Not sure if you've been keeping tabs, but it's been just shy of a full year since we've seen a new piece of hardware from the labs of Data Robotics. 60,000 Drobos later, we're being formally introduced to the bigger, stronger and more capacious DroboPro. As the name implies, this 8-bay beast is truly aimed at small businesses and creative professionals, but there's nothing here that the average consumer can't fall in love with. Generally speaking, everything here has remained the same as the second-gen Drobo: it looks similar, it uses the same genius BeyondRAID intelligent data storage technology and it's not really meant to be used on networks. Interested to hear more? Hop on past the break for all the dirt.

Data Robotics goes large with 8-bay DroboPro

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Obviously, the DroboPro can physically hold more data than its non-Pro counterpart; eight bays of SATA I/II goodness means you can currently shove up to 16TB in there. If you're looking for more subtle changes, the DroboPro features an integrated power supply (read: no power brick) and it fully supports dual-drive redundancy. On that note, users can switch between single- and dual-drive redundancy with a single (software) button press within Drobo Dashboard, and yes, it works in both directions. Once pressed, the device will calculate how long before it'll take the data to be shuffled around, and we're told it's far, far quicker than any other solution out there in this price range.

As for ports, you'll find USB 2.0, twin FireWire 800 sockets (both of which are compatible with FireWire 800-to-400 adapters) and a gigabit Ethernet jack. Before you start drooling, we'll warn you that said port isn't meant for setting this thing up as a NAS. Data Robotics still insists that its main business is in direct attached storage, though it does leave open the option of connecting the DroboPro to a Windows Home Server or a networked computer in order to provide network-accessible access to it. But yeah, you'll still need a middleman of some sort to get to this bad boy over the internet. The Ethernet port is really there to take advantage of iSCSI, a wicked fast interface that'll mostly be used with servers and workstation rigs. Oh, and OS X users, Data Robotics is tossing in a homegrown iSCSI driver for free so you too will have access.

The device is also compatible with a 3U rack-mount attachment (sold separately), and it can even manage up to sixteen 16TB volumes that pull storage from a common pool. We're told that users can hotswap up to one drive at a time in single redundancy mode or two drives at once when in dual-drive redundancy. In other words, if you decide on a whim to replace that paltry 120GB drive with a 2TB unit, you simply yank out the little guy and snap in the new one -- no other action is necessary on your part. Another huge boon is that DroboPro works perfectly well with mixed and matched drives. If you've got eight random SATA I/II drives laying around, you can rest assured that they'll all be welcome in this home.

So, the big question: can you even afford this? Like we stated earlier, this device is clearly aimed at small business users and consumers with a serious need for some serious storage. If you still don't believe us, just take a moment to digest the $1,299 MSRP on the completely empty DroboPro. From there, you'll find the following pre-stocked options: $1,599 (4 x 500GB), $1,749 (4 x 500GB + 3U DroboPro Rack Mount), $1,849 (8 x 500GB), $1,949 (8 x 500GB + 3U DroboPro Rack Mount) and a top end version for $3,999 with 16TB of capacity. On the bright side, any existing Drobo customer can receive $200 off the MSRP on a DroboPro, though there's a max credit of $200 in case you're looking to double up. It ships worldwide on April 7th.

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Data Robotics goes large with 8-bay DroboPro