The Drobo 'storage robot' has proven to be a hit among both reviewers and users, with the company selling more than 60,000 of the automated storage devices during the past 18 months. Now Data Robotics hopes to capture a new audience -- including creative professionals and IT managers--with the latest addition to the Drobo line.

The new DroboPro offers more drives, more capacity, and more versatility to the user than the original storage device. The new eight-drive system can connect to your computer via USB 2.0, FireWire 800, and now iSCSI. Dual disk redundancy, "smart" expanding volumes, and new triple interface versatility also highlight DroboPro's features.

Data Robotics has steadily improved each iteration of Drobo with every launch. The original Drobo unit offered only USB 2.0 connectivity; the company added FireWire 800 connectivity to the 2008 model. This new addition to the Drobo family sports an Ethernet port to allow for an iSCSI connection between the DroboPro and your Mac or Windows PC's Gigabit Ethernet port or to a network server.



Unlike the DroboShare, a companion product that allows you to share your first- or second-generation Drobo as network-attached storage (NAS), you can't directly share the DroboPro over your network. But you can share the DroboPro's drives over your network through a host computer.

According to Marc Fuccio, Data Robotics' senior director of products and markets, the Drobo dashboard program will install an initiator and configure the DroboPro for Mac quickly and easily. The DroboPro's iSCSI connection is designed to allow for fast block level data transfer between a Mac and the DroboPro. No special cable or card is required.

The DroboPro also offers "smart volumes," a feature aimed at small businesses and IT managers who worry about properly estimating departmental capacity requirements during setup. When you create a volume on DroboPro, it will start small and grow as needed, eliminating capacity guesswork. Users won't have to resize or migrate volumes. Instead, smart volumes pull storage from the common pool of disk space rather than a physical disk allocation. A light will turn on when you need to feed the Drobo a new drive to further grow a volume.

Drobo uses a simplified RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) technology to protect against drive failure. The device has slots for up to eight Serial ATA (SATA) hard drives that are hot-swappable, self-monitored, and self-managing.