Home Data Backup Solution

A reliable home data backup solution and a scalable home data storage solution are very important.  In fact, a reliable home backup solution is beyond important – more along the lines of vital.

 

Most people rely solely on digital media to record precious family moments, store financial documents, and much more.  Really, who still prints pictures & burns DVDs nowadays?

Luckily, NAS systems are now affordable & some are built specifically for the home user.  I decided to purchase and install a Synology DS416play NAS (Network Attached Storage) home data storage solution after months of research and toying with the idea.   The Synology home data backup solution will enhance my backup process, consolidate my data, and further protect my memories.

Stuff I used for this project

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Properly Protect Our Data

Most of us believe our current home data backup solution is sufficient.  Our mobile devices back up automatically to the ‘cloud’; therefore, we are safe.  We have a time machine backup for our Mac or an external hard drive for our PC, so everything is perfectly fine.

Well, your home backup solution is probably perfectly fine – until it’s not.

All the home videos, pictures, documents, and emails your cherish suddenly disappear.

I’ve seen friends and co-workers over the years suffer a digital catastrophe and lose everything.  It truly is devastating and it hurts.  I work in the technology industry and this happens to data professionals who know how to properly protect data.

You see, the danger lies in the unknown.  Ever heard of Murphy’s law?  If not, look it up because this law is all too prevalent in the world of technology.

Trust me, I know.

 

Backup 3-2-1 Rule

Every single home data backup solution is vulnerable to a physical catastrophe, virtual glitch, or cyber attack.  Notice in the previous sentence I italicized the word ‘single’.  In order to properly backup your data, a multi-tiered approach is of the utmost importance.  I follow the Backup 3-2-1 Rule, which is very common among data/technology professionals.

A multi-tiered data protection configuration is the Data Backup Rule of 3.  Also referred to as the Backup 3-2-1 Rule:

  • 3 copies of everything that is important
    • Why?  Because 2 is simply NOT enough to protect your important data.
  • 2 different formats
    • A local hard drive on a computer, tablet, or phone counts as 1 format.  The other format can be a thumb drive, external hard drive, tape backup, NAS, etc..
  • 1 offsite copy
    • If you live in South Louisiana, do you really need to ask why?  The offsite backup will protect from an accidental disaster (i.e. fire) or a natural disaster (i.e. hurricane, flood tornado).

 

Current Home Data Backup Solution

A consolidated diagram of my current home network before the installation of the Synology DS416Play is below.

I won’t cover the details of the configuration of each component within my home network as this is beyond the scope of this blog post.

My home network consists of a firewall/router connected to my Internet provider (cable company).

The LAN (Local Area Network) side of my firewall/router connects to a 24-port switch.

All devices within my home network connect directly or indirectly to this switch.

I use an Apple Aiport extreme for my wireless connectivity in my main home, which also has a 2TB hard drive.  I have an ethernet cable connecting my workshop to my main home with 8-port switch and a wireless bridge in my workshop.

Why is the 24-port switch necessary?  It’s not if you have enough LAN ports on your router/firewall to accommodate your wired connections.

The main benefit of having a switch is not only to provide additional ports, but also to keep traffic within your home network from adding unnecessary stress on your router.

For example, you have a computer connected to your network in your home with all your home movies.  The TV in your living room has a streaming device (Apple TV, Amazon Firestick, etc.) that can access your home movie library.  When a movie is played via the streaming device, the data stream travels from your computer to the switch down to the streaming device.  If a switch was not installed, the data stream would travel from your computer to your router back down to your streaming device.

Backup Overview

The current home data storage solution for my MacBook Pro and Stacey’s MacBook Air consists of 3 copies of our data:  Local Hard Drive, Time Machine, Cloud Backup.

The local hard drive may seem like a given, but it counts as a copy nonetheless.

