Back to basics - Mac backup to Synology NAS

Help me please!!! I’m a MacBook Pro user and I do a large amount of videography for a charity not-for-profit here in Australia. About three weeks ago I purchased a Synology DS1520+ and 2xIronWolf Pro 12TB drives …fabuluous!!! However because of my inexperience in the set-up I’ve got too many issues to list them all here. Is there anybody interested in mentoring me as I really need help. Yes I’ve watched a plethora of youtube videos that I’ve tried to follow. Okay enough of the woe is me …the up side is there are no major issues but rather a multitude of small issues that are consuming my time …day after day. Maybe you also experienced what I’m describing when you purchased your Synology NAS. Yes I’ve called out to Synology for help. They respond within about 12hours but the info they give many times goes over my head eg., “open Synology Drive client” …okay fine but no indication or which device to open the client on, my wife’s PC or my Mac? And no step by sep instructions. Also they say “open Synology Drive” …where? On which device or on my browser? Do you see what I mean? Yes I am desperately in need of help. I’d like to hear your story and ESPECIALLY how you got on top of it. Thanks Garry

since you’re desperate in need of help here is my advice, all care and no responsibility however!

Thats a very nice NAS. I did exactly what you are planning to do about 3 months ago with a 420+. It went extremely well but it is a very manual process compared to, for example, configuring to back up to an apple Time Capsule. Hope you were not looking for that kind of experience!

You need to familiarise yourself with DSM - DiskStation Manager. Its a website that runs in your NAS. Start with this guide.

Once you have done that, you will be able to follow these steps, hopefully to success.

Set up your volume. You’re probably just going to have the one (and you should buy more drives, fill that thing up for better performance and security).

Set up time machine by following this official guide from Synology.
https://www.synology.com/en-us/knowledgebase/DSM/tutorial/Backup/How_to_back_up_files_from_Mac_to_Synology_NAS_with_Time_Machine

After I did that for 2 Macs, the first 1 or 2 backups had a few errors which I just ignored and since then they have happily backed up for months with zero issues.

If this phases you then I think you probably need to hire someone locally. Start by asking the place where you purchased the equipment.

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@Mpacker has already pointed out the best resources. If you are interested in Screencasts:

ScreenCastsOnline - Synology episodes

Even the “archived” ones from 2017 should still provide you with a lot of information. Those screencasts are not free, but there is a free 7 day trial, which should be enough to watch the Synology ones.

(This subscription was the first Mac-related subscription I ever subscribed to: I have been a happy subscriber since 2008. There have been discounted Black Friday offers in most of the years for renewals and new subscriptions.)

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Hi Mpacker,
Thanks for replying. I chose RAID-1 which I hope that was the correct choice. It would not phase me to start all over again if that’s what I need to do, in which case I’d put it down to learning. Okay, I’ll now go and look at the ‘guide’ you sent me …that being step one.
Cheers, Garry

Thanks Christian,
I’ll take a look at the seven day free trial for a start.
Cheers Garry

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To save a bit of money, read the Synology instructions. They are simple and work. Then if you need the videos, go for it.

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Definitely. The trial is free as in free though. :slight_smile: The videos can be downloaded. :slight_smile:

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I pretty much learned it by tinkering and searching online for tutorials and reading the documentation.

There is fairly new and underrated YouTube channel, that also covers setting up Synology NAS’: SpaceRex - YouTube. I can highly recommend the videos that Will produces. There is Synology playlist that also contains a lot of beginner tutorials that start from scratch.

RAID 1
RAID 1 is a good choice for 1st level hardware redundancy. Especially if you have to access the NAS when you are on the go and can’t immediately respond to a failing disk. Keep in mind that the drives are mirrored down to the block. So if you install 2x 12TB disks. You will only have a volume of 12TB capacity. The added benefit of RAID 1 is that you will have nearly double the read speed, since the data can be read simultaneously off of the two drives, which is good when using it to store large files, such as the videos that you mentioned. (However, the write speed remains at the speed of one single drive.)

RAID 1 is upgradable to RAID 5 later
It’s also good that you can always upgrade a RAID 1 volume to a RAID 5 volume by adding another 12TB drive. Ideally the exact same model. Your capacity will then grow to 24TB, despite just addinge one more drive. The data is stripped between the now three drives and you can afford to lose one due to hardware failure. It’s recommended to replace the failed and defective drive quickly so that the RAID 5 volume can be repaired. But keep in mind that the repair process of the missing 12TB parity drive can take up to 3-4 days or even longer. During that time your entire volume is at high risk. Any additional drive failing will make you lose the entire volume even if one drive is technically still fine and failure-free, but since the data is shared amongst the three in RAID 5 it won’t be recoverable.

