A cou­ple days ago in New Home Net­work I post­ed a re­quest for ad­vice on a home NAS box and net­work­ing hard­ware. Now I have the stor­age box, and boy was it ev­er easy and straight­for­ward and anxiety-relieving. If you haven’t done this al­ready, you might want to.

What’s a NAS? · It’s a box, usu­al­ly with no screen and no con­trol­s, a pow­er plug, and a net­work con­nec­tion. You hook it up to your home net­work with a ca­ble (not WiFi) and it looks like an­oth­er disk on all the com­put­ers in your house.

Ex­cept for, it’s usu­al­ly a lot big­ger and more re­li­able disk than any sin­gle com­put­er would have. It’s like your home has a built-in disk drive.

The on­line re­views fa­vor QNAP and Synol­o­gy; the com­ments on my blog sug­gest­ed Synol­o­gy or build-your-own-it’s-fun. I have opin­ions about “fun” and about “storage for my ir­re­place­able dig­i­tal life” and they don’t in­ter­sec­t. So I bought a Synol­o­gy DS416j and two Western Dig­i­tal “Red” 6T drives from fave lo­cal re­tail­er NCIX  —  if you’re in Canada, you can’t beat ’em.

Synology DS416j

(Yes, I on­ly half-filled the en­clo­sure. I splashed out be­cause I smell big­ger cam­eras and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of video in the fu­ture, and drop­ping in two more drives at some fu­ture point is go­ing to be eas­i­er than shift­ing box­es.)

It’s easy to set up if you’re not scared of a screw­driver, and comes with Ikea-style car­toon in­struc­tion­s.

Once you have it plugged in­to your net­work it’s easy for a brows­er to find, and the con­fig­u­ra­tion isn’t chal­leng­ing. It doesn’t want you to both­er your pret­ty lit­tle head about filesys­tem types or RAID con­fig­u­ra­tions, just mir­rors the two drives. Var­i­ous pieces of soft­ware dis­agree how much space you have; on my Mac, Time Ma­chine says 5.95 TB, but df says 5.47. But what’s 500 gi­ga­bytes be­tween friend­s?

There’s no rea­son to have it ac­ces­si­ble, but al­so none to hide it away, it’s not very big and nice­ly qui­et even when work­ing hard.

Gripes ·

  1. It takes 4 screws for each 3.5" drive and they on­ly shipped 8. If I’d had 4 drives I would have had to track down more.

  2. To ac­tu­al­ly mount it on your Mac first time, you have to know its IP ad­dress (which to be fair the web ad­min app shoves in your face), and then go to the Fin­der, type Command-K, and then a URL-like-thingie be­gin­ning af­p://. I won­der how many old farts’ eyes will roll the way mine did?

  3. The Synol­o­gy Web client is an­noy­ing­ly cheer­ful and smells like Win­dows 3.1.

Synology GUI

What I did · Wel­l, I have all sorts of am­bi­tions about Plex and iTunes and so on and so forth, but the re­al rea­son I bought this is that I have a lot of pic­tures and mu­sic and so on spin­ning on old disks with a back­up strat­e­gy that in­volves a com­bi­na­tion of Time Ma­chine on an old Air­port, and man­u­al rsync be­tween two com­put­er­s. Yes, you are all al­lowed to sneer at me, and I was hav­ing a back­ground rum­ble of un­easi­ness.

So, I did these things:

  1. Set up the Synol­o­gy as a Time Ma­chine disk.

  2. Ar­ranged for it to back up ev­ery­thing to Ama­zon S3, en­crypt­ed by the NAS be­fore send­ing.

  3. Ar­ranged for S3 to shuf­fle it off to Glacier af­ter 30 days.

Time Machine in operation

Which in­volves mul­ti­ple steps and, in the S3 case, mak­ing cre­den­tials and cut-n-pasting; prob­a­bly out of the reach of civil­ian­s.

Which is a re­al pity. Be­cause, while I try not to pro­mote my em­ploy­er ex­ces­sive­ly in this space, I know a lot about S3 and am pret­ty con­vinced that it’s is about the safest place in the known uni­verse to store in­for­ma­tion you re­al­ly care about.

See­ing that Time Ma­chine read­out makes me hap­py. Yes, that’s kind of slow, but at least one oth­er loved one is si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly dump­ing a MacBook-full of da­ta in.

Se­cu­ri­ty · It’s a mixed bag. I must have fat-fingered the ac­count name on ini­tial set­up be­cause it wouldn’t let me log in and I thought I’d bricked the thing. Turns out that if you have phys­i­cal ac­cess to the Synol­o­gy, and a pa­per clip, you can re­set all the pass­word­s. Which, at the time, I ap­pre­ci­at­ed. But…

Then there’s this thing called Quick­Con­nect: “Access your Synol­o­gy NAS over the In­ter­net and share files”, they say. Eek! I think that shar­ing my files across the In­ter­net is ex­act­ly what I don’t want my base­ment stor­age ap­pli­ance to do.

Uh safe? Read the ex­pla­na­tion and make up your own mind. I turned it of­f.