Stacey and I use apple laptops; therefore, we use the built-in backup solution called Time Machine.  The time machine software runs in the background and stores an exact copy of your hard drive on an external drive.  The external drive we use is the 2TB Airport extreme, which also provided us 802.11ac wireless access.

Finally, we use Backblaze for our offsite home data backup solution.  Backblaze quietly runs in the background of our computers and backups up all of our data including external hard drives.  Backblaze works on both Mac & PC and charges a very reasonable annual fee for unlimited storage space.

I’ve tried many cloud backup solutions and Backblaze is the best by far in my experience.  I encourage you to sign up for your free Backblaze trial by clicking here.

Issues and Improvements Needed

Ok, so what is wrong with our current home data backup solution?  There is nothing necessarily wrong, but it can be improved with additional functionality and redundancy.

  • Apple AirPort Extreme
    • Not enough disk space.
      • The 2TB hard drive in the AirPort Extreme used for Time Machine backups is not large enough for 2 computers and our digital media.
      • It does not have enough disk space to include my 2TB external hard drive attached to my computer in the time machine backups.
      • Forces me to exclude certain items from time machine backups and rely on Backblaze to backup those excluded items (mainly digital media).
    • Does not have disk redundancy.  The time machine backups are lost if the 2TB disk in the Apple AirPort Extreme fails.
  • Easier access to digital media (pictures, music, home movies)
    • Our home movies are stored on the external hard drive attached to my computer.  My computer must be on and connected to my local network in order to watch home videos.
    • My iTunes library and photos library are stored on my external hard drive.  This forces me to keep my external drive attached to my computer at all times in order to use iTunes or the photos app.

Home Network Diagram

 

Improved Home Data Backup Solution

The addition of the Synology DS416play and Seagate 4TB IronWolf NAS drives (3) to my home data backup solution solves my main issues:  Disk Space, Disk Redundancy, Access to Digital Media.

The Synology DS416play is a home NAS (network attaches storage) system that attaches to a network via an Ethernet cable.

A NAS system contains one or more hard drives arranged in logical, redundant storage containers or RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks).  It is ideal for storing and sharing files across a network.  Unlike external hard drives attached to computers, some NAS systems (like this one) have an operating system with apps that enhance it’s capabilities.

I populated the Synology DS416play with three Seagate 4TB IronWolf NAS 3.5″ Internal Hard Drives.

Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR) is the default redundancy mechanism for Synology.  SHR uses one hard drive as a backup which means the total storage for my system is 8TB.  One disk can completely fail and data won’t be lost.

8TB is a huge improvement over my current 2TB.  It accommodates the disk space needed for my time machine backups, independent external hard drive, and digital media.  I also have a spare slot to install another hard drive in the future.

Improved Home Data Backup Solution

Synology DS416play Overview

The Synology DS416play is a versatile NAS (network attached storage) system.  I chose Synology over other NAS systems because of hard drive capacity, processor & network performance, and user friendly interface.

The DS416play has a dual-core processor, provides hardware data encryption, and dual LAN ports that can be configured for load balancing & failover.

Synology states the server is capable of handling up to 256 concurrent file sharing connections.

Synology has many media server options such as an iTunes server, Plex server, Logitech media server, and Synology’s Video Station Server.  I will cover the installation of the Video Station Server later on in this post.  The Synology DS416play also is an excellent media server.  It has the ability to transcode 4k video on the fly, which allows playback of your home movies on any device (Apple TV, DLNA devices, mobile, etc.).

The system has 4 physical drive bays for hot swappable hard drives.  Each drive can be up to 10TB and the system can hold up to 40TB without redundancy or 30TB with redundancy.

The Synology DS416play processor performance numbers are impressive for a NAS system.  Dual gigabit LAN offers failover support and service continuity.

Disk Station Manager (DSM) is the control center for the Synology DS416play.  DSM is essentially the operating system of the NAS.  The DS416play supports many apps to support a plethora of activities:  backup, media management, file sharing, and much more.

