This is how you make the best and safest backup

Whether it is your financial administration or your indispensable child and vacation photos: you not only need to store files securely, but also need a backup if something goes wrong. And preferably not one, but multiple backups. Everyone knows it, but not everyone does it. There are often enough options for backing up, but how do you best use them?

There are many scenarios in which you can lose data. In addition to the failure of hardware or software, you can think of data corruption, theft, a fire or a human error. However, not everyone has their backups in good order. And even those who do well can still not sit back. You must always take into account new threats, such as cryptoware, which has received much attention in the past year.

Such malware can hijack and encrypt files on PCs and even entire network drives. A nightmare. What has made cryptoware painfully clear is that by no means everyone has a good plan for their backups, not even large companies and institutions. Using the tips in this article you can work out an optimal strategy for yourself. In this article we regularly work with a nas and use Synology as an example. But concepts and examples that explain, you can of course use in combination with almost any other brand nas.

The 3-2-1 rule is a good rule of thumb

When creating a backup plan you can usually use the 3-2-1 rule as a rule of thumb: take care of it three copies of your data two various devices, of which a outdoors. By three copies we mean that you have two backups in addition to the primary data, for example your financial administration on the hard disk of your PC. They must also be distributed over two different media or devices, for example an (external) hard drive and a nas, or an (external) hard drive and the cloud. In this way you prevent that all your backups are lost if, for example, the nas on which they are lost. You must also keep one of the backups outside the home, also known as off-site. That is possible with family, friends or at work, but also in the cloud. This way you are also protected if something happens at your home, such as a burglary, fire or lightning strike.

Protection against cryptoware

The 3-2-1 rule is sometimes not sufficient for protection against all kinds of ransomware. Take cryptoware, for example, which hijacks and encrypts files on the infected device, but also on linked network drives and external disks. Cryptoware is getting smarter and is constantly finding new ways to access your data. It is important that you have multiple backups and / or multiple versions of files. Even better protection offers a cold backup (completely disconnected and disabled) or an offline backup.

Prevention is of course always better than cure, so your security must be in order. It is important to keep your operating system and your programs up-to-date with the latest security updates. Since the Fall Creators Update of Windows 10 you can use the Controlled Folder Access function in Windows Defender to protect your documents against ransomware. This prevents the ransomware from making changes to the selected folders. You can configure this for local, but also for network folders.

In Windows 10 you can protect certain folders more effectively against ransomware.

Central storage

Creating a backup plan usually starts with the question: what do I want to backup and where are those files located? The answer to that last question was probably about five years ago: on the PC. Nowadays, files are increasingly in a central location, in many cases an nas. You can therefore access your documents, photos or music from anywhere and from any device, and possibly from outside. Not only with your PC or laptop, but also with a smartphone, tablet, smart TV and media player. That is why we take that as a starting point. That nas also fits perfectly into the backup strategy, because nas devices from QNAP, Asustor and Synology, among others, are full of applications for backing up, both locally and off-site.

And with all your data central to the nas, you have to consider whether you also want to make separate backups of your individual devices (see box “Backup individual devices?”).

With an nas you can share folders in your network and backup them in a very practical way.

Backup individual devices?

If you already keep your important files in a nas, or have a lot of data in the cloud (e-mail, calendar and contacts) or documents in Dropbox or OneDrive, the need to back up your PC or laptop yourself no longer seems so big. It is a bit of work to restore the operating system and software after a crash, but for most users that is not insurmountable. Some even consciously do that occasionally, to make a clean start or when switching to a different disk or PC. In that case, make sure that you have the software and license keys ready or that you can download them.

If you want to be able to quickly restore your system quickly, there are plenty of options for a system backup. You can save a backup on, for example, an external hard drive or NAS, but also in the cloud via, for example, Mozy or Backblaze. With some cloud backup tools, the changed files are constantly updated in the background.

In addition, there are of course all sorts of separate programs for manually synchronizing (parts of) your PC or backing up, such as GoodSync.

There are plenty of applications for synchronization and backup for the PC.

Synchronization between nas and PC

If you save files to a nas, you can simply create a network link from that PC to that shared folder. Especially for a large music or video collection with many large files, that is the most practical. For your important files there is a nicer alternative: synchronizing folders between PC and nas. Nas manufacturers often provide software for such synchronization. For example, QNAP Qsync and Synology offer the Cloud Station application and the newer Drive. The advantage is that the files are now not only on the nas, but also on the PC. Moreover, this provides convenient access to various (earlier) versions of documents. Ideal if you accidentally overwrite a file. You have an additional advantage if you occasionally synchronize the same folders with, for example, a second PC or laptop: you immediately have a copy somewhere.