What the world needs · Is some­thing like this, on­ly easy, so you turn it on and hit the “Next” but­ton four times, and you have it all set up like I do, with Time Ma­chine and S3 and Glacier. So or­di­nary smart peo­ple who aren’t In­ter­net geeks can have safer data.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: John Cowan (Dec 21 2016, at 07:32)

It's really using Appletalk? Wow. On the third day it rose again from the dead ....

I think it's worth pointing out that Glacier is now practical for backup, because you aren't beggared by trying to restore a whole disk at once, as was the case until November. Until then, you could store a terabyte for $7 a month, but retrieving it in 4 hours would cost you $1840. Now for standard (3-5 hour) retrieval you pay a penny a gig, or $10.24, which is perfectly fine. (Add to that standard S3 costs if you need to get it out of the cloud.) Before, the model was "Boy, run down to the basement and get the Jones file"; now it's "Boy, run down to the basement and get all the Jones files."

Lastly, if AWS feels so confident about the reliability of their data service, why do they think it necessary to disclaim all warranties against loss? Physical-object stores like banks don't get to do that. (It's good, though, that AWS no longer reserves the right to deny service with or without notice or cause, as most other so-called service providers do.)


From: dhahn (Dec 21 2016, at 10:08)

I have an 8 bay Synology at home. *Very* happy with this and many other facets and functions of the device.

/me happy


From: Steve Ivy (Dec 21 2016, at 10:16)

Hi Tim,

Wondering what the costs for 6TB of storage on S3 are running, and what your "get it back from S3/Glacier" plan is?




From: Martin Englund (Dec 21 2016, at 10:32)

One security feature you may want to enable is 2FA which woks with the Google Authenticator:



From: ChrisH (Dec 21 2016, at 10:35)

Congrats on jumping into the world of home NAS ownership! Speaking from my experience of running my own Synology device at home for several years, I have two notes:

(1) Plex will be interesting on the 416j - direct play will be ok but any transcoding will choke out the processor. I am considering upgrading to the 416Play specifically for this purpose, but haven't convinced my wife it's worth it yet.

(2) Storing 6TB to S3 is expensive just for home backup - $181/month according to https://calculator.s3.amazonaws.com/index.html - enough to buy 5 or 6 more 6TB WD-Red drives each year!

Consider more affordable options for backup (for example, Amazon Cloud Drive is $60/year, but I haven't tried it myself yet). Note that the Synology-Glacier default integration isn't cost effective for regular backups either (I tried this and hit a lot of 'early delete fees').


From: Matt (Dec 21 2016, at 11:18)

I recently crunched the numbers on backing up to S3 for my personal files as well, I loved the idea, but my conclusion was for the money I could buy a new 4TB disk per year. That combined with a USB dock and some well written rsync scripts, and I would have a growing number of replicants easily accessible and able to be stored off-site wherever I wanted.

True, likely out of reach for mere mortals, but for a tech geek like me it works quite well.

I know S3 really is dirt cheap these days, but not quite there for a few TB of personal files.


From: Steve Loughran (Dec 21 2016, at 12:19)

One thing that S3 delivers, which a home NAS doesn't, is off-site disaster recovery. But you could also achieve that with some backup peering service with any friend who also has a NAS: encrypting and rsync between each other. That may still be more economic as a DR story.


From: Eden (Dec 21 2016, at 23:08)

Drobo =)


From: Doug K (Dec 22 2016, at 10:07)

I've been using a Seagate BlackArmor NAS with 2TB RAID for some years. This was instigated by some distressing incidents involving homework loss, traumatic to all parties.

It was a pain to set up (named it the Blackhearted then) but has been running faithfully ever since.

In the Windows ecosystem there isn't an obvious backup package. Fbackup in the free version has been working well enough that I haven't tried to replace it. This is on all PCs the family has, to run scheduled backups in the early morning hours.

The cost of backing this up to someone else's computer across the network has always been prohibitive for me. Instead there are external HDs with backups at my workplace, wife's work, and in the safe deposit box. If all those are gone then I'm probably not going to be in a position to worry about it.

When son #1 went off to college it was a new challenge. His laptop has a 256G USB drive which is configured to automatically get Windows 10 incremental backups of working documents. There is also an external HD, Fbackup installed on the laptop, and a reminder set in his Gmail calendar to run it.. have to check this week and see if it's working.


From: Basil Crow (Jan 08 2017, at 19:46)

Care to share any information on how you configured the Synology to use S3 and Glacier? Did you use Hyper Backup Vault? Glacier Backup?


From: Jeff (Jan 12 2017, at 05:44)

I ended up running Crashplan headless on my Synology NAS. It uses S3 behind the scenes, and since I pay for the family plan, it treats the NAS as just another computer client. This way I've got my parents and wife's laptop all being backed up to Crashplan (S3) as well as the NAS. It's a bit of a pain to setup initially, but not too bad if you don't mind the cli. Here are the steps I followed from the Syno package author for anyone interested: https://pcloadletter.co.uk/2012/01/30/crashplan-syno-package/


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December 20, 2016
· Technology (80 fragments)
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