Best NAS for Mac

Most NAS solutions on the market today support both Mac and Windows.  Which NAS is the best for Windows?  Which is the best NAS for Mac users?

My family uses Mac computers.  The Synology NAS solution is the best NAS for Mac computers in my opinion.  Synology is a bit more strict regarding app development and how much developers can tinker with the system.  The focus for Synology is stability and intuitive interfaces to streamline common tasks.  In summary, Synology is very similar to Mac; therefore, Mac users are attracted to this system organically.

There are many other reasons why Synology is the best NAS for Mac computers, but it is beyond the scope of this post.

 

Synology DS416play Installation

The Synology DS416play and Seagate 4TB hard drives are very easy to install.  Synology did a fantastic job of streamlining the install process to accommodate home users without a technical background.

Before proceeding with the installation, it is important to configure the needed options first.  In other words, there are many nifty apps and configuration options that grab your attention.

Computer backup and media management were the most important items in my case, so I took care of these first.

Unboxing & Powering Up

My Synology DS416play and Seagate hard drives were very easy to assemble.  The items were packaged very well.

The Synology DS416play has 2 gigabit ethernet ports, 2 USB 3.0 ports, 2 fans, reset button, Kensington security lock, and a power port in the back.  The front of the Synology DS416play has removable cover, 1 USB 3.0 port, power button, and 5 lights (status indicator light and a light for each hard drive).  The rubber feet slide between the drive bays to hold it in place.  The front panel fits snugly and it is easy to remove.  Behind the cover, each hard drive bay contains a removable plastic blank.  To remove the hard drive blanks, simply depress the top button and remove the blank.

The hard drive blanks can fit 3.5″ hard drives (the type I purchased) without any screws or hardware.  However, screws are included if 2.5″ SSD drives are used.  To install a 3.5″ hard drive, simply remove the 2 side rails on the hard drive blanks, insert the drive, and re-attach the rails.

Once I installed each hard drive into the Synology DS416 play, my new home data backup solution installation was underway.  I attached the home NAS to my network with 2 ethernet cables to my 24-port switch.  I pressed the front power button and the Synology DS416play turned on.  The boot sequence was fairly quick as the system obtained an IP address from my network and verified each of the 3 hard drives.

 

Initial Configuration

The initial configuration of the Synology DS416play for my home data backup solution went smoothly.  Before I logged into the Disk Station Manager (DSM), I verified the 2 ethernet ports on my 24-port switch that connects to the Synology DS416play were active and forwarding traffic.

Meraki 24 port switch port status

Next, I downloaded the Synology Assistant software for the Synology DS416play from Synology’s download center.  I selected they type of NAS, the model number, downloaded the software for my Mac, and installed it.

Synology Download Center

 

The Synology Assistant found my NAS on my network.

Synology DS416play Find NAS

 

Next, I clicked on my NAS system and the Web Assistant setup wizard started.

Synology DS416play Initial Setup

 

 

The Web Assistant prompted me to install DSM and I proceeded with the install.

Synology DSM Install

 

 

Next, the 3 Seagate hard drives were formatted and I was prompted to create an administrator login.

Synology Setup Erase HDD

Synology DSM Create Administrator Login

 

 

After the creating the administrator account, the setup wizard prompted me to automatically updated and maintain my system.  I kept the default options, which included day/time for DSM software updates, routine hard drive checks (S.M.A.R.T), and hard drive health warnings.

Synology Setup Assistant Maintenance

 

 

Next, I setup QuickConnect.  QuickConnect is a great feature because it connects the Synology DS416play NAS system to the Internet securely.  It also eliminates the need to setup port forwarding on a home router.

QuickConnect provides an easy to remember hostname in order to connect to your home NAS such as quickconnect.to/xyz.  Once I completed the QuickConnect setup, it prompted me to drag/drop the customized link to my desktop to streamline the login process.

Synology QuickConnect Setup