In today’s world, we’ve heavily transitioned from physical documents to electronic ones that are stored on electronic media. We’ve become so reliant on our digital lives that it would be near impossible to continue everyday life without it.
People can snap a thousand photos within minutes and share them with another person halfway across the world; one single email can get you to a customer service agent, or a document can contain all of your personal notes from a work event.
There are limitless items that can be stored digitally, so why are we so careless at how we store them?
Most businesses will typically have a Data Recovery (DR) site in some large data center outside and away from their normal operations. A DR site allows a business to restore business functionality in a matter of hours rather than weeks if something were to happen to their primary systems. However, with the high cost of a DR site, it’s out of most consumers’ reach as well as small businesses.
That doesn’t mean we should be so careless in backing up our most important data. Hard drives and solid state drives easily fail and can do so without any warning. Working one day does not mean it will work the next.
Nearly every day I see where people have joined an online technical support forum to ask how they can recover a lost file. A lost document here, a missing picture there; data can sometimes accidentally disappear and paying for it to be recovered can become very costly.
Then, for small businesses, I have heard of stories where the CCTV footage was deleted or overwritten the next morning after they had been broken into. Moreover, as a small business grows it will need a secure and safe place to back up its business-related documents because the owner’s laptop is inadequate.
For both types of users, there are multiple solutions in backing up important data, but there’s one way that is efficient, effective, and moderately secure.
The avid reader of my reviews should be familiar with the Synology brand. Synology is a data storage company that provides enterprise-grade storage equipment and creates consumer and small business tools that are reasonably priced, but fully functional for the average tech user.
Its Network Attached Storage (NAS) units are some of the best in the market and never once have I found a fault in the many reviews I’ve done. Consequently, it would seem logical to use a Synology-based NAS as the primary storage center for our data.
As with any good solution, it’s ideal to have a backup of your backup. As I will go into further below, the Synology NAS is a physical device that can be stolen, damaged, or even fail. While it has protections for all of that, they are not infallible and it could mean you losing your data.
Calling this the ultimate solution, means we need more than just a NAS. Cloud storage has greatly expanded in recent months and prices for personal cloud storage have greatly decreased making it a reasonable backup to our backup.
Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Amazon; there are a lot of major players for personal cloud storage, but they typically charge a higher rate for the average amount of data you may need. There is a cheaper alternative, however, a growing personal and business cloud storage provider has recently been in the spotlight ever since a competitor of theirs swapped over to business only.
BackBlaze is an inexpensive cloud storage provider that has a lower rate than the three companies mentioned and allows for a monthly upload for a low rate.
What do I need to get started?
There’s no way around this without spending a bit of money in creating the ultimate backup solution. Both Synology and BackBlaze have reasonable pricing, but it can add up quickly. That said, there are alternative Synology NAS and BackBlaze plans units that are less expensive.
For the ultimate backup solution, it would seem expected of us to go with a Synology unit that is counted as the ultimate NAS in its class.
Synology just recently released their latest and best performing NAS. Known as the DS718+ this NAS is a beast in both security, specifications, and functionality. Looking over my past Synology NAS reviews, this little device can do everything the past models could do and more.
It’s a 2-bay NAS that runs in a RAID 1 configuration, meaning when data is written to one hard drive, it is mirrored to another hard drive for additional backup and security in case one of the drives happens to fail.
Inside the little unit is the most powerful NAS I’ve ever used. It boasts a quad-core 2.3GHz CPU with a starting 2GB RAM configuration. Plus, it has increased read and write speeds for whole disk encryption so if the device is ever stolen the data is secured by a password with nobody ever getting the chance to ever read the information.
Speaking of being stolen, the DS718+ has a few tricks up its sleeve. Stealing such a device in a home is more unlikely than if it were a business. Nevertheless, the DS718+ has locking hard drive bays that deter people from slipping out the hard drive and running off with them. With the right tool, you could bypass the plastic lock, but it greatly deters a hit-and-run attempt.
Additionally, with a name-branded Kensington locking cable, you can lock down the NAS to a pole or unmovable object to prevent it from being physically taken.
For as much security Synology puts into its NAS, it can also do a lot of personal and business functions. You can read up on my past Synology reviews on an inside look of DiskStation, their operating system.
For $399.99, you get the basic DS718+, so we’ll need to include hard drives for us to store actual data on the unit. For this, I am using two 8TB Seagate Ironwolf NAS-ready hard drives. Your data storage needs will vary greatly depending on how much data you plan to back up. Just remember, you’ll need two drives for the Synology DS718+ that are a matching pair.
Next, BackBlaze is the recommended cloud storage for Synology NAS units. Again, pricing and plans will vary depending on what is needed, but to back up a Synology NAS to the cloud, we’ll need to use BackBlaze’s B2 Cloud Storage.
The first 10GB of uploaded data are free with BackBlaze which is just about adequate for home users. If you want to back up a system image to the cloud, it’s easy enough to do for free. It may not seem like a lot, but most pictures are only a couple of megabytes; meaning you could backup precious pictures, that you never want to lose, to the cloud.
Their B2 Cloud storage runs at the rate of $0.005 per gigabyte upload and $0.02 per gigabyte in downloads. Using their price calculator, at a 1TB initial upload and a 100GB monthly upload and 10GB monthly download, it would only be $100 for an entire year.