Drive failure
If you are absent from the location of your NAS often and can’t immediately replace a defective disk it might be a good idea to either install a so called “hot spare” drive or have a spare one laying around. So, yes for a hot spare you install yet another drive. It is connected to power at all times (hence “hot”), but no data is stored on it. The drive immediately jumps in and starts the RAID 5 recovery process if a drive failure is recognized by the storage manager of DSM. You could technically install a hot spare also for a RAID 1 volume, but since two drives failing is unlikely, the strategy of most users is to either a) keep an spare disk around offline or b) keeping the spare funds around to immediately buy a replacement model of that drive at no-matter the price (more on that later). If your RAID 1 or 5 fails and you have no replacement drive around it is a good idea to shut down the NAS to minimize any risk that one of the other drives fails in the time until the repair process can be started. But this depends on your personal outage tolerance. If your non-profit depends on this NAS being accessible at all times, investing in more redundancy of a hot spare or a RAID 6 might be worth it.

RAID 5 is upgradable to RAID 6
For the sake of completeness: You can also upgrade a RAID 5 to a RAID 6, which then will consist of at least 4x 12TB drives to provide you with 24TB of capacity. Two drives are the parity. If one drive fails you essentially still have a RAID 5 with one drive as parity that you can also “afford” to lose. So two hardware failures are tolearable. RAID 6 with a additional hot spare would technically require 5 disk to be installed in the NAS for just the capacity of two, which often is a bit overkill.
If you add a 5th drive (not as a hot spare, but as an expansion of the volume) to the RAID 6 your capacity will increase again.

Multiple RAID 1 volumes instead of one large volume
Having two or more RAID 1 volumes is also very viable. Often you won’t need one very large volume, but you can deal with multiple 12TB ones. You can install for example 4x 12TB drives and run two each in RAID 1 and get two separate volumes of 12TB each. The fifth slot of your 1520+ could be for the hot spare, which (I believe so, but would have to check again) will jump in to replace a failed disk in either of the two volumes when repairing is necessary.

A RAID is not a backup
The downside of all this: If there is a power surge (lightning strike) all drives could be destroyed since all are powered on and 24/7 connected.
Also your NAS could be stolen or another natural disaster could cause damage to the entire device.
Therefore, it is a good idea to have …

  1. …an offline backup of the important data that is not connected to power 24/7. A USB drive that you connect for example once a week (if you could afford losing one week of data) might be sufficient. Keep in mind that you’ll often have the most recent documents also on your Mac or keep the videos resting on the SDcards of the camera so a one week data loss can be pretty tolerable if you don’t run critical infrastructure like Mail (which I’d advise against, since any private person can’t keep up fighting to be put on spam block lists) on the device.

  2. And an additional off-site backup. This could be either a second Synology NAS kept in a different location far enough away to not be impacted by natural disasters (floods, fires, earth quakes).
    A viable alternative could be using Synology’s “C2” cloud backup to their data centers. It can be pricey, though. But it’s nice as it also protects you from damages to your NAS enclosure itself. A full virtualized copy of your NAS incl. all applications and packages installed in the “Diskstation Manager” is backed up to their cloud. In case of an emergency you can spin up your NAS virtually and access all files.
    (Don’t confuse C2 cloud backup with the old package “Synology CloudStation”, which got replaced by “Synology Drive”.) There also other advanced ways to do a cloud backup to other cloud storage providers, but that is another topic.
    A cheaper alternative to all this is—if your personal tolerance to losing data allows for it—to keep another USB drive in a different place like a bank’s safe deposit box or at a location that you visit regularly (second site, friends/family). If you are at the other location every week you could take your first drive with the offline backup with you and swap it out with another drive. The following week you backup to the swapt drive (if needed multiple times). In the worst case, when the NAS dies or is stolen together with (!) your offline backup, which you kept together with the NAS, than you will at least have a fall-back with at max. 14 days of data loss.

Offline backup: Which external drives?
The largest external USB drives that are of the portable 2.5" form factor max out at 5TB. The 2.5" form factor drives are preferred since they don’t require an additional power brick. You could get away with more spacious 3.5" drives in 3.5" USB enclosers so that you can use the same power brick with both drives and leave it plugged in for convenience. Depending on how much storage you actually use you can scale up your offline and off-site backup strategy to cover 5TB at first with one 2.5" drive or 10TB by using 2 drives and so on. It is a bit tedious, but it is a viable way to save some cost for expensive cloud storage and remain to have full control over your data.

