configure my MacPro to use Jumbo Frames. This proved to give some improvement in Droboshare but not great when connected to my netgear Gigabit switch, approximately 15% more. Then came a rather outstanding discovery. I was never sure if the Netgear, being a cheap 5 port device, supported all the Gigabit ethernet standards. So I tried connecting both the MacPro and Droboshare to the Timecapsule Gigabit Ethernet as this as my most up to date switch. Wow…. this made a bit of a difference, see below.

I have run the test multiple times and with different file sizes and seem to consistently get between 92MB/s and 102MB/s, thats at least 3 x FW800 performance! Checking the Drobospace forums did not seem to give the impression this was a fast device but the results show otherwise. I also confirmed this with Disk Bench as I was so sure it was a rogue set of results.

My Drobo versions are:

Drobo Firmware: 1.3.0

Droboshare Firmware: 1.1.1

I have also moved the Drobo back and forth to the Droboshare/Direct connect with no problems. The key seems to be putting it in standby first to ensure a save transfer.

I also managed to get my Drobocare uplifted to 2 years which is the EU warranty, I had to exchange several emails with Data Robotics to get them to acknowledge that it should be a 2 year key from 1st May, I don’t know if you have done that but its worth it for 2 years piece of mind.

Feel free to blog any of the above if it is of interest to anyone.

DroboShare Performance..

Just did some simple tests on the Drobo MK II connected via a DroboShare and connected via FW800.

As I said in my previous post, I’ve no real need for startling speed from the Drobo as it’s meant as a backup device. Hooking it up to a DroboShare just means that it’s more convenient as it’s accessible from all devices on the network as an SMB share. Not configuration required, it just seems to work.

I did get a few requests for some comparative speeds so before I start populating it with real data, I’ve unhooked it from the DroboShare and connected it to my Mac Pro directly using FW800. To run the tests, I’ve used the HD Drive Speed Test written by John Flowers over at Unscale. The application is designed for video professionals with special aims as per the website

Benchmarking tools do not accurately represent the real-world workflow of importing, editing and working with HD video files. This program was written to solve that problem by using actual system calls – just like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere (or Avid Media Composer) – and benchmarking your drives based on their ability to read/write/import the video files you’ve recorded.

So here are the results!

First, the Drobo connected via the Droboshare on a Gigabit Ethernet switch:

Click on the image to see a larger view but basically it’s showing a sustained speed of 12.35 MB/s and should be capable of streaming 720p footage. Again, not spectacular and perfectly fine as a backup medium.

Secondly, the same Drobo directly connected via FW800

Oh! That would be a sustained speed of 33.45 MB/s and capable of streaming RED 4K video at 13 fps. That’s quite a difference!

Of course, your mileage may vary depending on your network, network switch, drive size and configuration, etc.

This hasn’t been a detailed comparison but should give you a rough idea of the comparative speeds.

It’s very easy to configure the Drobo as a shared volume on the Mac and make that accessible on the network, as long as the Mac is on 24/7 or at least for when you want to access the data.

Drobo and Droboshare..

Following on from my decision to move away from a pair of RAID 0 arrays for my backup solution (see previous post) I decided to try out a combination of a couple of mirrored drives for resilience and the ability to create offsite backups plus a Drobo based solution for long term storage (plus cloud backup, yada, yada….)

Well I ordered a Drobo MkII last week from Amazon and worked out I could reconfigure my existing config to free up 4 x 1TB drives to populate the Drobo.

Literally minutes after the order was dispatched from Amazon, someone on Twitter pointed me across to the eBuyer site where the same Drobo was on offer but with a DroboShare device thrown in for free (usually £169). The DroboShare is a device that allows you to connect your Drobo via Etehrnet to your network turning it into a NAS or Network Attached Storage device.

It was too late to cancel the order with Amazon but their policy is to accept returns within 7 days so I ordered the Drobo and DroboShare from eBuyer. Needless to say, the Amazon unit arrived several days ago but I left it unopened waiting for the other unit.

The second unit arrived today and I have to say, installation was a breeze.

Very nicely packaged with simple instructions! Basically:

  • Unpack both the Drobo and Droboshare.
  • Connect the DroboShare to my Gigabit ethernet switch with supplied cable
  • Place the Drobo on top and connect to the DroboShare using the supplied USB2 cable
  • Insert the 4 x 1TB Drives
  • Power the two units from a single power supply using the supplied Y splitter
  • Insert the CD into the Mac and installed the Drobo dashboard
  • Once installed, the dashboard found the Drobo and realised that the disks were unformatted (note even if the drives are formatted or have data on, the Drobo will treat them as new disks and wipe them)
  • Selected HFS+ as format and selected a 16GB volume (figured it was better to go for the maximum size to make upgrading easier later)
  • Drobo then proceeded to format the drives and five minutes later, I had 2.7 TB of usable storage space!

Now before you ask, 4 x 1 TB does not equal 2.7 TB !

As can be seen from the graphic (click to see full size), because of the way drive manufacturers describe drive capacity, it’s actually 3.63 TB in real terms. But this still isn’t 2.7 TB?

In fact, 960 GB is reserved for protection and this is the beauty of the principle behind the Drobo.

In theory, I could copy up to 2.7 TB of data onto the unit, then remove one of the drives and still access the full 2.7 TB!

In the future, when 2 TB drives (or even bigger) are more common and more affordable, I could increase the available storage on the device (up to a maximum of 16GB) without having to move data around manually and reformatting. The Drobo will let me remove a drive, replace it with one of a higher capacity and just re-jig the data to fit!

Performance seems fine! I was a little worried about using the USB2 connection to the DroboShare as the unit does have a FireWire 800 connection, but this is only for use when directly connecting to the Mac itself. As this unit is only intended as a backup device, I’ve no real need for speed. Besides which, I’m currently playing a 4GB HD movie off the drive via DroboShare and at the same time copying another two HD movies across! The movie is playing just fine!

Update: I had a few requests to do a comparison between the direct connection compared to the DroboShare connected. Glad I did as the direct connection is nearly three times as fast! See the results here

A quandry……

Well you know that other Drobo unit, the one that’s going back to Amazon tomorrow….

Nah, I don’t need two Drobos at the minute, although I do have some spare drives without a home…

No, I need to stay sensible and send it back…..

Yes, I will!

BTW I have no affiliation with Drobo either directly or via MacBreak Weekly. I paid for the machines with my own hard earned cash at current retail prices!