My Backup Strategy using Synology NAS

How many of you think that backing your data (e.g. pictures on mobile phone, documents on laptop) to your Network Attached Storage (NAS) is sufficient to protect you against unexpected data loss? Do you protect yourself against unexpected data loss on your NAS? My recent data loss experience prompted me to review my home’s backup strategy and here it is.

Contents to be backed up

My current backup strategy uses Synology NAS’s capabilities to backup the contents on my family members’ mobile phones and computers. The contents that I am backing up are:

Device Contents to be backed up
Mobile phone Photos, Documents (e.g. created contents)
Computer Documents (e.g. created contents)

This gave me the assurance that we will still have our data (somewhere) if something undesirable were to happen to our devices. For example, misplaced devices or device failure. It also allow us to virtually expand the storage capacity of our devices by tapping on the “cloud” storage offered by the NAS. Essentially, aged data are (manually) pruned while still retaining a copy on the NAS.

Data on the NAS are in turn backed up to Cloud providers (with transport and data encryption). So basically, data on my devices are backed up to both my home (on-site) Synology NAS and Cloud (off-site).

These backups happen automatically without users’ intervention. So let me share the apps that I am using.

Synology Cloud Station

Synology Cloud Station Server

The Synology Cloud Station keeps (user) selected folders synchronised between the client device and the server. The server is essentially the Cloud Station Server app on the NAS while the client devices are my mobile phones and computers. The Synology Cloud Station client app is available on Android, iOS, Windows and Macintosh.

Synchronisation direction can be defined for each synchronised folder-pair: two-way, upload only or download only.

File versioning on Synology Cloud Station

The Cloud Station does versioning for synchronised files. This allows me to download/ restore previous version of the files. Restoring a previous copy of a file will replace the current copy.

Folders on my mobile phone that are synchronised to the Synology NAS

The important folders (camera folder, documents folder, etc.) on my Android mobile devices are backed up using this method.

Other useful things to do with Cloud Station

Pruning old files off your devices

As my mobile phone does not have expandable storage (i.e. SD card), I made use of the two-way sync feature to prune older files. Basically, I just have to shift the older files on my NAS to an non-sychronised folder and the files will be removed from my mobile phone. This effectively prunes and free up storage capacity on my mobile device.

Remotely push files to devices

Similarly for my toddler’s video-cum-music-player (a ruggedised Samsung S4), I am using this method to remotely push down new contents to her phone. I just have to drop the new files into the synchronised folder on the NAS and they will be downloaded to her device. No more fighting with her over the control of the phone.

Synology Cloud Sync

The Synology Cloud Sync synchronises files between the NAS and Cloud providers (e.g. Google Drive, Dropbox, Amazon Cloud Drive).

Similar to Cloud Station, synchronisation direction can be set to either two-way or upload only or download only. Bandwidth limit can also be imposed for upload and download to avoid choking the Internet link.

Cloud Sync-ing files to Amazon Cloud Drive

I am using Cloud Sync to backup my digital memories (i.e. photos, videos, audios) to the Amazon Cloud Drive for additional copy of the backup. Basically, the folders backed up using Cloud Station are Cloud Sync-ed to Amazon Cloud Drive. As the Amazon Cloud Drive features unlimited storage, I backed up the original untouched uncompressed contents.

Synology Hyper Backup

The Synology Hyper Backup is another backup solution. Aside from doing backups of files, it can also backup application’s data and system settings. The data backed up using Hyper Backup are kept in a proprietary database that can be browsed or restored to another Synology NAS. It can do encrypted backups and backup tasks can be scheduled to run periodically with versioning and rotation. With versioning, previous version of files can be restored.

Using Synology Hyper Backup to backup data to Amazon Cloud Drive

Since I have subscribed to Amazon Cloud Drive, I created tasks to periodically backup important files on the Synology NAS to Amazon Cloud Drive with encryption. Without the digital key, nobody should be able to view the contents of the backup. So keep the key safe somewhere like on a reliable USB storage behind secured safe on a deserted island.

Backups for Desktop, Tablets and Laptop

Windows’s File History

For my Windows 10 tablets and computers, I make use of File History to do backups (with versioning) to my home folder on the Synology NAS. Synology allows each users to have their personal home folder on the NAS.

The File History is a relatively unknown/ under-utilised feature among my colleagues and friends. It is similar to Macintosh’s Time Machine just that it is in Windows-flavour. It also allows one to dive in to explore and restore various versions of backed up files.

Again, the File History backups are backed up to Amazon Cloud Drive via Hyper Backup.

Macintosh’s Time Machine

For my iMac, I am using the Time Machine to backup to the Synology NAS. Yes, Synology supports Time Machine too.

I tried to backup the Time Machine sparsebundle files and restoring them from Hyper Backup to the NAS. My iMac complained of corruption and prompted to create a fresh backup. Well, I guess I cannot restore Time Machine’s backup this way.

Periodic Data Scrubbing

Data Scrubbing feature on Synology NAS

The most important thing of all – Data Scrubbing.

I perform data scrubbing/ RAID scrubbing periodically via scheduled tasks. RAID scrubbing is a data maintenance feature that inspects volumes and repairs any detected data inconsistencies. The scrubbing process attempts to correct detected errors using redundant data from RAID.

Data inconsistencies are silent killers. You see the files there and think they are ok but they are in fact corrupted.

So, at the very least, religiously perform data scrubbing.

Conclusion

So that is my current backup strategy on top of the redundancy offered by RAID. Just to recap, I am using the following features of Synology NAS for file/ content backups:

App Type Purpose
Cloud Station File-level Backing up of files on mobile phones
Cloud Sync File-level Backing up of files to Cloud Provider(s)
Hyper Backup Image-level Backing up of files, app data and system settings to Cloud Provider(s)
Time Machine Image-level Backing up of Macintosh's data

Lastly, do keep your precious data safe. If you find the above a hassle, at least do a periodic data scrub.

 

Treat shadowandy!

If these step-by-step guides have been very helpful to you and saved you a lot of time, please consider treating shadowandy to a cup of Starbucks.