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Drobo vs. LaCie 5big Thunderbolt 2 external storage solutions

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I have used Drobo as part of my backup and disaster recovery strategy for several years. But no matter how hard I tried, my Drobos never delivered the performance I was looking for. So it was time to find a better backup storage solution, and in this article, I will compare Drobo vs. LaCie 5big Thunderbolt 2.

Shop mentioned products

  • LaCie 5big DAS Array (Amazon)
  • Drobo 5N: Network Attached Storage (Amazon)
  • LaCie d2 Thunderbolt 2 (Amazon)
  • LaCie 2TB Rugged (Amazon)

The advantage of Drobo’s BeyondRaid technology is flexibility and data protection. Unlike traditional RAID storage, Drobo units can be fed with hard drives of different sizes, allowing you to upgrade storage capacity one drive at a time. Depending on its configuration, most Drobo devices keep your data safe even if two of your hard drives fail at the same time. These features have a significant tradeoff: Performance. Drobos are just incredibly slow.

Review: Drobo vs. LaCie 5big Thunderbolt 2 external storage solutions

Drobo 5N

The first Drobo I owned was a Drobo S, and I had it connected to my Mac via FireWire 800. My Drobo S was quickly replaced, as my primary storage device, by a Drobo 5N, which I could conveniently access over the network. It also allowed for an optional Solid State Disk (SSD) hot cache, which was supposed to accelerate read access to frequently accessed data. Unfortunately, that didn’t make a significant difference for my use cases.

Frustrated by the lack of performance, I finally got a LaCie 5big Thunderbolt 2 as my main storage unit, providing fast read/write access via Thunderbolt 2 from my Mac. For more data protection, I mirrored the LaCie to the Drobo 5N once a week because it took two full days to synchronize the two via Chronosync due to the poor performance of the Drobo.

Goodbye Drobo

I finally decided to ditch the Drobo and completely re-think my backup strategy by trying to consolidate hardware and improve performance. Here is what I came up with:

LaCie 5big Thunderbolt 2

Review: Drobo vs. LaCie 5big Thunderbolt 2 external storage solutions

LaCie 5big Thunderbolt 2

  • Capacity: 15TB RAID 5
  • Function: Main storage of all data that doesn’t fit on my iMac’s internal hard disk.
  • Connection: Connected via fiber optics Thunderbolt 2 cable to my iMac.

LaCie d2 Thunderbolt 2

Review: Drobo vs. LaCie 5big Thunderbolt 2 external storage solutions

LaCie d2 Thunderbolt 2

  • Capacity: 5TB, split into 2 partitions. I ordered the 2TB model but replaced the original hard disk with a 5TB drive
  • Function:
    • Partition 1 (3.5TB): Clone of the LaCie 5big. Every night ChronoSync copies my most critical data from the LaCie 5big to the LaCie d2.
    • Partition 2 (1.5TB): Time Machine backup volume
  • Connection: Daisy-chained via Thunderbolt 2 cable to LaCie 5big

LaCie 2TB Rugged Thunderbolt

Review: Drobo vs. LaCie 5big Thunderbolt 2 external storage solutions

Lacie 2TB Rugged Thunderbolt

  • Capacity: 500GB Solid State Disk (SSD). I replaced the original 2TB spinning drive with a 500GB SSD.
  • Function: Clone of my iMac’s internal hard drive. Every night SuperDupe creates an exact copy of my internal drive.
  • Connection: Thunderbolt cable connected to my iMac.

In addition to all that, I run CrashPlan on my iMac to back up the 6TB of data stored on my LaCie 5big to the cloud.

Drobo vs. LaCie 5big Thunderbolt 2

I have been using the storage configuration I have mentioned above for several years now and never had any performance issue with LaCie. In contrast, I always had performance problems with Drobo. So I don’t regret having abandoned Drobo in favor of LaCie.

About the Author Michael Kummer

I was born and raised in Austria. I speak German, English, and Spanish. Since moving to the U.S., I have lived and worked in Alpharetta, GA. In my twenties, I was a professional 100m sprinter. These days I do mostly CrossFit. I'm a technologist and Apple fan. I love science and don't believe anything unless there is proof. I follow the Paleo diet and intermittently fast every day. I'm married and have two trilingual kids. My goal with this blog is to share what I learn so that you can spend time on something else.

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  • Jim Clark says:

    I found this interesting since I too have a similar setup. iMac with 1TB internal and a 16TB Drobo5D for media. That’s where my Plex library, Photos library, iMovie Library, etc… live. I have found the 5D “acceptable” from a performance standpoint, and excellent from a data security and scalability standpoint. I moved from a Drobo 5N to the 5D for performance reasons which was a noticeable, but marginal improvement. I also used CrashPlan to backup to, and an external drive to do a bootable image to with ChronoSync. Now, CrashPlan is going away (ARRGH!!) and I am looking to do my offsite backup to the Drobo 5N which I have at my house in the mountains.

    How has the reliability of the LaCie drives been? Can you hot-swap drives?

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