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Electronic Record Keeping & Backup - my solution
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Posted 8/28/2019 22:47 (#7703160)
Subject: Electronic Record Keeping & Backup - my solution

South Central MN
So in addition to farming i also work from home part time as a contract engineer and have large files that I need to save and backup. I figured I'd share some of my experience with getting a personal server set up in case anyone else is interested in something similar. Keep in mind that I am in no way a networking expert and relied largely on online forums for help in properly setting up the equipment. After some research, I settled on getting one of these set up: This diskstation is basically a mini computer that has 4 hard drive bays in it. It does not come with the hard drives; you'll need to buy those separately. This is not cheap setup, but it should be fairly secure and redundant.

First, the storage/backup setup. The purpose of getting a station with 4 hard drive bays is so that I could link hard drives 1&2 into a single Working storage volume and hard drives 3&4 into a single Backup storage volume using RAID1 formatting.. In Synology's terms, a volume is more or less just a container of storage. When I combined drives 1&2 into a single volume using RAID1, it tells those drives to basically act as mirror images of each other. In other words, whenever I save a file to the Working volume, it creates 2 exact copies of the file and stores one copy on each drive. This is to create redundancy in the volume so that if one hard drive fails, I still have a complete set of data on the other hard drive. The Backup volume then uses Synology's backup software to create a complete backup of both the Working volume as well as any other drives I point it to. I have it pointed at both the working volume and the hard drive on my computer. When a backup file is created, identical copies of the file are placed on both drive 3 & 4 to ensure there's redundant backups. In addition, these backup files are time-stamped and a new file is created daily. The software allows you to set how long you want to keep the backup files. Some people might want to keep 30 days worth of backups, others might want to keep a year's worth if they have enough hard drive room.

Basically, when it is all said and done, I'll have 4 copies of every file shared across the 4 hard drives in the diskstation, with new iterations being added to the backup volume daily. These daily backup files are especially important in the case of a virus attack or if you accidentally delete a file; the backup iterations will allow you to go back to a place in time before the corruption occurred. Eventually I plan on installing another 2-bay diskstation at my parent's house and then backing up my Working drive to that one as well so as to have off-site backup, but my internet is too painfully slow to contemplate that right now.

Now, on to the fun stuff. So far, I've only talked about using the diskstation as storage and backup, but it can do so much more. It has internet connectivity, and so I am able to access it from any device that has an internet connection. In essence, I have set up my own cloud storage (I really don't care for the idea of using commercial cloud service, especially from a renowned data-mining company such as amazon).. I have been scanning all of my farm documents in as pdf's and storing them on the diskstation. It was incredibly handy this spring to be able to look up planting and fertilizer recommendations or banking budgets from my phone without having to carry around a folder full of paper. We have also been saving all of our photo's to the diskstation and can access those via apps on our phone. I can even send secure links to family or friends so that they can use it as a sort of personal dropbox to download the photos. It can also be used as a storage server for surveillance cameras so you don't have to pay the manufacturer's cloud storage fee, and you can setup a personal password vault as a place to securely store you passwords. I haven't even really scratched the surface of what it can do.

There were many steps I took to try and make my diskstation as secure as possible. Getting the network setup to be secure and robust while still allowing smooth access was by far the hardest part of the project, but with the help of the online forums and tech support I feel that I am hardened enough that a hacker will skip over me to attack easier targets. I have complicated passwords, disabled default access ports, and enabled 2-factor authentication for logging in. All of this make logging in more difficult than I'd prefer, but it is better than getting hacked.

This solution is not for everybody, but if you're someone who'd like to get into electronically storing some of your records and being able to access them online, I'd highly recommend looking into something similar. Using a single external hard drive as a backup is nowhere near as safe from a backup standpoint as one of these diskstations. For the record, I'm not tossing all paper copies of everything; I'm keeping the paper copies of legal documents that have been signed such as lease agreements or grain contracts.
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