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.
(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.
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
The Synology Web client is annoyingly cheerful and smells like Windows 3.1.
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:
Set up the Synology as a Time Machine disk.
Arranged for it to back up everything to Amazon S3, encrypted by the NAS before sending.
Arranged for S3 to shuffle it off to Glacier after 30 days.
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.