TimeMachine Backups
If you also want to backup your Macs to the NAS via TimeMachine. I personally would not include those TimeMachine backups in the offline and off-site backup since they take up a lot of storage. Especially if the Macs are used mobile and not stationary in the office. I usually recommend to backup to the NAS for an immediate and automated “convenience” backup if a Mac dies or is stolen. Additionally I recommend that every user gets a small external drive with double the capacity of the Mac’s internal storage. (512GB MacBook → at least 1TB 2,5" drive.)
I recommend that the user does a manual wired backup to that drive at least once per week and stores it in a different location and every day when on the go. I can not recommend to even attempt running a TimeMachine backup via VPN to your own NAS from within a wonky hotel wifi. :sweat_smile:

Further thoughts on failure safety and future-proofing
Another aspect that many people forget about, especially when using a NAS at home or in a non-profit or small business: Keep an emergency fund to replace all hardware immediately (at the then current price) or even add a financial buffer to increase storage capacity while at it. You can upgrade a for example 12TB RAID 1 by taking out one drive and adding a 14 or 16TB drive, let it repair and then remove the remaining 12TB drive and replace it as well. After yet another repair of the volume you can then expand the volumes storage capacity in DSM to use the full capacity of the drives.
So keep in mind to have funds to buy replacements for the NAS, the drives, the backup drives and other hardware that might be stolen or impacted by a lightning strike like networking equipment or a so called Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). The UPS is another failure safety must-have in areas with power instabilities. I think there even was a MPU episode on that some time ago.

That were the basics …

Software
As you’ve mentioned “Synology Drive” this essentially is a Dropbox replacement. You have to install the “Synology Drive Server” package in DSM via their “Package Center” application. With it every user can upload files to a Drive folder in their “home” or user folder. But you can also add so called “Team Folders”, which are folders that an entire group of users or specified individuals can access all alike. Those can be single folders outside the home directory, which are the so called “Shared Folders” (yes, that name is confusing), which are essentially the frist level folders in the hierarchy on your volume, such as /photos/, /music/ or /video/, which I believe are the default ones, besides /home/.

The “Synology Drive Client” for Windows or macOS is downloadable via their “Download Center” on the synology website: Directy link to the one for the DS1520+.
Download the client and install it on your devices, such as your MacBook or other computers/PCs.

Since the Synology Drive Client must know where to look for your NAS you either have to use a static ip address, which you might not have, depending on your ISP of the premise, where the NAS is located, or use a DynDNS service (Synology also provides one for free).
But there is also the easy solution, which I’d recommend to you, called “Synology QuickConnect”. It’s another free service and allows you to assign a simple QuickConnectID to your NAS and Synology will use their infrastructure to route your request in the right way. If you are on the same network as the NAS it will use a fast local connection, but if you are out and about and not on the same local network it will establish a DynDNS-like connection via the internet to your NAS or depending whether your ISP is restrictive or not (carrier grade NAT with the limited number of IPv4 addresses is the culprit) Synology will even offer a relay-service for free. As a user you won’t even notice the difference that much.
You have to set up the QuickConnectID once in the Control Panel (equivalent to System Preferences on the Mac) under “Connectivity → QuickConnect”.
The same ID can then also be used to have the various iOS apps like their Drive Client with Apple Files app integration or their Audio and Video apps connect to your NAS just as I said via either a direct LAN, internet or relayed connection.

To go on with more software I’d need a bit more information on how your (desired) workflow looks like. (Feel free to send me a private message if describing it would involve anything that shouldn’t be publicly available.)

Cheers :v:

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Thanks Leo for the great explanations and some nice links to boot. Very helpful indeed!

Hi Mpacker,
I followed your lead “start with this guide” and it did help me thank you. I’ve been back and forth to the guide many times now. With regard to your suggestion to “fill that thing up for better performance and security”. Fill it up …what do you recommend?

  1. Should I fir Cat 6 cabling between my NAS and Switch aggregated or just continue to use a single Cat 6 fly-lead?
  2. Do I use either encryption and/or compression?
  3. I’ve got (vacant) 2 x NVMe M2 slots on the underside of my NAS – one read and the other write – would it be advantageous for me to purchase 2 x Samsung 980PRO 1TB PCle NVMe M2? Maybe something smaller …what are your thoughts?

Hi Leo,
Wow, your reply is impressive. It will take me some time to work through it all. I just wanted to let you know that I’ve made a start and to thank you sincerely! Can you tell me please, I’ve got (vacant) 2 x NVMe M2 slots on the underside of my NAS – one read and the other write – would it be advantageous for me to purchase 2 x Samsung 980PRO 1TB PCle NVMe M2? Maybe something smaller …what are your thoughts?
Thanks, Garry

No wories :smiley:

Regarding your SSD caches: It can be worth it, but only if you have to access a lot of small files for which the read/write heads of mechanical disks otherwise would have to move a lot for. That can cause delays with HDDs and the caching is recommended.
If you are only accessing the NAS yourself I would rather invest the money to get some Seagate Backup Plus 5TB 2.5" USB HDDs to use as backup drives.

