Over the years I’ve tried many backup solutions for my ever-growing Terabytes of data, from Time Machine on the low end to Retrospect on the high end, using everything from spreading data out over stacks of random USB hard drives to RAIDing USB drives with SoftRAID (top tip — don’t do that), and I finally settled on a solution that, nearly six months in, is working very very well. Let’s get into it.
Every product or service discussed in this video has been purchased by me. None of these were given to me for review. This is not a sponsored video.
I’m PhotoJoseph; I’m a content creator who started in photography, who now does mostly video, and really miss when I could back up my entire archive on one of these (hold up thumb drive or other small drive). Today my online — fast — storage consists of two RAIDs; a very fast eSATA four drive bay from OWC with four 10TB drives striped as RAID 0 for 40TB of storage that clocks in around 850 MB/s read and write speeds (include screenshots and screen recordings of this stuff), named “Beast”. RAID 0, if you’re not familiar, spreads data across all drives and gives the best performance, but if one drive fails, you lose everything. So it’s risky, but it’s the cheapest way to get really fast performance. Then I also have a smaller NVMe 4x1TB RAID, also from OWC and also striped as RAID 0 for 4TB total, clocking in a whopping 2,000 MB/s read and 1,000 MB/s write speed, named “Beauty”. I generally use Beauty as my primary drive for multicam projects and as my FCP cache, and then move data to Beast when done with a project, or sometimes I just use Beast for larger, or maybe non multicam projects. Not that I can’t edit multicam from Beast, but it’s just smoother using the NVMe RAID.
Anyway because this is all RAID 0, that data is at high risk so needs a nightly backup. I’ll skip the horror stories of failed solutions, lost and nearly-lost data and hair pulling strategies that almost but not quite worked, and go straight to what I’m doing today that I love.
The Hardware — ReadyNAS 2312
It starts with a Netgear ReadyNAS 2312. NAS stands for “Networked Attached Storage”, and is basically just a stand alone volume that’s accessible over a network. This ReadyNAS has 12 drive bays which do NOT have to be filled up all at once (I’ll come back to that), and is rack mounted, which works well for me; you can buy NAS solutions from lots of different companies; desktop or rack mounted. I chose this because at under $1,000 it was a great price point for what I needed, and while it doesn’t have 10Gbit speeds or many of the features found in higher end NAS solutions from companies like Synology or QNAP (which, if you’re interested in that kind of a solution, I highly recommend watching a video by Armando, which I’ll link to at the end of this video and down below), my intention was never to edit from this NAS, but to use it just as a backup. Towards the end of this video I’ll cover some additional uses I’ve found for this server, but those are all bonus features.
The Netgear NAS runs ReadyNAS OS, a Linux operating system that you control through a web interface, and the drive system is something called X-RAID. One of the biggest problems I’ve had with backup systems in the past is having a single large-enough volume to back up to that’s expandable. It’s easy to plan for, say, 40TB of backup and build a solution on that, but then when your needs grow, you have to start over. Most backup software solutions don’t handle spanning multiple drives, so you can’t just expand by adding another cheap USB drive, nor do they handle replacing dead drives very well or at all, so potential growth is always a pain in the ass. X-RAID, what the ReadyNAS uses, is an expandable RAID, and it’s fully automatic. You can start the X-RAID volume with just a single drive, although there’s not much point to that; you’ll probably want to start with at least three. I started mine with five 12TB NAS-rated drives (show), and when you have up to five drives in the ReadyNAS, X-RAID is automatically configured as a RAID 5. RAID 5 uses something called Parity, distributing parity data among all drives, and uses about one drive’s worth of space for parity storage. This parity means you give up about one drive’s worth of storage in your RAID volume, however any single drive in the volume can die, and you’ll lose no data. You just replace that dead drive and the RAID will rebuild itself. and with X-RAID, as soon as you add a sixth drive, it converts to RAID 6, which uses TWO parity drives, so any TWO drives can fail with no data loss. That does however mean that with five drives, you’re only getting four drives worth of storage (animation showing RAID 5 vs 6 and 5 to 7 drives), and with six drives, you’re also getting just four drives worth of storage — however you’re gaining a lot of security — and peace of mind. I recently added two more drives for a total of seven, meaning when I started at RAID 5, I had 4x12TB = 48TB storage, and now I have 5x12TB = 60TB storage — but now every drive I add on top of this will expand my storage by another 12TB.
OK, so that’s the physical storage sorted. I can expand this all the way up to 120TB with all 12TB drives, and grow it as I need it. Now let’s talk about the software.
The Software — CCC
I’m on macOS, and there’s a great app that’s been around for ever called Carbon Copy Cloner, or CCC. CCC can schedule automated copies of specific files or folders or entire volumes to any destination, including across a network. It’ll automatically mount and unmount network volumes as needed, and the copy it builds is literally a clone, meaning that you can browse your backup and access files from it just like your original drive; there’s no proprietary software like Time Machine or recovery scripts to run like with Retrospect, to access your data. You don’t need CCC to see your backups. It’s as easy as mounting the backup volume and copying the files you need from it. (Show side-by-side browsing source and backup in Finder). Carbon Copy Cloner also has a great feature called “Safety Net”, where any files that are removed from your drive don’t just get deleted on the backup, but instead get moved to a dated “safety net” folder. (Show safety net folder). So if you accidentally delete a file, you can dig into the safety net to find it.
