Help me figure out my usage for a NAS and my backup strategy?

I’m going to use this to ask about my own backup strategy, discuss what I’m currently, and what I’d like to eventually do.

My Hard Drives

To start off, I have two primary hard drives in addition to my internal HD.

I have one HD that is a 2TB HD that is broken up into 4 partitions. These partitions are called as follows:

Backup of HD 1 - 499 GB
Archive - 500 GB
Photos - 750 GB
Backup of iTunes 1 - 250 GB

Then I have my other WD 3 TB MyBook HD that is broken into 4 partitions. These are called the following with their capacity:

Backup of HD 2 - 519 GB
Backup of Archive - 750 GB
Backup of Photos - 1 TB
Backup of iTunes 2 - 729 GB

I also have a HD that is called iTunes that is 500 GB though has 200 GB or so of stuff on it.

In addition I have a collection of three portable HD’s that are backups of sports videos of my sister and other stuff that’s just additional copies.

Tools I Use

  • Carbon Copy Cloner - Essential for making my backups. I run this every night and weekly for my other stuff.
  • BackBlaze B2 - My online cloud backup solution. Years ago was a Crashplan user but have switched to Backblaze B2 and have been rather happy with it. Switched from regular Backblaze to B2 within the last month thanks to the great users on this forum.
  • Arq - I use this to encrypt my backups to Backblaze B2. Also helps with retention and getting data from B2 as opposed to Backblaze’s 30 day retention policy.
  • Daisy Disk - Helps me to see what all is on my HD’s.
  • Genimi 2 - Helps to manage duplicates
  • Diskwarrior - In dire cases helps to figure out drive health.
  • Disk Utility - Always a good one to use as a first catchall to issues that might crop up, also created my portions through here.

The Way I See My Data

So in thinking about my data, I have what’s on my internal HD as being the most critical. Next would be my photos that I have backups of and am uploading to B2 with Arq. The other stuff is less important but I still want to hold on to.

My Vision

I’m at the point where I’d like to use a NAS to manage my data that’s not on my internal HD. I’d also like to set aside a external HD to backup this data on a daily or weekly basis just for peace of mind. I’m due for a computer upgrade (hopefully a new MacBook Pro!) though currently my computer (2010 White MacBook with SSD and 8 GB of Ram) has run my backups and my uploading (scheduled to not clog the network at home) well though at times the fans have been running a bit hot and louder. I guess my dilemma is that I’d rather not tax my computer with doing all this and seemingly run 24/7. Hence why I think I’m in the market for a NAS.

In looking at various stuff, I was debating picking up a Synology that would have 2 bays. Then I thought that’s too little and I’d want at least 4 bays given if a HD fails. In looking at those prices I don’t have that kind of money at the moment. I also would like to be able to expand my HD’s as needed and run Plex and a few other things too. This lead me to my idea of building a UnRaid server. In my researching I came across this example from Reddit that seems to be a rather good first NAS that would be affordable and I would be more then capable of building. For $150 or so that’s hard to beat for the price and would blow a Synology out of the water.

The Dilemma
If I build a UnRaid system and buy a 8TB HD or 2, I’d then transfer all my data I have on the external drives onto it. In digging and asking it seems that someone came up with running a VM of Windows 10 to then upload to Arq for B2. Arq doesn’t run on Linux though Duplicati does if I’m willing or wanting to switch to it. I could always run Duplicati on my UnRaid and Arq on my computer and of course create separate buckets etc. My goal is to take a load off my internal computer and make my UnRaid server my main work horse for tasks that involve more CPU.

I’d appreciate any and all nitpicks, questions, and suggestions.

I’ll include @nlippman, @Christian, and @Ben_Lincoln for this thread as they’ve discussed various stuff with me previously.