With Synology Drive, for example, you can synchronize between nas and PC.

An nas is not a backup

As mentioned, a nas fits well in a good backup strategy, but is not enough in itself. We say it again loud and clear: an nas is not a backup in itself! Not even if you use raid (see box). So you have to backup the data on the nas to another medium. You could get a second nas with the same capacity that you put at home (or at another location) for an automatic backup. But you can also use a cloud service or external hard drive for your after-backup. Most nas devices have a USB port to which you can connect an external drive (or docking station with a “naked” internal drive).

Of course, that disk may not be constantly connected to the nas (due to the cryptoware risk). Some NASs have a backup feature that allows you to automatically disconnect a linked drive when a backup is complete. You can also store the backup disk outdoors so that you have an off-site backup right away.

Selective backup

A hefty and well-filled nas backup is a challenge, because you soon have a lot of data. But you may not have to include everything in a backup. Backing up an extensive movie collection to your nas is probably less important than your children’s documents or photos. Then a smaller external hard drive or the cloud may already be enough. So make a difference between unique data that you cannot re-download and data that may still be available elsewhere.

Raid is not a backup!

Enabling raid on a nas is a nice feature, but you can’t compare it to a real backup. Suppose, in a 2bay nas, you completely mirror the first hard drive with the second (raid 1). Now one of those two disks can break without losing any data. You just need to replace the failed hard drive and, usually without interruptions, you can immediately continue what you were doing. This is the only real benefit, because there is much more calamity that raid does not protect you against. Think of cryptoware, a human error such as accidental deletion or overwriting of a file, fire or water damage, voltage peaks in the power supply or hardware errors that make the entire volume unusable, for example.

Thanks to raid 1, a 2bay nas has a second copy of all data, but because it is the same nas, this is not a backup!

Back up with the nas

Most nas devices have built-in backup backup software via the web interface. Nearly all NASs offer back-up applications, such as QNAP Hybrid Backup Sync, Synology Hyper Backup, Asustor Backup & Recovery and Netgear ReadyNAS Backup. In this type of nas-back-up tools you will find extensive options for both local and off-site backups. Very nice if you can save previous versions of files, with flexible options such as the number of versions that must be saved. You can go in any direction as a destination for your backup: for example, an external hard disk connected via usb, a Linux server or nas from another brand with rsync, a second nas from the same brand that is with family or friends, or the cloud. You can read more about the backup to the cloud later (see “Backup to the cloud”). You can of course set up multiple backup tasks, which you can schedule at set times or possibly even several times a day. Note that only one task will be active at a time and that, with a somewhat slower after-performance, backing up can have a major impact on performance.

Sometimes the backup and synchronization options are already fully embedded in the nas, and sometimes you can install additional packages.

When to backup?

Depending on how changeable the data is, the backups should not be too old. A backup of six months old is of no use if the administration you have worked hard on over the past few weeks is not on it, or the photos of your newborn brood. A manual backup is less practical and is often forgotten. An automatic backup at set times is therefore preferred. Check regularly whether the backups are successfully completed and have not produced any errors. With an nas you can optimally benefit from automatic backups, which you preferably perform at night. Often, backups are incremental by default, meaning that only the changes are updated. This is crucial especially with a relatively slow connection, such as to the cloud. So make sure that incremental backups are used as standard with your nas.

With an nas you can schedule backups at set times or several times a day.

Can you restore data?

It may seem like a cutback, but it is crucial that you can actually restore data from a backup when it is needed. The backup is of little use to you if you do not have the program to restore that backup. Or if you have forgotten the password with which you have encrypted the data. Or if the backup itself is corrupt. Incidentally, the better backup programs themselves perform an integrity check to detect corrupt data. But that is also separate from the recovery procedure itself.

Cloud synchronization

The cloud is an interesting option for your off-site backup, especially if you have a fast internet connection. Prices for storage in the cloud are attractive, part of which you often even get for free. You do not have to maintain equipment or pay electricity costs. Well-known services such as Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive often fall a bit outside of the pure backup strategy: they mainly focus on file synchronization under the term “cloud synchronization”. In principle, it is not a real backup: if files are updated somewhere, the changes are also automatically applied to the other devices. This is less practical if a file becomes corrupt or is accidentally deleted.

