Synology and Drobo have consistently ranked among the best NAS appliance manufacturers for the last couple of decades. In recent years though, the reliability of Drobo’s products seems to have dropped below par.
Since 2020, Drobo’s product lineup has diminished quite a lot. Drobo claimed this was due to supply chain issues caused by COVID, and the product lineup would be restored again soon. However, as of 2022, things have only gotten worse. Drobo’s parent company StorCentric filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July.
Considering the current state of Drobo, the question most people have in mind is whether Drobo products are ever worth getting compared to Synology and other vendors. We’ll attempt to answer this question in this article.
Synology and Drobo Historically
Synology was founded in 2000, while Drobo was founded in 2005. Despite the late start, Drobo quickly gained popularity as its products were simple to use. Drobo’s proprietary RAID solution (BeyondRAID) played a big part in this, as did their hardware. However, this success didn’t last that long.
While Synology continued innovating as it had always done, Drobo remained mostly stagnant. In fact, Drobo’s products started to grow a reputation for being very prone to problems.
We’ve already mentioned how Drobo has been having difficulty maintaining its product lineup. Add to that the financial troubles, and it really brings into question the already poor reliability of Drobo products in the long term.
Drobo Vs Synology – Main Differences
Keeping all the aforementioned things in mind, we’ll try to cover how Drobo currently compares to Synology in terms of metrics like product lineup, capacity, performance, etc., and answer which one is better.
Drobo currently has two 2 DAS devices (5C and 5D3), 1 SAN (B810i), and 2 NAS appliances (5N2 and B810n) in its lineup. We’ll discuss these devices’ specs further in the article, but for now, let’s just say Drobo’s product selection is quite a niche at the moment.
Synology, on the other hand, has expanded into a number of fields, from camera and monitoring to routers and cloud solutions. Even if we talk about NAS and SANs specifically, Synology still gets an easy win with over 20 devices in this category.
Rather than listing all the products here, it would be better to explain Synology’s naming convention, as that’ll help you recognize the devices at a glance. Synology calls their NAS devices Disk Stations (DS). The last two digits in the name refer to the release year, whereas the remaining digits in the middle indicate how many disks it can hold.
For instance, the DS 220+ released in 2020 sports two drive bays. Let’s also look at a higher-end NAS like DS1621xs+. From the name, we can gather that it can hold up to 16 disks and was released in 2021. Understanding this naming pattern should help you in finding the kind of device you need from Synology’s extensive catalog.
The 5C, 5D3, and 5N2 from Drobo can hold up to 5 HDDs. Similarly, the B810i and B810n sport 8 drive bays make them the highest capacity models that Drobo currently offers.
Synology’s range is much wider. They have single-bay value options like the DS118, as well as high-performance options in the XS series. For instance, the DS3622xs+ comes with 12 drive bays and can scale up to 36 drives with expansion units.
Among enterprise NAS solutions, the RackStation RS4021xs+ is a high-end option that comes with 16 bays and is scalable up to 40 with expansion units. For the most demanding storage needs, Synology has 12-bay products like the SA3600 or SA3400, which can scale up to 180 drives.
The performance of a NAS/SAN device depends on various factors, from the disks used and the RAID type to the network protocols, network speed, and of course, the enclosure’s specs.
It’s hard to make a one-on-one comparison in such circumstances, but if you were to pit similar devices (e.g., Drobo’s B810n against Synology’s DS1821+), the performance would be comparable.
The difference comes in the fact that Drobo currently has a very limited product lineup suited for personal use or small businesses only. Synology, on the other hand, offers very high-end products, which means it ultimately wins in terms of high-end performance as well.
The reliability of any device is hard to gauge flatly, as it doesn’t just depend on build quality but also other dynamic factors like operating conditions. Data on exact failure rates is hard to come by as well. But judging from user reports, Drobo products seem to have a considerably higher rate of failure.
And one might argue that the real problem comes after the device fails. Unlike Synology, which is based on Linux’s mdadm utility, Drobo is a proprietary system. This means that in the case of failure, you’re completely reliant on the company’s support. Considering the below-par support experience, so many Drobo users have had, things look grim.
In terms of warranties, it’s best to look at individual products. Drobo products generally come with a 2-year standard warranty. Synology is a bit more versatile, with the warranty period ranging from 1-5 years, depending on the product. Needless to say, higher-end products like the DS3622xs+ are backed by a higher warranty tier.
One crucial factor when talking about both the performance and reliability of devices is the RAID version in use. Both Synology and Drobo support various RAID configurations, but they also have their own proprietary RAID technologies.
Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR) manages a disk’s storage space as smaller chunks. This maximizes the usable storage for redundancy while ensuring minimal space is wasted in arrays with unequal disks. SHR typically provides one disk fault tolerance, while SHR-2 can sustain up to two disk failures. This makes SHR excellent in terms of expandability.
Drobo focuses on leaving behind the limitations of traditional RAID and simplifying RAID implementation with BeyondRAID. BeyondRAID writes data at the block level, implementing the best RAID protection algorithm depending on the available data at any point. RAID management is also very accessible, as you can simply insert new disks or replace existing ones.
Synology’s products are managed through DiskStation Manager (DSM), a web-based operating system. On the other hand, Drobo’s products are managed using the Drobo Dashboard, which runs as an app on the existing OS.
As a tailor-made OS, Synology DSM offers way more features and customization options. This applies to everything from personalization and package installation to RAID management. DSM easily takes the cake in terms of UI, but it’s still worth mentioning that the Drobo Dashboard has seen considerable improvement in recent years.
Final Verdict – Drobo Vs Synology
It should be evident from all the metrics we’ve covered so far that Synology is simply better in most cases. Considering the current state of Drobo and the future, we highly recommend going with Synology over Drobo. Before we end, let’s go over the main differences between Drobo vs Synology once again:
Only 5 products at present
Over 20 NAS and SAN products to choose from
Max 8 drive bays
Products with up to 40 drive bays and 180 disks (expansion units required)
Comparable performance with similar spec devices
Wins in terms of higher-end performance as Drobo doesn’t have same-tier products
Devices tend to have a higher failure rate
Products are less prone to failure, and the warranty/support system is also better
Supports traditional RAID along with proprietary BeyondRAID
Supports standard RAID levels along with Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR)
Devices are managed through Drobo Dashboard
Devices are managed through Synology DiskStation Manager