Some random thoughts:

  • Before I purchased a Synology I spent a lot of time diagraming my data sources, destinations, purposes (original data, backup data, backup of backup, etc.), and methods (physical connection, local network, cloud) – these pictures helped crystalizing the problems I needed to solve, where I had gaps, and options. If you haven’t done something like this I suggest the effort is worth it. Also gives you a roadmap if you decide to progress toward your storage and backup goals in several stages.
  • I would look into multiple NAS configurations and OEM options. Choosing a NAS is not simple. There’s a reason UnRaid costs 1/10 the cost of Synology – think about it.
  • You have the cloud solution with B2 – do you have a physical off-site option in mind? My NAS has an attached bay (a NewerTech Voyager with a 4 TB drive inserted) so that I can create backups for offsite storage. OtherWorldComputing is a good source of hardware for storage, at a good price.
  • Do you have a cloning option in mind? CCC is good for that. I clone my laptop once a week with CCC. Good idea, especially if you have an aging laptop.
  • Why not buy a NAS with more bays than you can use initially? Then grow into it.

Full disclaimer I don’t back up any of my stuff so this is likely a post full of ideas without a lot to back it up…

Intial thoughts

If I was to buy and off the shelf NAS I would get more then a two bay, at least a 4 or an 8 for expansion.

The tricky problem with rolling your own unRaid server is that now it’s another thing to patch and manage, the parts cost might be less, but there is the time commitment and a loss of someone to shout at when it all falls over one day.

There is actually probably a lot you could still do with the 2010 MacBook, I still run a 2011 one fine as a backup environment (abet mine was a top spec machine in its day)

The other risk you have doing the NAS / self cloud, is that you will still need offsite backup for everything, less your house burn down, but B2 seems to have you covered for that.

My setup

A few years back I went full cloud native, since I sell cloud native solutions, I figured I should, I think of my data as a service, and I suspect unlike a lot of people I would not really be all that upset if it all went away one day.

I pay my dues to google and the bulk of my files live on a google server somewhere, all of my photos live in google photos, though I only have 30GB worth or so.

I aggressively delete everything these days, so what few documents I have live in my google drive mostly, and they tend to be shared things with my wife.

I keep blogposts and some other text in Dropbox, since scrivener uses it to sync to iOS.

My paperless output ends up in a S3 cloud storage bucket, since I can programmaticly access it easier and how does not love paying for storage by the GB, $0.0023 Australia dollars GB/M it’s slighly more then cost per GB then google drive but it has benifits.

All my source code lives on github and Gitlab depending

I have one 8TB drive that is connected to a NUC running plex, every few years I swap it out for a new drive.

Final thoughts

When choosing a setup you need to do whatever works for you, and is practical to your unique situation.

Following on from that, any system has some traid offs, my system traids data safety for speed, I can be running on a new machine increaibly fast, but there is more of a risk to my data.

It’s tough to decide who to trust, particularly with files like photos that we get attached to, it’s just a matter of balancing things.

I think you will probably be fine with whatever system you go with.


@anon41602260 and @Ben_Lincoln already made some very good points.

My perspective: A NAS is a very individual thing. There is no right and no wrong for every use case.

  1. Unraid or not Unraid: I have to pass on that one because I have no knowledge whatsover on Unraid. :slight_smile:

  2. Two-bay or four-bay NAS… More is always better and then again: do I really need it? That was the question I have asked myself over and over again when I decided what NAS to purchase. Everything combined, I have about the same amount of data like you have. These days, you can purchase a harddrive with a storage capacity of up to 12 TB. The prices are very affordable for 4 TB drives and they are still reasonable for drives up to 8 TB. After thinking about it over and over again, I decided to go for a two-bay NAS. RAID1 is good enough for me and I do not want to have too many TBs of unused disk space that cost me money. Apart from that, a two-bay NAS consumes less power than a four-bay NAS. I will never need more storage space than a single harddrive can provide me with, so I am 100% fine with two bays.

