Drobo’s 5D3 Was a Disaster. What Should I Switch To?


You guys, I'm really frustrated at the moment so first of all, I'm really sorry if this post comes off as being whiny.  I bought a new Drobo.  It won't work and Drobo is putting next to no effort into helping me fix their product that I spent $700 on.

I just got off the phone with Drobo customer support again.  They put me on hold for almost 20 minutes and then, again, told me they'd take my case to advanced support.  I've been working with their support for two weeks and they are yet to give me a refund OR help me with my issue.  I can't return it now and I'm stuck with a non-working $700 product and a company who refuses to take care of their customer.

I really don't like blog posts like this one.  I usually think people are too quick to get angry with companies instead of giving them the benefit of the doubt.  Yet, I do feel like Drobo isn't treating me fairly.  This blog post isn't just a rant–it's a question and I'm hoping you'll give me answers in the comments.  First, is this a fluke, or does Drobo treat all of their customers this way?  Second, if Drobo is no longer the solution for me, what should I switch to?

Here's the story: I got a new iMac Pro (Ouch!  That one hurt the wallet!) and so I also bought the new Drobo 5D3 with a Thunderbolt 3 connection.  I have used Drobo for years and owned two of the previous generation Drobos.  However, I noticed that the new Drobo felt really sluggish, so I ran some diagnostics.  In the image above, you'll see I'm getting 47mb/second write, and 73mb/second read times.  That's incredibly poor performance.

I then contacted customer support.  Here's how it (predictably) went:

  • Immediate auto-reply from Drobo “Your concerns are important to us. A support representative will respond to your inquiry as quickly as possible.”
  • Two days later, an email from Drobo that essentially says “Turn it off and turn it on again (I'd obviously tried this), take a screenshot of your speed test (I'd already done this once…), and send us a diagnostics file.”  I humored them and did this within 24 hours.
  • Three more days later (after a few additional marketing messages and auto replies), I get an email saying this has been sent to advanced support.
  • Five days later, still no reply from advanced support so I call in.
  • Phone customer support says “Turn it on and off, try reseating the cable, do diagnostics again, run another speed test.”  I'd already done this multiple times by now.  He isn't sure, so he says he'll reach out to advanced support and call me that afternoon.
  • No returned call that afternoon.
  • Three days later, a one-liner email saying “Sorry for the delay, I reached out to advanced support again.”
  • One more day later, an email that essentially says, “Uh…. try a different cable (we already tried that), send another diagnostics file (ANOTHER?!?!?)…try a new computer.”  Ugh.
  • I call in again.  Twenty minutes on hold.  I tell them, “Hey, I'm not trying to be a pain here, but I need you to either refund me or fix this product before I hang up today.”  Blah blah.  Same stuff as before.  “It will take time to get a solution.  I'll reach out to advanced support.”  That's when I told them that I'd spend that time writing this blog post to tell other photographers about how they are treating their customers.

I did something I promised myself I'd never do.  I pulled the “Do you know who you're talking to” card.  Ack.  Embarrassing.  I'm embarrassed for myself.  I said, “Okay, if you're going to take another couple days on this, I'll spend that time writing a blog post to the 1 million followers of Improve Photography about how you treat your customers.”  Disgusting.  My comment was arrogant and pompous…. but I was desperate.  Can you all forgive me?  Yikes.  It was NOT my finest moment.

So now I have a career's worth of photos on a device that I paid $700 for, which isn't working properly.  I tried desperately to get Drobo customer support to care about me as a customer even a little bit, but they couldn't care any less.  I completely understand that sometimes things go wrong with a product and that I might have a fluke issue, but it doesn't seem like they are being fair.

I went to Youtube to see if others were having the same experience with slow speeds on the Drobo 5D3 when I came across this video of Drobo's CEO Mihir Shah telling Scott Kelby about how they are really focusing on the customer experience and good customer support. It kind of felt like a kick in the pants.