Shares (Virtual Volumes)
So that’s the base hardware, and the software, but what is CCC actually looking for when it backs up? My ReadyNAS is 60TB of raw storage, but remember this isn’t a macOS volume. In the ReadyNAS interface, which, again, is accessible over a web browser, I can create “Shares” as SMB or AFP volumes, or a variety of other types, which mount on macOS as a network volume. Think of it like a “virtual volume”. I can create as many Shares as I like, and here’s the best part — I don’t need to define a size for the share. Every Share has access to the entire 60TB, and as that 60TB grows as I add more drives, so does the available space for the Shares. So for MY backup strategy, I choose to create a share for every volume that I’m backing up. This just makes sense to me; if I need a file that was on Beauty, I pull up the Beauty-BACKUP share, and there it is. Even if I never add more local online, high speed storage, the bigger I make the X-RAID, the more data I can leave in the Safety Net. And if i do want to trim the size of the backup, I can delete older folders from the Safety Net with confidence; and obviously I can browse them before I do. And, I can just create another Share to use as network storage for, say, old projects I want to clear off my main system.
So every night, CCC mounts a Share volume, copies all new data to that volume, moves all deleted data to the Safety Net folder, and then moves to the next backup script, repeating for the next volume.
I also have a USB drive attached directly to my Mac that CCC mounts and un-mounts automatically so I never have to see it, and backs up the internal drive to nightly, which is a bootable backup. This means if my internal drive goes poof, I can reboot from the USB drive and keep working. And as soon as I replace the dead drive, CCC can clone from the USB backup right back to the new internal drive. This is also a great way to save yourself from unexpected problems with OS backups. If you upgrade to the latest OS and discover too late that some critical apps or plugins don’t work, you can restore to the previous OS. Or, use the backup (or an additional backup) as a way to test a new OS before you commit to it.
Now, what about cloud backup? A proper backup strategy requires both an onsite and an offsite backup. The ReadyNAS will allow you to clone the entire system or any portion of it to petty much every common cloud storage system, including Amazon S3, Wasabi, and Azure, and even consumer cloud storage solutions like Amazon Drive, Google Drive or Dropbox. Obviously this only works if you have sufficient bandwidth to backup to the cloud reasonably quickly, but the system is there. And you can throttle it to whatever bandwidth you want, so it’s not hogging your entire upload bandwidth. Now, granted, cloud storage for tens of terabytes can get really expensive, really quickly. But I’ll tell you what I figured out. If you have the Dropbox Business Advanced plan, with at least three seats, you get unlimited storage. If you pay by the month it’s $25 per user, but if you pay for the whole year at once it’s $20 per user, or $60 a month, or $720 for the year, which is incredible for unlimited storage. Just don’t forget to set that Dropbox folder you’re backing up to as “online only” on all of your systems, or it’ll start to sync all that backup data back down to every computer you have. I might have forgotten to set that on one of my machines and found it filling up with my NAS backup. Anyway, mine is slowly trickling up; I’ve got about 6TB up there so far, but one of these days I’m going to take advantage of a friend’s gigabit connection and hook up my NAS in his office for a few days and catch up. Alternatively, with certain “business class” ReadyNAS models, you can use something called ReadyDR, for “Disaster recovery”, and automatically clone your NAS to another NAS somewhere else. Mine doesn’t support that, although there might be other ways to achieve the same thing if that’s what you wanted to do.
Bonus Server Features
I said at the beginning that the ReadyNAS gave me some bonus features that I’ve been taking advantage of. It has a whole “Apps” space where you can install all kinds of services on the NAS, like setting it up as a Plex server or using Resilio Sync. Come to think of it, Resilio Sync could probably be used to clone this NAS to another NAS somewhere else in the world. Cool! Anyway you can install all kinds of server apps, and I’ve installed PHP, because I use a PHP based service to remotely control this bank of Hyperdecks. That’s a really cool configuration that’s for another video.
It of course can also server as a simple file server, and with ReadyCloud, part of the ReadyNAS system, I can create a password protected, expiring, access loggable link to any file on the NAS. So if I want to deliver files to a client directly from my own server, I can. The problem of course is that they could access it at any time and choke your bandwidth, and the file delivery will only be as fast as your upload speed, so you may be better off using something like WeTranfser, but you have the option, and I’ve used it. Oh also if you do go for the Dropbox Business solution, that includes a service like WeTransfer and you can send any size file you want. Cool.
So there you have it. This is my backup solution that took years to get to, but I absolutely love it, and I know that every night, my fragile RAID 0 RAIDS are backed up to a RAID 6 volume, where any TWO drives can fail and I’d still have access to all of my data. What do you think?
There’s a link down below to a page on my website where I’ve outlined all the hardware used, so you can see exactly what everything costs and where to get it if you want to build something like this.
Thanks for watching, and I’ll catch you next time. Seeya!