  3. Virtualization: If you are thinking about virtualization you need to have a powerful CPU and at least 8 GB of RAM. Theoretically, RAM can be upgraded later on. But you will have to live with the CPU that comes with the NAS. Even on a “fast” CPU, a Windows 10 machine will be a bit slow (if you do not go for a NAS with Core-I5 oder Core-I7 or even XEON CPUs - and nobody does that because we are talking about devices that could cost more than $1,000 without a single HD included). But it is feasible with at least a Intel Celeron multicore CPU. I am happy with it!.

  4. Data Redundancy: I feel that I need at least two local copies of my data on independent devices. Even with the greatest RAID system, everything can be lost under dire circumstances. So, I went with an external drive that is being connected to the NAS once a week for a automatic backup of the complete NAS (with built-in tools from the NAS). Apart from the time when the backup is running the external drive is disconnected from power and from the network to be safe. I have a third backup in the cloud. If you have data redundancy, you will be safe no matter what.

To make it short:

If you buy something, go for an option that provides you with everything you need in the long run. If it seems too expensive now then wait. Do not go for a cheap route that might be not enough.

If you are considering Synology, my recommendations would be:

Two-bay NAS: DS218+

Four-bay NAS: DS918+

If you do not feel comfortable with two bays I would go for the DS918+. To save some money, you could start with using only two harddrives in the beginning.

If you do not plan to use virtualization you could choose a model with a slightly less powerful CPU (cheaper option). I would not go for the J-series, though.

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You bring up a good point about this because obviously as you said hard drive capacities are a lot larger than they once was so I could easily get 12 or more terabytes on a two bay system. Also having unused TB’s of disk space is a valid point as well and I’d be hesitant to maybe have a four base system that would not get used entirely given my current data needs.

The virtualization honestly isn’t really needed and was only can be something fun to play with if I was going the UnRaid route.

This is the biggest thing is making sure that I have multiple copies of my data and that the the data is intact so as to cover my butt if anything happens. It seems like Backblaze B2 and/or Arq has integration with Synology already which would make this a rather seamless transition to my current system.I like your idea of connecting an external HD once a week to backup your NAS. Do you only backup certain stuff from the NAS or everything? I think in part I was wanting to reuse my other external drives to make them internal drives and run them to the ground. Granted maybe I’m better off getting brand new larger internal drives for my NAS.

I think for me the distinction here would be that I’d want one system for my data and files and such and then I wouldn’t mind another so totally separate system, most likely UnRaid, would be entirely for my TV shows and movies as well as setting up Plex. I’d want to back up my files but the movies and tv shows are replaceable. Maybe that’s the idea I go with and first get a Synology to get into the NAS world and have a place to store my files together before jumping into Plex and UnRaid.

The two bay you recommended might be what I do, I’ll look on eBay to see if I can find it slightly cheaper but seems like a good device.

I completely agree about your points about having a UnRaid server would be something in addition that I would have to patch and manage. That’s a great idea about maybe utilizing my 2010 MacBook when I get my replacement to run backup stuff.

For me speed is great but I’d rather ensure I have my data. Stuff like photos and irreplaceable stuff I’d be devastated if I lost it.

Love this idea, any suggestions what to use to think this out and create a road map?

Fair point, something I didn’t think about.

Haven’t thought of that but maybe once I start my job I can rotate backups and keep one at my job in a locked box for transport and safe keeping.

I use CCC currently, I’d presume this would work with a NAS though might have to look into it. Maybe the NAS software has something built in.

True though I’m toying with the idea of keeping my files and data separate from my tv shows and movies. TV/Movies and such would be in a year or two and would have Plex, most likely UnRaid then. Also I can’t imagine needing a 4 bay or more Synology.

With the advent of cheap, sub-$180 external 8Tb drives, and the easy availability of affordable offsite backup (I use BackBlaze), for me the advantages of a NAS have dwindled enormously.

Sure, it would continue to have value to me if I wanted a Plex server or if I was doing a lot of torrenting. But I’m not.

Right now I have 8Tb of external storage connected directly to my iMac - and with this direct connection BackBlaze will back up everything. And I have additional external drives for CCC backups (which are set up to be excluded from my Backblaze backups).

