Asset Management Essay 2 - One Year On

About a year ago, when I was planning to build my current desktop computer, I wrote a number of essays where I talk about the issues of image storage. None of the options where ideal, and so I went for the simplest, which was to upgrade my internal RAID 1 pair with higher capacity drives. I don't shoot every day or keep everything I shoot, so while my library grows, I'm not the kind of shooter like an event photog who is adding 50GB every time he comes home.

So for the last year, the pair of 1.5TB drives has done me well.  But here I am, a year later as predicted, in much the same same position and trying to come up with an answer that's a little smarter this time.

Just to review my requirements:
1) I need at least 2TB of redundant storage, most likely I'll just buy 3 or 4.

2) It's got to be fast, no USB or Firewire externals.

3) I like having my whole library available at all times.  There have been a few big projects that I don't need immediate access to that I've moved to multiple external drives that I consider 'Cold Storage', but for the most part, I have everything online in one system.

4) I don't want to have to worry about complex RAID 5 or 6 systems that are a mess to fix if something REALLY goes wrong.

To this end, there have been a couple of developments from Drobo.  Now I know I scoffed at a Drobo a year ago, and for the low-end one and what I do, I still scoff.  However they have released 2 models since then which 'could' answer my call.

First is the Drobo S, which is basically a 5 drive version of the original (which had 4 drives), along with a faster processor, an eSATA connection, and optional dual drive redundancy for $799 plus drives.

The second is the Drobo Pro, which is an 8 drive system, with optional dual redundancy, which connects over a gigabit ethernet cable via a system called iSCSI for $1500 plus drives.

Both expensive to be sure, but remember, this is your data we're talking about. Are your pictures worth $1000 to you? See, I thought so.  Now the Drobo Pro has been out a while, gotten good reviews, but is big and expensive, and iSCSI is limited by the gigabit ethernet which in the real world means about 90MB/second. Which is fast, certainly faster than firewire or USB, but is it fast enough to work over?

The newer Drobo S is cheaper and does everything I need it to do (as far as I can tell) and has eSATA, which is theoretically faster than iSCSI, though it's only been out a couple of weeks and I have yet to find a review or anything to give me any objective numbers to compare. I'm worried that the processing overhead of dual-redundancy will slow the whole thing down to the point where it won't even live up to the eSATA potential.  The Drobo Pro has 2 processors, so might be better in that regard.

Either way, I planned to fill them with 5 WD 1.5TB Green drives.  They run cooler, are still pretty fast (which is less of a concern when they're all working together) and they're only $109/ea at NewEgg.   I'd also like to make the purchase before the end of the year for tax purposes, so if anyone has any information that might help, please let me know.