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DroboShare network storage 'robot'

Can network storage really be this easy to use?

What we have here is not a RAID system in the true sense, but an expandable external drive with proprietary, RAID-like data protection. What's missing from this picture? Network connectivity.

This is where DroboShare comes in. It's styled not only to match the Drobo's looks but also to form a stand for it. There's a Gigabit Ethernet port on the back and two USB ports to let you plug in two Drobos.

We particularly liked the bundled power adaptor cable, which lets you drive the Drobo and the DroboShare off a single Drobo AC brick - nice space conservation, that.

Data Robotics Drobo with DroboShare

Drobo and (underneath) DroboShare

Having configured Drobo directly, sharing it is just a matter of powering it down, connecting it to the DroboShare and that device to your network. Turn the power back on, and DroboShare will grab an IP address off your router and you're ready to access its contents from any machine.

Data Robotics bundles DroboShare with a tweaked version of its Drobo Dashboard utility, which provides an initial access point to the device if you don't know its IP address. From here, you can get a readout of the available storage capacity, assign a manual IP address and, if you like, set a password for the shared storage space.

Unlike a NAS box, Drobo and DroboShare won't let you partition the drive, or create users and groups of users to help you police how the storage is used and shared. There's no remote access by HTTP and FTP, and you can't run your own server software on it.

Instead, like Netgear's TurboStorage line, Data Robotics' set-up is arguably more of a storage area network (SAN) product than a NAS. It's a big bucket of storage available to any and all users on a network. Pros and power-users may scoff at Drobo and DroboShare's NAS inadequacies, but they make for a much easier system for ordinary folk to set up, use and maintain. And keep their data safe against drive failures.

Unlike TurboStorage, Drobo uses simple, cross-platform software to access it, and if you're using a manual IP address, you can always get your data directly through your computer's own OS.

A perfect group-oriented storage offering then? Not quite. Install the Drobo first as a USB-connected drive, and Dashboard will update to the latest version. But it wasn't the version compatible with DroboShare, so we had to re-install it, using the version on the disc that came with the add-on. We also found Data Robotics' website lists contradictory information on the latest versions of the Drobo and DroboShare firmware and Drobo Dashboard. It's time to clear out the cobwebs, guys.

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