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Data Robotics’ Drobo automated storage device was a massive hit among consumers, with more than 60,000 units sold in the last year and a half. Capitalizing on that success and demand from the reseller channel, Data Robotics is going after IT professionals and the small business market with its DroboPro.

DroboPro offers more drives, capacity and versatility than the original storage device, says Jillian Mansolf, senior vice president of Data Robotics. The new eight-drive system connects to a Mac or a PC via USB 2.0, FireWire 800 and now iSCSI, and includes business-class features such as dual-disk redundancy, "smart" expanding volumes, and new triple interface versatility, Mansolf says

“The market for the original Drobo was creative professionals with large amounts of video and audio data that had to be secure and easily accessible,” Mansolf says. “What we found was that many of those customers were trying to pull the solution up into their small and medium-sized businesses, so we’ve introduced the next iteration, DroboPro, for those business customers,” she says.

For solution providers, Mansolf says the introduction of DroboPro offers a completely new avenue and an underserved market ready to be tapped. She says even the smallest businesses can benefit from DroboPro’s ease of use and scalability.

“We’re doing a lot of outreach to solution providers that have access to customers we weren’t able to reach before,” Mansolf says. Data Robotics has been busy producing Webinars, providing training and support for their community of about 2,500 channel partners, she says. One key area of focus for Data Robotics will be Microsoft solution providers who are serving the SMB market, she says.

Drobo uses simplified RAID technology to protect against drive failure. The device has slots for up to eight Serial ATA (SATA) hot-swappable, self-managing hard drives that can store up to 16TB of data, Mansolf says.

Solution providers can choose to purchase DroboPro with or without drives included, since the appliance can handle virtually any drive an organization already has, she says.

“The DroboPro is completely vendor-neutral, and will accept any 3.5 inch SATA drive from any manufacturer, any speed,” she says.

This neutrality is a boon for solution providers, who can negotiate bulk drive prices from their hardware distributors, decide for themselves how much to mark up the drives and keep those profits, she says.

If a drive fails, it’s a simple task to swap in a new drive without losing any data, Mansolf says. With a click of a button, the new DroboPro allows for dual disk redundancy and protection against two simultaneous drive failures. The DroboPro can sit on the desktop or can be rack mounted.

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. Once a volume is created, it will grow as needed, eliminating capacity guesswork and the need to resize or migrate volumes. Instead, smart volumes pulls storage from a common pool of disk space rather than a physical disk allocation.

“We fit in just like any other external storage device,” Mansolf says. “You can allocate storage space to various departments, and add more drives as your business needs more space,” she says.

Data Robotics sells the DroboPro in its base configuration without drives for $1,299, and a DroboPro that comes prepopulated with drives of your choice can cost you around $3,000.