As a safety precaution I’m also considering a duplicate CCC backup for a cloned ‘snapshot’ that won’t get touched for 3-6 months, in the possible event of data corruption of original files which then propagate to the regular backup. I’m in no rush on that though, because I’ve never encountered that problem and I only know one person who did.

Overall my NASless setup is just as protective, and needs less administrative time that one generally needs to spend on a NAS.

If you need a NAS for other things, great. But I’m really not sure most people need t\o ever think of using one.

True. A NAS is a server with quite a large feature set, in most cases, so if all you need is a bunch of disks, then a NAS would be overkill. On the other hand, if someone likes hacking and wants to explore the server features, a NAS can be fun.

If hacking server features is fun for you then go ahead, but that kind of fun is not worth my time. And the added complexity is unneeded for most people precisely because of cheap connected/online storage and affordable offline back services.

Yes, I wasn’t suggesting you, just “someone” maybe.

A very very complex topic, frankly. Everyone’s solution is different.

I will share a few thoughts and examples from my own experience, which may or may not help you.

Synology vs Unraid: I will come down strongly on the Synology side of the fence. Let me note that I did, for many years, build my own Linux-based file servers, and I have also worked on an open-source community project building embedded firmware for a long-extinct solution for connecting USB drives to networks. For over ten years, my office (medical practice)’s file server was a custom built Linux box, with an identical second server to which I ran daily snapshots in what was my own implementation of a TimeMachine type solution (well before TM was in existence) based on rsync. As such, I am not afraid to roll my own system.

All that being said, I switched to Mac and eventually when those server boxes finally died after about 14 years of continuous use (!), because I just got tired of maintaining all that infrastructure.

With my synology NAS, I let someone else do that work, and the Synology system is very mature and functional, even if not totally under my control as was my custom Linux box. It provides all the services I need including a file server (SMB and AFS), CloudStation (my private Dropbox equivalent), WebDAVS access, VPN, etc, and with very rare glitches, it “just works.”

My only regret is that I did buy a 2 bay Synology, the 716+. I have a ton of spare drives, and frankly I do wish I had bought at least a 4 bay system just so that I could have more expansion capability. I am perennially in an “Ebay loop” where i consider selling it and buying a 4 or 5 bay system, but I just never get around to it. One day…

Other server solution: I also bought a very cheap 2014 Mac Mini on Black Friday, the base model with a 500GB spinning HD and only 4 GB of ram. It is woefully underpowered, but I have sped it up a bit by having it boot from an old 256GB SSD I had around (a long long time ago in a galaxy far away, I put it into a MacBookPro - pre unibody, when you could swap the HD yourself and remove the CD drive, which is what I did - but took it out again when I sold that laptop) in a USB-3 enclosure.

The Mini has attached two thunderbolt Drobos. Right now, one is my main data store (it was my main data store when I had the trash can MacPro which is since sold) and the other holds daily clones of everything.

CCC clones all the shares from the Synology, the Drobo with all my data, and my current MBP to the second Drobo every day. Being a complete nut job, my MBP also clones to a direct-attached USB drive whenever I plug it into the Thunderbolt 3 dock on my desk. The SSD boot on the Mini clones daily to the internal drive. Thus, if a boot drive dies on either Mac, I have the capability to restart from a clone, without needing to restore from the “other” clone on the Drobo. Yep, I’m pretty crazy this way, and probably unnecessarily so.

I also hang a 4TB USB drive off the Mini, and both the Mini and the MBP use it for TimeMachine.

Now, this is a crazed system, and my ultimate goal is actually to move to a Synology with more bays and load it up with 2 x 6TB and 2 x 8TB WD Red drives (the current 2 bay has the 6TB’s already, and I have the 8’s sitting on a shelf ready to go), and to move all of my data to the Synology. The Mini will remain, but will no longer be a general use file server. Rather, it will keep one Drobo attached and that will store all of the clones and TimeMachines; the other Drobo will get sold or repurposed somewhere.