So… Now What Do I Do?

I don't know what the answer is here.  I'm looking for you guys to give me some advice.  Am I being too impatient with Drobo and should just wait it out?  Or have I seen enough to know that Drobo does not care about me as a customer and I should go elsewhere?

What's better than Drobo?  Promise? Gtech? LaCie? OWC?  WD?  IDK!  I read our review of Drobo vs Synology and I'm interested in that now…  I just want something that works with Thunderbolt 3, allows me to use drives of different sizes, and where the company actually cares about their customers.

What have you guys found that works best?



27 thoughts on “Drobo’s 5D3 Was a Disaster. What Should I Switch To?”

  1. Good luck, man! I’m actually about to get in the car to buy some high capacity drives so I can decommission my Drobo 5D. Every time I have to turn it off, I get drive failures and it takes 17-21 hours to do its data protection. I have it plugged into a UPS so power dips are not a problem in my workflow. I reached out to them and got an initial response but nothing since. Maybe I can turn it into an eGPU.

    My new system will be individual drives with individual backups and 2TB SSD for current edits. We’ll see how this goes🤞🏽

  2. I have suffered the worst customer support from Drobo. Unfortunately they don’t have anymore a hotline, and through mail support you are condemned to be left alone after about two weeks, after which they pretend not having received your mail. If you live in Switzerland they feel safe and don’t bother anymore. There are several 3rd party data recovery service around, and although they are by no means cheap, is more worth to spend your money there than buying another Drobo.

  3. I have had a drobo for 5 years and never had very few problems until now. Last year I had two drives fail within two days of each other. The fourth bay and the fifth bay. I replaced them but it was acting screwy every since.

    Then, last week, I the fifth bay drive failed again…so I replaced it. Then while it was backing up the data across all the other drives, supposedly another “critical” drive failed in the FOURTH bay. They told me I had to clone the “critical” failed drive. I took that drive to the store and had it cloned for $100. Then put the, new, cloned drive back in and turned it on. It STILL didn’t work. They made me send them a diagnostic report. Then they came back to me saying that I cloned the wrong drive. I DID NOT clone the wrong drive. I cloned the drive they told me to clone, the fourth bay drive. They told me I was “Mistaken” and took out the wrong drive to clone. They said their information was telling them I cloned the 3rd bay’s drive when I know for a fact I took out the correct drive and cloned it. I know because the drive I replaced the failed drive with was not shaped the same as the other drives. The original drive had a straight across bottom and the new cloned drive had a bit of a wavy bottom. So even if I cloned the wrong bay, there would be physical proof I put it in the wrong slot.

    Not only did they waste a week of my time going back and fourth, but I wasted $100 on cloning the drive and about $500 on two new drives replacing the failed drives. Now I have to reformat the Drobo and I’ve lost everything. Thank god I kept back ups on external drives. Now I have to upload everything back to the drobo…5 Years worth of stuff!

    They did not want to take responisbilty for either giving me the incorrect information in the first place or that the whole system is screwy and not working correctly. The customer service agents were very nice up until this last guy I spoke to who was not only like a robot, but extremely rude to me.

    I DO NOT recommend this company for long term use of storage!

  4. I almost feel like saying Me Too over here.
    My Drobo 5C failed last year. I was without my primary storage for over 3 weeks as we messed about trying this, trying that and eventually admitting that it must be a hardware fault and swapping out the unit.
    But now that replacement unit is starting to get VERY noisy (the previous one was almost silent) which tells me something somewhere is wearing out.
    On the other side of my office I have a Synology and it is perfect. Silent, bullet proof and just doing what it is supposed to do. If Synology ever bring out a Direct Attached solution (USB C or Thunderbolt) I will be at the front of the queue but until that day, I just know my Drobo is slowly failing and will soon get to a point where I can non longer put up with the noise in my nice quiet office and have to resort to Drobo customer service again.

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