Saturday, December 17, 2011

drobo's top-notch customer support

Although I'm a professional storage administrator, I really like the dead-simple maintenance that you get with the storage appliances from the folks at Drobo. It's true that they seem a bit pricey, and it's very true that their consumer-directed units are "performance-challenged," but when it comes to an easy way to create a huge, self-managing, readily growing storage pool for everything from home video and digital stills to a dumping-ground for backup images, it's really hard to beat.
I own four units:

  • 2 "first gen" 4-spindle, USB-2
  • 8-spindle DroboPro (USB-2, FireWire, iSCSI)
  • 5-spindle Drobo FS (CIFS)
The reason for this posting is because of a problem I had today with my Pro: although it's presenting a 16TB volume to the connected host via Ethernet/iSCSI, it's filled with a mix of 1TB and 1.5TB SATA-2 drives. The usable capacity is in the neighborhood of 8TB, and I had it roughly 70% full with backups and staging files when it decided to die.
I pulled the power, then restarted it, and it started a boot cycle.
After checking online and finding a troubleshooting post from Drobo, I went through the steps to address the problem. No joy.
I'd purchased the unit in November, 2009, so it was clearly out of warranty, but I took a chance and sent a help request to Drobo Support. It didn't take long before Chad was answering back through their support system, and by giving him good, descriptive information about the problem, he quickly responded with "please call me at..." to get some final information on my symptoms.
Unfortunately, they see this happen enough that they've actually coined a name for it: the Yellow Brick Road.
Luckily, the folks at Drobo recognized some time ago that this particular boot-loop cannot be solved by the customer, and even when the device is out of warranty, they'll RMA the thing and get you back in business.
By any measure, that's awesome customer support.