Part 1: Staying Backed Up and Value Adding with NAS!
Everyone has told you that backing up your computer is utmost importance. And of course, everyone that has ever had a hard drive fail WITHOUT a backup, generally learns that lesson the hard way. Throughout the 14 years of Blue Ion, I’ve had varying backup plans, starting early in our existence with running HOT with no backup plan! And we learned after Robert’s laptop failed back then, and spending $1500 on a drive recovery service, that keeping on top of this is absolutely necessary. Yet, I still know of people that don’t do this, when they should, even with their home computers if anything on them is important to them.
Foreword: This pertains to backing up our office computers … not our servers that are all taken care of within the datacenter we utilize for our clients. 🙂
I started first backing up our computers by sharing a large hard drive in my office computer and running some simple backup software on each machine. Not a great plan, although it offered the redundancy that if MY hard drive failed, chances are everyone else’s would still be fine, and a new drive could be purchased and backups restarted. The additional issue with this was that I ALSO used this method to have a shared drive for our office. This was not backed up!
Once Apple started offering it’s plug-n’play solution of Time Capsule in conjunction with Time Machine, this seemed a little better, especially with the ability to plug in an additional external drive to it for our Shared Drive (files everyone in the office could share). But we additionally had to back that external drive up by utilizing YET another external drive to rsync that data (and take off-site to be REALLY safe). Meanwhile, the rsync of that external drive over the network would sometimes crap out due to what seemed to be an issue with Time Capsule (which never was resolved in subsequent firmware updates and newer Time Capsule devices). So in essence, still a giant PITA and not easy to maintain.
Finally, we’ve moved to a more comprehensive backup solution by ways of a NAS (Network Attached Storage), and Synology seems to make the best for any size need… and specifically for smaller businesses like ourselves. Obviously much more expensive/expansive/redundant solutions are necessary for businesses 50+ people. We’re not there yet.
After spending QUITE a lot of time researching and trying to understand NAS, along with how best to utilize it for our situation, I think we’ve established a much more up-to-date backup plan. But in the process, I also found that a NAS (and specifically Synology’s NAS offerings) provided so many more features by ways of applications, that I’m also feeling like ours is underutilized for what it can really do.
Needless to say, a NAS is comprised of several hard drive bays capable of holding several LARGE capacity hard drives, a CPU running a stripped down Unix OS and with Synology’s propriety software to interface with the applications. It hooks into your network and you configure thru the kind GUI interface tools.
As it pertains to this subject, the NAS is primarily meant for backup solutions, and thus determining a RAID scheme that works for your needs, while maintaining redundancy against data loss is the first step in configuration. In basic terms, this is how multiple hard drives can be configured to store data across multiple drives so that if (when) a hard drive fails, you are not losing any data. As you should know, EVERY hard drive, being that it has moving parts, will someday fail on you. So this allows you to just swap out with another new drive when that happens and not lose data or a step. A simple RAID1 configuration just uses two hard drives to write the same data, so that you can expect that the chances of just one failing means you have the second one alive long enough to replace the bad one. You can get much more advanced into RAID arrays which can give you better performance, more redundancy, and fault-tolerance, but I’m not about to start explaining the little I know about it.
So, as I got involved learning and working with our 4-bay x 4 terrabyte Synology NAS, I found it had other helpful functions/applications that could improve our office workspace. We currently are using this nice little appliance for all of the following:
• Backups to all our computers
• A Shared Drive for everyone to access files within the office
• CalDav for a push-capable calendaring service for all of us to use/update from anywhere
• Surveillance software controlling security cameras at our office and retaining DVR of video
• I HAD used briefly for an internal DNS server for our network, but became unnecessary
More on what ELSE cool it can do, in the next installment!