With synchronization tools from the various NASs, you can easily synchronize folders on the NAS with, for example, an account with Box, Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive. This also works well in combination with a smartphone, for example to have a backup of your photos (see box “Cloudsync smartphone and tablet”). You can also use such an account as a backup as mentioned earlier by choosing to upload only local changes to the cloud when setting up the task. For some extra protection you can choose not to delete files you delete in the cloud in the nas. You can also designate an external path in the cloud for the synchronization task, so that the backup will end up in a specific, recognizable folder.

With the Synology Cloud Sync application you can choose to only upload local changes.

Cloudsync smartphone and tablet

Cloud synchronization services such as Google Drive, Apple’s iCloud and DropBox (to name a few, because the options are almost endless) are very useful in combination with your smartphone and tablet. You can use it to quickly and easily access files stored in the cloud on the go. Keep in mind that these synchronization apps do not put all files on your device. At most, they create a temporary cache of files that you have previously requested from the cloud. Sometimes you can save a few files offline. Furthermore, many of these apps, including Dropbox, offer an option to upload photos and videos that you take directly to the cloud. This way you also have a back-up when your device is lost. To save data, you can choose to do that only via WiFi. Android and iOS also offer various facilities for making a complete backup of your device or the most important data.

Cloud backup

For a ‘real’ backup, services that fall under the term ‘cloud storage’ are actually more interesting: the rates vary, but are relatively low compared to synchronization services, and you can usually use the after-backup software to create the backup. You come across parties such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft (which mainly focus on the business user), but also for consumers these services can be attractive for off-site backup. Manufacturer Synology offers its own cloud storage C2 Backup, but that of course only works with their own names. And note: some services from cloud providers (for example Backblaze B2 and TransIP Stack) are not suitable for backup from the nas to, simply because they only work with the cloud sync applications. So look carefully which cloud service in terms of synchronization or backup combines with your nas. Manufacturer QNAP has one handy overview for this. With the other brands you will have to search in the backup and sync tools on the nas itself.

You can choose various backup destinations in almost all NAS backup tools.

Slow first cloud backup

A disadvantage of a backup to the cloud is that it can take a very long time the first time. Moreover, an nas is often noticeably slower when making a backup, which means that you will prefer to schedule such a backup at night. If you have a connection that is not too fast, it can also clog up, especially depending on the upload speed. You can set a speed limit for this. The good news is that once you have taken the first hurdle, a backup will often be ready very quickly in the future, as only the changes will be updated. But it is something to be reckoned with. If you need to restore a backup from the cloud, then the speed with which you can restore data is also a concern. This is often even slower than making the backup itself. With some providers you can choose to receive a hard disk with all your data by mail. You can usually log in to the various cloud storage providers to retrieve files.

With cloud storage you can usually browse files through a browser.

Is your data secure?

Not only must you make every effort to have sufficient backup copies of your files, but it must also be done securely so that unauthorized persons cannot access your data. That of course applies not only to the cloud, but certainly also to a backup disk that you have placed on your work, for example. Almost all cloud services will keep your data securely encrypted, although there is a difference in the level of that protection. For some extra protection, you can choose to encrypt data or have it encrypted when making a backup, so that it is encrypted in the nas or in the cloud. The encryption key is then required to make data legible again. Many backup software including software that comes with an nas offers encryption.

TransIP Stack

Many people have received free storage under the name Stack at the well-known Dutch hosting provider TransIP 1 TB. It is interesting to use this as a backup and TransIP supports the WebDAV protocol for this. Various nas-manufacturers offer support for WebDAV. Synology also supports WebDAV, but for technical reasons at the moment only via the Cloud Sync app. When setting the task, choose the universal WebDAV and enter the data further. If you are afraid that others can access your files, you could still opt for encryption. This makes the files unreadable for someone who gets access to your Stack account. You should keep in mind that the data can only be read later via a nas of Synology with the same encryption key. This also applies if you enable encryption on other nas-brands (if they support that). Synchronization normally continues continuously and therefore requires continuous bandwidth. You can prevent this by setting a schedule so that, for example, this only happens at night. That is also an extra safety net: you still have the older versions if something goes wrong during the day with your files.


Recent Articles

Related Stories