This price beats Amazon, Microsoft, and Google’s cloud solutions and with our Synology NAS, it will be fully automated.
While the NAS is not a yearly cost and the cloud storage is, it’s still ideal to go forward with it. The solution with cloud storage is that your data is written securely, over hundreds of hard drives in their data center. Even if one of their drives fail, you would never know the difference.
Lastly, there are a couple of other tools that may be needed. If you are a home user, then a tool like Acronis True Image or Macrium Reflect will do encrypted full disk backups of your computer. For a small business, Synology offers a Security Station that allows for security cameras to write their data to the NAS and you can even control the security cameras from afar. Finally, Synology also offers free Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android tools that allow automatic backups of the device that the software is installed on. More on this later.
What should I backup?
The first answer that comes to mind here is Everything! You may never know what you’ll need in the future, so why not just backup everything?
With a tool like Acronis True Image, it does just that. I’ve configured it to look at my two most important drives and every month (other time settings are available) it does a full disk upload of what has changed on the PC.
While I want to continue to say back up everything you can possibly back up, I have to offer a more reasonable solution. We do not have unlimited backup storage here. In my configuration, I only have 8TB of data to play with.
For consumers, this is enough to do multiple months’ worth of backups, but that amount is decreased as we continue to add important pictures, videos, and security camera footage of the house to the disks. You’ll have to be more selective in what is stored on the NAS.
I would recommend continuing doing a full disk backup with Acronis True Image, but maintain only a month or two’s worth of full disk backups. Then, have the Synology NAS automatically move the more recent backup to your cloud container so it will also be stored on the BackBlaze servers.
Where you can become more selective is in personal documents like pictures, videos, and legal documents. Backup the majority of these documents to your NAS, but only the most important ones to the cloud to keep expenses to a minimum.
Small businesses will have double the amount of documents spread across multiple machines. To sort everything into one centralized location, the NAS functions as a file server. Legal documents for the business should be stored in both places, whereas CCTV footage should mainly be stored to the NAS only.
I would recommend that a small business opts for more cloud storage than NAS storage because it’s more likely for the NAS to be harmed and will be used more often. That said, a high amount of storage is needed for a small business NAS because you’ll want to utilize all of Synology’s free tools for the business.
What’s it like using Synology and BackBlaze?
The two companies work hand-and-hand with one another with BackBlaze even showing Synology NASs in their demonstration pictures for their B2 Cloud Storage.
Before data is even sent to the cloud, it must first be sent to the ultimate DS718+ NAS. As mentioned earlier, Synology has a lot of free tools to back up your data. Security camera output is already sent to the NAS automatically, but what if we don’t have Acronis for our PCs and what about are smartphones? You know, the devices we take all of our pictures on.
Offered for free, there are a bunch of Synology applications for PC and smartphones (iOS and Android) that will automatically backup data to the NAS when configured.
Photos DS is one of my favorite applications for smartphones. Let’s say you are out and about and take a bunch of photos using your phone. When you reconnect to the network with the NAS, the tool will automatically begin backing up all of those photos from your phone.
They won’t disappear from your phone, but your Synology DS718+ will have a complete copy of them. The same goes for Video and Audio with the DS Video and DS Audio applications.
For your PC, there is Cloud Station Backup or Desktop Backup which is a computer tool that monitors your PC folders for changes. It will then will send those items to the NAS.
That’s the true goal in this process of using a Synology NAS. Everything should be fully automated with no need for user interaction. One of the worse feelings is losing a file, only to realize you forgot to back it up.
The automation continues with the cloud backups. After a B2 Cloud Storage account is configured with BackBlaze, you will create a bucket or container which will hold your data. Then, using the free Synology Cloud Sync DiskStation tool, you will configure this bucket in the NAS.
When files are dropped into a specified folder in the NAS, Cloud Sync will send them to the cloud. Just remember, for pricing, only the most important files should be stored in the bucket. You can also have multiple buckets for better sorting of files.
If you are ever in need of a lot of your cloud storage, BackBlaze offers the one-time payment ability to purchase a 128GB flash drive or 4TB hard drive for your data to be transferred and then mailed to you. This could be useful if you need to share or provide data to someone. Plus, the pricing for both options is reasonable.
My Final Comments
There are a lot of ways to back up your data and there are a lot of solutions in place for you to do so. However, over the past couple of months, nothing is going to surpass the excellent automatic and security provided to the user by using the Synology DS718+ and BackBlaze B2 Cloud Storage.
The automation tools from Synology allow you to backup multiple devices quickly and effectively. Plus, the DS718+ NAS is extremely user-friendly and comes with a bunch of business-related software that could even be used by the everyday home user.
For BackBlaze, their cloud storage is excellent for consumer and small business just for the fact that they have multiple servers and data centers that will store your files for years to come. The monthly cost is low and there are a bunch of ways of getting your data downloaded if you are in a hurry.
There is a hefty cost up front, but I find it to be totally worth it for the peace of mind that everything in your digital life is safely stored in multiple places. Hard drives, solid state drives, flash drives, and everything else digital eventually fails. Don’t be the next person on a tech forum seeking advice how to get back your important data.
© 2017 Justin Vendette
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