Now that Drobo is gone - good alternative to Thunderbolt hub and external drives?

I am using for a Plex Serever two external hdd connected via a (at the moment) USB 3 hub and also a 2TB SSD also connected via thius hub. I now bought a M2 Mac mini (smallest model) for moving these to a designated server, and am thinking again:

Should I invest in a Thunderbolt hub (e.g. OWC Thunderbolt 4 Hub) or rather a Drobo? But tha, I realised: Drobo is gone…….

Are there any alternatives to the Drobo as a computer attached storage? Or am I better off at the moment with a Hub (for the hdd the USB 3 hub sholuld be sufficient) nad external drives? I am not planning to use (at the moment at least) any RAID.

Any suggestions?

Years ago I stopped using my Drobo for lots of reasons which were the basis of my satisfaction with the device. I switched to a Synology device and have been more than satisfied for many years. Much better software.

But Synology is a NAS - I want to use it as a Computer (Direct) attaced Storage to the Mac mini. By doing that, I can use Backblaze to backup everything.

I think a Drobo would have been an overkill anyway, but are there any dumb Thunderbolt housings for hdd + sdd? OK - I saw the OWC Thunderbays - but hey - it is more expensive than the HDDs and the SSDs.

My computing needs are simple. I have an M1 MBA and an iPad Pro is my primary device. I use a CalDigit Thunderbolt 4 Element Hub with 2 Samsung T7 drives connected to my Mac. Most of my data also resides on Google Drive and everything is backed up to Backblaze B2. When needed I can connect my iPP to the dock and have access to all my local data.

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Thunderbolt RAID “housings” are expensive because they are more than just “housings”. Depending on what you what put inside of these “housings” you basically do achieve SSD speeds and you have a huge storage capacity. Thunderbolt RAIDs are for a niche market that needs transfer speed faster than via Ethernet and a huge storage capacity at the same time. And this comes at a price.

If you do not need something that fast, you can have a look at USB 3.1 Gen2 RAID “housings”. Same cable, different speed. Still fast enough. But those do not make sense as far as I am concerned given the speed Ethernet is capable of these days and apparently there are not many out there.

If you need “only” need Ethernet speed (1 GbE, 2.5 GbE or even 10 GbE) and a huge storage capacity, a NAS is the better alternative: many drives combined create much noise. My NAS is in a different room where I cannot hear it. I am sensitive when it comes down to noise (this is why I have returned my Mac Studio two years ago). Others don’t care that much.

If you do not need a huge storage capacity, external SSDs are the best option. I have three external SSDs connected to my Mac Mini locally for blazing fast local storage and a NAS connected via Ethernet (1 GbE). A Thunderbolt Hub combined with external SSDs (as @WayneG as mentioned) is also a nice alternative.


Thanks @Chriatian. Great answer. I haven’t considered the ethernet speed and the speed which goes at the moment to my appleTV (wifi - which works nicely, by the way. No complaints there.).

So you are right - my current setup makes sense.

You saved me quite a bit of money!!!

So my setup will be:

Mac mini has 2TB 2 and 2 USB A ports (max 5Gb/s)

  • 2 data hdd via the 2 USB A ports (8TB and 12TB)
  • 1 data SDD (2TB) via the one TB port

So I have one additional TB port free, Nice.

Thanks a lot - I knew I would get a usefull answer here.

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I seem to be a few hours late to this discussion :grinning: but I’ve been using Mac minis with external drives as servers for Plex and other uses for about 14 years. Rather than repeating myself, here is the link to the thread: which has photos of the current and previous minis.


I bought an OWC 4-bay USB-C enclosure to use with my Mac Mini server and I’ve been happy with it so far. Just using it as a plain bunch of disks, not RAID.

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Looks interesting. My plan for now: I am using anexisting USB3 hub and my three external hdds 5.25 in their own individual housing. Over time, I will replace one after another with 8TB SDDs - and as soon as I get the second SSD, I will look into the SSD housing for multiple SSDs - probably OWC.

Thanks again to everybody - many pieces of relvant info.

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