Home Backup Strategies and Home Media Storage

Sara and I are starting to accumulate a lot of media.  We like to spend time traveling when we can, and I’m learning how to take decent pictures, and these combined mean we have quite a few photos and this seems to be accelerating.  We both listen to a lot of music.  We both enjoy watching movies and TV shows.  I particularly enjoy watching sporting events in HD and Blu-Ray movies (The Wife couldn’t care less).  We also each have a laptop, an iphone and we’ve got an ipod or two from several years kicking around.  I feel like this scenario is pretty typical for couples/families these days, and is only worse if you’ve got a couple of teenagers to multiply the gadgetry.  We also have a nice television a Blu-Ray player in the living room, but often prefer to watch movies or TV Shows in bed upstairs.For those of us who are the home technology guy, this kind of setup can really be a pain for making sure that media is available, that you can access it concurrently (e.g. if NC State is playing but Sara wants to watch a Blu-Ray title), and that it’s all backed up.  Recently I rethought our entire strategy and implemented the following setup, which I’m really happy with.  I’ll provide more updates as I flesh things out more.BackupsWe had been using a TimeCapsule (1TB) but we were having problems running out of space, and I’d had one die after about 10 months.  For our backups, I had the following criterion:

  • Simple and automated – I shouldn’t have to think about backups.
  • Local and remote – backing up to a time capsule or external hard drive is nice, but not when your house burns down or your car is stolen.
  • Cross platform – I run Windows 7, Mac OS X, and Linux (Ubuntu).
  • Available – I don’t want to have to boot up a machine or have one running just to back up.
  • Media specific stores – ideally, I wanted to be able to segment out certain media (music, TV Shows, etc.) to be separate from our machine backups.  This would let me transfer media between machines and also get around space limitations on individual machines.

The solution I settled on had some upfront costs, but as I often tell people – I’d rather go without food for a month then lose all of my data.

  • Synology DS410 Network Attached Storage (NAS) with four 1.5TB drives in RAID 5 giving us about 4TB of storage.
  • APC Smart-UPS 750
  • Repurposed Apple Time Capsule to function as a Wireless Access Point and Gigabit switch.
  • Backblaze cloud based backup.

The Synology device is an amazing product – it runs  Linux, has a very small form factor, and in addition to providing the RAID capabilities, it doesn’t use much power, is quiet, and includes a great web administration interface that adds things like rsync backup to a cloud, UPS support, firewall, different file sharing protocols, print serving, and DynDNS support.  The NAS also works great with Windows7 Backup and can support about 45Mbps across my home class gigabit networking gear.  Buy this unit now!Backblaze protects against our home going up in a blaze and another benefit of offloading backups to the NAS seems to be that our wireless network doesn’t slow down while backing up any more like it used to with the Time Capsule.Media Access / StorageOne of the best things about the Synology device  is that it functions as a DLNA and iTunes media server for music, video and photos.  This means that now we can save rips, ISO images, and MKV files, and all of our music and access it anywhere in the home from our Wireless network.  It Just Worked and within 20 minutes of setup, I was streaming music to my laptop and our LG blu-ray player browses the NAS via DLNA and can play anything (more codecs than XBMC out of the box, including even ISO images).  I bought a Blu-Ray drive for my desktop computer, and now with MakeMKV, I’m making copies of my Blu-Ray discs, and saving them straight to the NAS where they can be ripped and transcoded for easy access via our laptops, iPhones, TV, or any other DLNA capable device.  Finally we’re at the point we’ve been at with music for quite some time where our entire media library can simply be a box of disks sitting in the garage.  Maybe we’ll show them to our children as they try to comprehend what it was like in the old days.To date my only complaint is that it’s a little clunky making a playlist on the iTunes server for the NAS.  It’s possible, just not drag-and-drop from iTunes possible.  Also, I’m playing around with XBMC on an Apple TV that I happened across, but so far it’s been kind of a pain and the codec support hasn’t been great either – some variants of AVI files refuse to play, which is really annoying.  We’ll see how things progress from that angle.

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