The Mini remains a necessity because there are some functions it doers that the Synology cannot, specifically: It runs Arq (on its own attached Drobo and on the Synology shares); it runs CCC for the clones ( remote mounts the SYnology shares to do this and for Arq to run), and very importantly, it also has Mail open so rules run in the background, and runs Hazel and Keyboard Maestro for various background workflows.

For example: when I scan files to the MBP (it is my work computer; I have no desktop in use as the Mini is solely there for background tasks and has no monitor attached), they go into a “Dispatch” folder. I tag them, which allows Hazel on the MBP to move them to various places. Some of those places are in my CloudStation folder, so those files automatically sync over to the Mini, where Hazel dispatches them to storage on the Drobo or the Synology. It really works well for me.

So, my end solution is going to be a larger Synology, the Mini, and a single Drobo as the home backup/archive. Thus I will have three copies of everything: files either on the SSD in the MBP or on the Synology; a clone of both on the Drobo; and a Cloud archive via Arq.

Oh yeah, I should also mention that I can access anything remotely because it is either available via CloudStation (which also has apps for iPhone and iPad); I can VPN into my home network and mount any share; I can in an emergency download from the Arq archive (on B2); and some but not all of the Synology shares are also available via WebDAVS which is port-forwarded from my router to the Synology.

If anyone made it this far, congratulations. You win the prize of a good night’s sleep courtesy of a long winded post.


The reason unRAID is less expensive then a dedicated NAS is because you supply the hardware. It can be as powerful as you want or as efficient.

That said, having owned an unRAID box for a bit now, I love it. I don’t have to limit myself to specific models of hard drives. I can add and remove drives on demand. I can run Docker containers, VMs with pass through hardware, and all sorts of other things that a dedicated NAS doesn’t have.

Then again I get the feeling it’s less user friendly the a Synology or other dedicated NAS box. And I need to maintain all of the hardware. I recently added a new drive and it put out enough heat to overheat the other drives. As a result I had to pull the drive.

If you want simplicity, I’d recommend a NAS. If you want more control over your system, unRAID.

I backup (almost) everything. I do only a backup of my data and the VM. I do not backup the NAS’ operating system.

I do not know if you are aware of that, but there is a native Plex app for Synology:

The same is true for QNAP.

I have no experience with unRAID, so I am not able to compare directly, but it is possible to run Docker containers on Synology and QNAP, it is possible to use hardware pass through with a VM on QNAP (I have no experience with Synology). With hardware pass through on QNAP there is one caveat: it is USB 2 pass through only. I do not care about it because a VM running on a NAS is somewhat slow anyway.

And this is what I love about this community, when it comes down to topics like that. You learn about different devices in a very personal and interesting way. :slight_smile:

That is absolutely true. If the only use case is to have external data connected to only one Mac, an external hardddrive is the way to go. I went with that solution for years.

If you want to have your data available to you in your network for several Macs or for your iOS devices or even access it remotely without having to store it in the cloud with Apple, Microsoft, Amazon or wherever else, a NAS comes in handy.

When I bought my first NAS in 2008, I was able to have it up and running in 10 minutes. I disabled the services I did not need back then and I was ready to go. The frequent updates ran smoothly and I was fine to have the NAS available just as a storage place for data. Over the years, I started to use more and more of the NAS’ functionality.

That is what I like so much about the NAS systems from Synology and QNAP: the systems are not really that hard to manage and you can use and not use how much you want to do (or not).


I will definitely throw this into consideration. Currently I have partitions and I might want to stray away from that as I feel it complicates things when not necessary. I also like the idea of being able to expand storage instead of just buying a replacement drive though I’d doubt I would exceed 8Tb soon.

Those are all things I’d like to do. Have you found Synology support to be good?

I was pretty set on getting a 2 bay model if going Synology but given I have some external drives laying around I can use I’d rather throw those in one.

