Dave Jansen’s Synology DS920+ Final Impressions has some insight into why a Synology may not be a great alternative to DIY for those who are reasonably technical. I was fortunate to be gifted a very old Synology that was destined for e-waste disposal so my approach has been to figure out if it was good enough at anything to be worth not just taking the drives and disposing of it, as opposed to buying based on the marketing hype and discovering the hard way that it doesn’t quite live up to expectations. Worst-case for me was that I’d have overpaid a few bucks on shipping.
Amazon has been putting the DS1522+ on sale for $579.99 so I decided to go ahead with that plus the 10GbE card and a pair of 512GB Samsung 970 EVO Plus for cache. It stings but for me the value of Active Backup for Business alone makes it worth the price over a timespan well under the 3-year warranty period, and Synology’s track record is such that I expect its useful life should extend until at least 2029. Zero percent financing for 12 months on my Amazon VISA soothes the immediate pain to my wallet.
A week in and I’m pretty happy with that decision. Local incremental backups of my laptop, four servers, and 10 VMs, running simultaneously, now finish in under 10 minutes — inconceivably fast compared to what I was used to with my previous urbackup setup. For giggles I decided to see how well it could handle backups of the mini PC at our cabin running Hyper-V and four VMs over a VPN that can manage about 3.5Mb/s upload. Took a whole-ass day for the first pass but now the dailies are running around 1:45, which is an absolutely acceptable window for hogging all the precious upstream during hours when nobody should be awake.
The kids’ laptops remain a challenge… but reality is that it’s hard to care that much. They probably don’t have any / much data worth caring about that isn’t in a cloud somewhere. And eventually they’ll learn to appreciate backups the hard way, like our ancestors have done for centuries.
Next I need to figure out backing this thing up off-site to our cabin. Backups of my backups. Because if a fire can take out all of your original data along with the backups, it’s not that great of a backup. There’s no good space to put a 2U RackStation, and truth be told, I don’t want to leave anything there that would inconvenience me to replace because it goes unoccupied for long periods and it’s meth country.
In the meanwhile, I’m slowly exploring more of what DSM has to offer. I’ve started using Synology Photos to backup my iPhone camera roll, which is the single biggest feature that has kept me attached to Dropbox. From that perspective, Photos does all that I need. Facial recognition and object classification range from underwhelming to hilariously bad, but those aren’t features I care all that much about today.
(In my dreams, Synology Photos, or PhotoPrism, or any of the other open source alternatives would have an integration for Google Vision AI and/or Amazon Rekognition — they’re reasonably affordable at the “80% of every photo and video I’ve ever taken is presently on my phone” scale)
I’ve also got Cloud Sync doing its thing with my Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive for Business accounts. That’ll replace having it shared out from my former backup server VM. And I’ve consolidated the rest of my file shares — they don’t see much use, but getting them all in one place is… something entirely unimportant me. DSM makes that all much more pleasant than TrueNAS tho.
Synology Drive Server is next on my exploration todo list. Because I’ve been wanting to stop paying for Dropbox for a long time but it’s hard to fight against the inertia and all the little ways that Dropbox burrows itself into your life. In the general everyday sense my needs are so basic that literally anything that reliably syncs files and has an iPhone app is an adequate substitute, but I have a few apps that use Dropbox to sync settings/data across devices, and a few things that perform their own backups directly to Dropbox. I suspect that some of them will be stuck on Dropbox and I will have to come up with a process to stay under the free tier limits.