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My recommendation was to buy more drives for the bays. You bought a very high-end NAS that has 5 bays built in, but only installed 2 drives. If you install more drives (they don’t have to be as large as 12TB), you will have greater performance, flexibility and data security.

Others have commented about the NVMe, I think that only makes sense if you’re working off the NAS rather than just backing up or archiving files to it.

Same principle with the cabling, only in a very high use and high availability environment would the second gigabit link with aggregation enabled bring you a big advantage. Switch configuration may be required.

As for encryption, go ahead and enable it if you have concerns about protecting the data on the drives if they were to be separated from you. Some would feel more comfortable in the event of a drive failure (where the drive couldn’t easily be formatted) when it contained only encrypted (thus useless to a thief) data so you can easily dispose of it, rather than trying to find a way to physically destroy the drive after failure. Maybe you have some way to do that of course.

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To add:
Regarding encryption I’d also like to add theft to think about. I have full encryption turned on for all volumes, all backup drives and of course all Macs and other devices.

I’m not sure about Australia, but depending on your location you might even be required to provide data security in a business(/non-profit) if any personal data of third parties, such as members, partners etc. is stored.

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Regarding the SSD cache: I think it depends on your use-case, but it has been helpful to me to buy just one SSD and use it as a read cache. I use the NAS as my Dropbox replacement.(using Drive sync) and also as my DevonThink sync location. In both cases sync operations seem notably speedier (and are far more reliable than using Dropbox or iCloud for syncing).

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Hi ClearScreen,
Yes, I haven’t really got my head around all the various options available including the one you mentioned “using your nas as a substitute for drop box”. Okay, I have a 4TB Ext HD that I know is on it’s last legs (because the videos it contains play poorly). Unlike everything else I’ve done on my nas to date this will not be a ‘back-up’. I need to move the data from my 4TB ext HD to my NAS and have those files ready and available to use at all times. Once I’ve done that the faulty HD will be dumped. My question for you is: What do I use to achieve this? Do you have a link to a tutorial on YouTube? Even Sync/Backup …are these two stand alone functions within the Synology apps or do they overlap. Yes, I’ve got a lot to learn, but hey, I love it! Thanks for your help …invaluable help! Cheers, Garry

Hi Mpacker, If I make changes and enable encryption now, will that leave non-encrypted versions on my NAS or will it kind of backdate and encrypt all data on the nas? Cheers Garry

There are a variety of ways to communicate with your NAS, you have probably discovered many of them. I use the following which are in rough order of difficulty (and roughly reverse order of usefulness):

Enabling the SMB service and then connecting from your Mac (with the external drive attached) would work but as a way to transfer a large amount of data it will probably be pretty slow. I would probably set up FTP and then use an FTP app; I use routinely use Transmit ($) or Forklift (thru Setapp) for this purpose. I also do backups of my Mac using Chronosync using an SFTP protocol (rather than using Time Machine using SMB).

The thing about FTP or WebDAV is that you will need to make the ports available on your router (“port forwarding”). How this is done will depend on your router and its configuration software; I use Eeros and it is pretty dead simple. While Synology has some great tutorial articles on its website, it usually skips over this part. Synology does sell its own routers, and while you might think that would make things easier, I didn’t find that to be true: for me, Eero was both faster and easier to use than Synology’s own routers.

Before enabling things (like FTP or WebDAV or SSH) that will make your NAS accessible to the outside world, please read up on the security settings available to you in your DSM. You should absolutely enable a regular (daily) Security Advisor scan and follow its suggestions: strong passwords, two-factor authentification, enable “auto block”, firewall rules. Do NOT enable SSH access unless you plan to use it and even then you might want to only enable it for when you use it and then disable it afterward; it is a favorite way for hackers to get into your NAS (and they absolutely will try).

It all seems overwhelming at first I know. It was probably 1-2 years of on-and-off fiddling before I got things working exactly the way I like it, though you can get a lot of good use pretty quickly.

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I recommend planning out your whole data storage and protection strategy first and building your system from that plan rather than attempting to change direction after starting. Some others with more experience may know if enabling encryption after creating your volumes and shared folders is in fact possible.

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Yes Yes, I’m hearing you Mpacker,

I have learnt so much (from you guys) since I setup and started working with my NAS. I must have made mistakes during the setup please see the attached screenshot.

Presently, there is nothing on my NAS that I haven’t got stored elsewhere. So my thinking is to purchase an additional two drives and start all over again. Yes, choose a different RAID as may be suitable to 4 or even 5 drives …as I think you said, “put that baby to work”!

Cheers, Garry