Tutorial, Backup, Data, NAS, Synology, Cover Your Ass

My Backup Strategies - Part 2: Adding (Proper) Network Attached Storage (NAS)

After getting Time Machine and Acronis up and running on my MacBook Pro and desktop PCs, I decided it was time to up my NAS game. The hacked together solution of connecting external drives to a USB hub attached to an AirPort Extreme really just wasn't cutting it.

Not only were my drives not redundant, but access times were slow and I'd have to restart the AirPort device periodically because a drive or two would stop responding for unknown reasons.

Enter Synology.

There are many home NAS solutions available today (e.g. Synology, Western Digital's 'My Cloud', QNAP, etc.), but Synology's solutions stood out to me the most. Not only does Hanselman use Synology (he's kind of my tech hero - next to Tony Stark, of course), but Synology's devices ranked high on many NAS lists.

I purchased the DS916+ Diskless DiskStation model on Amazon back in September, and then threw in two 4TB IronWolf NAS SATA drives by Seagate. Yes, the setup was a little pricey (around $900 in total), but I have not been disappointed. The model I bought has a quad-core processor, 8GB of RAM, and two gigabit ethernet ports for quick access.

The Synology DiskStation is essentially a mini computer with its own OS. You can install various applications on it to stream media to other devices (either locally or over the internet), you can use it simply for file storage/backups, or you can even set it up to run as a web server or host Docker containers.

The DiskStation also offers a RAID setup, so I essentially have one of my 4TB drives mirrored onto the other. Yes, this means that I can only use 4TB of the 8TB I bought for storage, but that's the whole point of RAID - to create a redundant array of inexpensive disks.

What this means is that anything I store on the NAS is essentially backed up to the other drive within the DiskStation, so if one drive goes down, the other kicks in and no data is lost. I can then replace the blown drive with a new one and then have everything mirrored back onto a new drive.

Once I got my DiskStation up and running, I reconfigured my Time Machine setup to point to my NAS and then did the same with my Acronis backups on my desktops. Now, with the RAID setup on my DiskStation, my backups are essentially backed up, which adds an extra layer of redundancy.

Of course, I don't just use the NAS for storing my Time Machine and Acronis backups, but have since moved all of my music, photos, and videos to it, as well, for quick and easy access from anywhere on my network. The RAID setup gives me the peace of mind that those files will be backed up to the other drive in the DiskStation, so I don't need to worry about backing those files up elsewhere.

Or do I?

What happens if the DiskStation goes down or both drives crash around the same time?

Or worse - what happens if my house burns down or is destroyed by some natural disaster? With all of my data still being retained on my property in some form or another, I will be unable to restore my files in these situations. Extreme - yes - but still possible nonetheless.

That's where a cloud backup solution (or in Hanselman's case, keeping external drives in a safe deposit box) comes in handy, which will be the topic of my next post in the series on "My Backup Strategies", so keep an eye out for my next post.

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About Tony Thorsen

Father of two, husband of one, Maker of many things. Tinkerer, dreamer, pixel nudger.