There’s a rumor…granted a pure rumor that the new Mac Mini will be for using as a server/media server.

Wait why do you have two totally different systems? Surprised you wouldn’t throw your data on your Synology instead of Drobo. Is this because you got the 2 bay model not the 4 or 5 bay model? Oh wait you answered that below…never mind!

Trust me I’m just as crazy about making sure my data is in tact and I have multiple backups as necessary.

Super cool! How do you view the Mac Mini? Do you remote in? I might repurpose my laptop once I upgrade and could do much of the same thing.

Do you run VM’s to run stuff like Arq for backup or anything like that? Can you do much of the same as using a Synology and looking back would you build a UnRaid server again … aka worth the minor hassles?

That’s kind of my thought as well, seeing what all I need initially and gradually doing more as time goes on. Maybe the way to approach this is to use a 4 or 5 bay Synology initially and if my needs outweigh it in a couple years i could always repurpose it for a backup server.


I have had no cause to contact Synology support, so I have no idea how good or bad they are. On the other hand, I’ve also never had a need for support…

The 2 bay Synology is not at all a bad starter choice. I have not outgrown mine, I just want to upgrade for no particularly good reason. I haven’t checked eBay yet to see if the resale value will make it worth my while.

I have the bizarre Mini with Drobos and Synology setup because I was originally using the Drobos for something else at work. They were no longer needed and I adopted them at home. In retrospect I should have just kept everything on the Synology. I am waiting to have the free time to move everything over. Since all of the clones and Arq backups are already set up for the Synology shares, it’s just a data copying task now and changing a few KM macros that use the mini’s shares to point to the Synology.

I like the Mini for what I bought it for: it does the Mac only things that the Synology can’t, like Carbon Copy Cloner, Arq, and mail rules. Had it not been a very cheap acquisition I would not have gotten it. At the time I was selling and not replacing my 2013 MacPro, and I work entirely MBP and iPad.

I access the Mini via screen sharing right now. I think I will buy Screens for my iPad. I’ve been looking st it for a while now.

The “best rumors” I’m hearing about the new Mini, if indeed exists, suggest it will be a much higher end machine than the previous incarnation. If so, it could well be my next desktop if I go that route. I suspect the long awaited new MacPro, if it ever arrives, will be priced too high for my needs. My major graphics need is for photography work, and if Lightroom actually benefited from an eGPU I would get one. However, right now everyone in my family has a laptop and some also have iPads, so I have found not having a desktop to be only marginally limiting.

The biggest reason I went unRAID is cost. I had a server that I repurposed to use unRAID. The hassle has been minimal, but not to toot my own horn, I’m probably more comfortable with the insides of a computer then most people. I have zero reluctance to pull a system apart to upgrade the processor and motherboard. The only time I’ve had a serious issue was an overly warm HDD heating up the case.

If I was starting from scratch, I might do a NAS assuming I could get my DVR container running on it effectively (gotta have my 8 tuners).

I have two VMs, the first to try different Linux distorts (for fun) and a second handle my USB SnapScan.

Why, oh, why haven’t I thought about this before?! :slight_smile:

Good point, I think I’ll purchase a 4 or 5 bay and if I exceed it’s needs I can always sell it.

Ah makes sense. Hope in the next couple months you have the time to move everything over.

Makes sense. I think if I had a desktop lying around I would be more willing to use UnRaid.

There’s a 30 day unRAID trial you can try at:

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I’m running into simple probably stupid user issues attempting to get our Synology NAS server working for WebDAV access and was wondering if you could share how you actually did the setup. Right now my access is for Time Machine and also smb for file sharing to a couple of folders and that is working but I cannot seem to get access to it using WebDAV.

I’m trying to replace the Apple Server app running on my mac that I use via WebDAV to sync Omnifocus and DEVONThink among all my iOS and Mac devices. Tthe Server App is slowing down my main machine and I don’t have another Mac that I can put it on.

Hubby runs the server and he is having no problems accessing the WebDAV portion from all his Linux boxes.