With a video library hitting close to 1TB, a photo library a little over 30GB and a music library close to 25GB, I need some space!! I also cannot be always backing this stuff up, so something that will withstand a single failed drive is needed as well. AND I want it accessible from anywhere on my home network.
Two obvious choices are:
Which one to get? Both offer reliable storage of data over multiple hard disk drives. It will come down to cost and features.
The Drobo is essentially an external drive enclosure that can hold up to (4) drives. It connects to a host computer via USB2 or, in the more expensive model, Firewire 400/800. A DroboShare add-on can also be purchased that allows the Drobo to be connected to a network, and, therefore, no host computer is needed. The Drobo has an excellent User Interface for installing or upgrading the disks. Everything is plug and play.
Microsoft’s Windows Home Server is just an operating system that has to be installed on a computer. It can support upto as many drives as the computer’s case and motherboard can support (plus USB2 and Firewire). Since the WHS is a server, it needs to be connected to a network.
Okay, so that’s a brief overview. Which is better? Well, that depends on what your need is.
If you need is high-speed, reliable data storage, then the 2nd generation Drobo is your best bet. It offers data transfers up to 800Mbit/s and is the easiest to setup and maintain. The Drobo acts just like a BIG hard drive and can be treated as such. For example, you can share out the entire drive on your network or any number of combinations of folders. A maximum of 16TB (4x 2GB) is supported at this time. A 1TB Drobo will cost about $650 ($499 for the 2nd gen Drobo + $150 for 2x 500GB HDD).
If your need is a reliable network-based file server, then Microsoft’s Windows Home Server (WHS) might be the better way to go. WHS needs only a Celeron processor, 512MB of RAM and at least (2) disk drives for data redunancy. Installing or upgrading hard disk drives is not anywhere as easy as the Drobo. The WHS server must be shutdown and HDD installed. This complexity of this procedure will depend on the computer case you decide to purchase. A 1TB WHS will cost about $450 ($150 barebones kit + $150 for 2x 500GB HDD + $150 for the WHS software).
And the winners are:
- for easy of use: Drobo
- for cost and expandability: Windows Home Server (DIY)
Note: A pre-built WHS, like the HP MediaSmart Server, can be purchased and offer many of the conveniences of the Drobo. A 1TB (2x 500GB) HP MediaSmart Server from TigerDirect.com is currently $699.97. Very comparable to the 1TB Drobo.
Note 2: WHS offers far more functionality that the Drobo. Built-in backup agents for the computers on your network, remote access to your networked computers from the Internet, and much more. Go to the link above for the official Window Home Server site at Microsoft. There are also many add-ons to extend the functionality of the WHS server.
As for me … in writing this article I have removed any doubt from my mind that I will be building a WHS for myself in the very near future. I’ll write more about it when that time comes.