Our lives are digital. Our cameras are no longer film. Our notes are no longer postcards. The USPS is having a hard time staying in business.
To get really deep about this … Thousands of years from now, archaelogists will see our world vividly just like on the day your iPhone or DSLR captured it. That is … if the data’s still around.
We’re losing data left and right because we aren’t practicing good ways of storing it.
Stop spreading your digital existence across 12 devices (including the ones long retired but never copied data from in the attic/garage/dumpster/Goodwill). Keep a definitive copy of everything in one place.
It’d be a shame cave paintings outlive our digital pictures, and right now that’s scarily possible.
If we could just centralize and manage it better, then maybe we could also have an easier time archiving it all.
So, let’s get practical!
First off … problems … how data was stored in the dark ages:
- Cloud services. They keep things accessible, can help centralize and they’re often inexpensive. Cloud services miss the boat on your precious pictures and home movies because:
- Your internet is too slow, and while Google et al are working on this, it’ll be a while yet.
- Easy to user cloud storage providers are charging too much.
- Inexpensive cloud storage providers are usually too hard to use.
- The hard drive inside your computer can die at any time, and it’s probably not big enough. Plus, it’s harder (not impossible) to share that stuff with say … your smart TV … and the rest of your family.
- Portable/external hard drives. Don’t get me started. No. I own far too many, and I have no clue what’s on most of them. Plus 1/3 of them are broken — in some cases with precious photos or bits of source code lost forever.
Solution: Get a Network Attached Storage device. Today. Without delay.
Why? If you can centralize everything, it’s easier to back up. You also have super fast access to it, and everybody in your home can share (or not — they do have access control features).
I have serious love for Synology‘s devices for three reasons:
- They integrate with Amazon’s Glacier service. To me, this is a killer feature. Now I can store every single one of my selfies, vacation pictures, inappropriate home movies, etc. in a very safe place until my credit card stops working. At $10 per terabyte per month, that credit card should work a while. Glacier is a good deal.
- It’s seriously awesome, fully featured software.
- Quality, fast hardware.
All at a price that while not the cheapest doesn’t particularly break the bank.
Now, I’ll assume that if you’re anything like me you want speed. You want access to your data, or you’re not going to use that NAS like it’s supposed to be.
You’re also not going to invest in a 24 drive SSD enterprise SSD NAS because … well … you’re a home user.
So, some guidelines:
- Buy at least twice as much storage as you think you need. Your estimate is low.
- Plan to upgrade/replace in 3 years. You don’t have to make a perfect buying decision — nor do you have to buy for eternity. Plan to MIGRATE! — which is why you’ll want hardware that’s fast enough you can copy data off it before the earth crashes into the sun!
- Don’t plan to add more hard drives anytime soon. Fill all the drive bays.
- Buy the largest available drives.
- Forget SSD. SSD is too small and far too expensive for the storage you want. Buy more drives and get performance advantages of having more drives instead.
- Plan on backing up every computer you own to the NAS — size appropriately — and then some.
With price and performance in mind, I’ll wade through the mess of models Synology has to tell you what makes sense in my opinion:
Recommendation 1: Synology DS414
- Four drives provide 16TB physical space — 10-12TB usable with Synology’s own RAID.
- Four drives provide better read performance than two or one
- Spare fan just in case one fails
- Link aggregation, but you’ll never use it.
Recommendation 2: Synology DS214+
- Fastest Synology two drive model.
- Two drive redundancy.
- For some users, the video playback features of the DS214play may be more appropriate, but it’s slower and more expensive.
Recommendation 3: Synology DS114
- Danger! Just one drive — no redundancy. You are backing up with Glacier, right?
- Fast for a single drive NAS
- USB 3.0 port(s) to load your data from a portable drive
- Gigabit ethernet
- All that lovely Synology software!
Personally, I’d buy the Western Digital Red 5400RPM NAS drives in 4TB. Based on Amazon’s pricing, I don’t see much of a premium if any for getting the largest model on the market. The larger the drives, the more benefit you get from your NAS, so I wouldn’t skimp.
If you really truly believe you won’t need the space, but you’d like the performance of four drives on the DS414, then you can save around 350 USD by purchasing 4x 2TB drives instead of 4x 4TB.
Your Network Needs Speed
Now, along with all that firepower in the NAS, you need the network to feed that speed addiction.
Get a good quality switch, and if you’re going to use your NAS over wireless check out Amped Wireless RTA 15. Wired speeds will nearly always be faster, but I like wireless convenience just like you.
You’ll Love Speedy Backups
For extra credit, Apple’s Time Machine backup works really nicely with my NAS. It works a lot faster when I plug in the ethernet cable. On a Cisco 2960G switch (yes, I have some serious commercial grade switches lying around), my late model Apple MacBook Pro Retina did around 100 gigs under 15 minutes.
Do I need a NAS in the future?
Possibly not. When bandwidth gets there and cloud offerings match up at the right price points.
Oh, and a little re-arrangement of the letters NAS … NSA. User trust! Yes, all this assumes user trust of cloud services. Then again, the NSA can probably backdoor your NAS if they really want to. Sorry. Nothing’s perfect.
Your mileage my vary. My new DS414 was a religious experience.