Drobo 5N Replacement


Should I replace my Drobo 5N? If so, with what? I need networked Time Machine shares and preferably a unit that can also run as a Plex Server.


So way back in 2015 I bought a Drobo 5N along with 5 x 3TB WDC drives (red or red plus). I put it all together, set up dual disk redundancy, enabled 3 time machine shares and a general network drive for shared files. Besides moving it to a wired connection (see below), I haven’t really touched it since.

Unfortunately, recently it has become a bit flaky.

The system and the drives all seem to be fine—provable in that if I mount the file share I can copy files on and off and have a Plex server that streams files from it. But…

  1. After I moved my network over to Lynksys Velop mesh routers (with Homekit support) it no longer appeared on my network. I tried a heap of things and in the end connecting the 5N directly to one of the routers with an ethernet cable was the only way to bring it back.

  2. After upgrading to Ventura, my computers will occasionally fail to make time machine backups claiming it can’t find the time machine drive. Once this happens, even attempting to mount via the Drobo Dashboard gets the unhelpful error “Drobo Dashboard could not mount this drive”. Multiple restarts of the computers and the Drobo will eventually get it to mount again but this is, at best, described as annoying.

Drobo’s website has no update since before Ventura. [I am aware of their financial troubles.]

I don’t really want to spend money to replace this system but beginning to think I might have to before things get worse.

Anyone aware of these issues being “known” and there being a fix for them? My googling has not borne good results.

If not. What would the recommendation be as a replacement? I want something that is (a) network based, and (b) supports Time Machine shares.

A unit that allows a Plex Server software to run off it (well) as compared to just hosting the data files would be awesome.

I see that Synology has offerings here. Not sure which models. Or other brands. Would love to hear good/bad experiences and recommendations.

A few thoughts.

Firstly, it’s hard to tell whether the issue is the Drobo starting to fail, or if the issue is with Ventura. One possibility is a version incompatibility with SMB, if the Drobo is stuck on SMB2 and Ventura is using SMB3. These are guesses as I don’t know for sure.

What I would say is that sadly, Drobo’s time is, IMO, over, and I don’t see from what I have read a future for Drobo. Their technology was always, to me, very interesting because of the way they turned mass storage into a true appliance, and I liked the concept of being able to replace any drive with any other drive of any size and have the system handle it automatically. There were drawbacks including inefficiency utilizing the total disk space and a speed performance hit, but for external drive applications and certainly for networked applications I never thought that was a major issue. I bigger drawback is the proprietary nature of their data storage system, which meant that if the hardware itself failed, the only real option was to buy a new Drobo. There were data recovery services that apparently handled Drobo disk sets. I don’t know how well they worked, but I believe they were quite expensive.

Unfortunately, Drobo never really developed the DroboApps platform in the way that Synology and others (QNAP) did. I don’t know what ultimately let to their financial woes and what seems to be a disappearance from the marketplace. It would be great if someone else acquired their IP and was able to bring their storage model to another, hopefully more robust platform.

In any case, I would highly recommend a Synology for you. In my experience they are reliable, work well with MacOS (I am not yet on Ventura, so I cannot directly comment there), and support a wide array of apps including Plex and TimeMachine, and others you might find useful (BitWarden, SynologyDrive, and many more).

They are pricey, but I do think you get what you pay for in this sphere.

You will also need to consider how you will migrate your data to a new device. Since you have 5 x 3TB drives, I am guesstimating you have about 10-12 TB of available space on the Drobo; of course you might have less. Ideally you should have at least two copies before you move those drives into a new unit and format them, and for speed one needs to be a local drive in your hands. 10-12 TB external USB drives are not terrible expensive, but also not cheap, usually running $150-200 unless you find a good sale.

Alternatively you could populate your new system with new drives, depending on how old and near end of life you consider your current drives. Since they are 7 years old (assuming you are still using the original drives referenced in your post, I would strongly recommend new drives for whatever unit you migrate to. If you can get the 5N to work semi-reliably, you could keep it in operation as a backup until it dies.


When I finally gave up on my Drobo 5N, I moved the four drives into a Synology DS420J. Just works (far as I can tell) and the software is really good and extensive.

Thank you all. Looking for a new drive.