Personal Remote Backup Solution
Posted by kenhoward on May 29, 2008
I recently set up a 500GB NAS Head on my home network to use for backup of my home PC as well as for my sons to use to back up their computers when they’re away at college. There were a lot of options, and there was a lot to learn to set this up properly. I thought I’d share what I learned and also welcome comments from anyone who has suggestions to improve the configuration.
Step 1: Get a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device. This is an external hard drive that connects to your Internet Router using a standard Ethernet cable. It has a built-in FTP server. These devices used to be epensive, but the prices are dropping. Last week Frys had a Buffalo 500GB NAS on sale for $139.
Step 2: Plug it in, connect it to your router, and install any software that comes with it on (one of) your home PC(s). This software is used to set up partitions, ftp, etc. on the NAS.
Step 3: The NAS should be instantly viewable by other PC’s on your home network. The router will assign a unique IP address to it. You’ll probably want to map it as a network drive so you can easily access it without needing to know the IP address.
Step 4: For local backup, I prefer to sync files. There is no compression on the backup disk, but it’s easy to navigate and find files on the backup device using a standard sync. My two favorite sync tools are FileSync and SyncToy. I’m using SyncToy now with the “Echo” setup, because it’s easy to schedule it to run each night. Check for instructions in the Help screen.
Step 5: For remote backup, several additional steps are required. For brevity, I’ll assume that you have a dynamic IP address and I’ll just tell you what to do without explanation:
5a: Find out your current “real” IP address (not the one assigned by your Router). Get this at http://www.whatismyip.com/.
5b: Go to http://www.no-ip.com/ and sign up for a free account. Assign an friendly name alias for your IP address. (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org)
5c: Still at http://www.no-ip.com/, download and install software on your home PC that keeps your alias updated with your IP address whenever it changes.
5d: Connect to your NAS to set up and start the FTP service. The easiest way to access the NAS software is to open a web browser and type in the local IP address of the NAS (probably 192.168.n.n) If you don’t know the IP address, open a command window and type IPCONFIG /all. The NAS software should allow you to set up username/passwords and set NAS folder access (none, read only, read/write) for each user account. Once set up, this should run automatically when the NAS is turned on. Your home PC does not need to be powered on for the NAS to work.
5e: Connect to your router and find/follow the instructions for port forwarding. Make sure port 21 (the default FTP port) is set to forward to the NAS device. Port 21 can only be forwarded to one of the devices on your network. Any inbound traffic to port 21 on your router will then automatically be redirected to your NAS.
5f (option 1): Use this option for standard FTP access from a remote PC to your NAS. From a remote PC, install and run an FTP client. A good free one is Filezilla. You just need to enter three things: 1) your IP address alias from step 5b (email@example.com), 2) your username and 3) your password from one of the FTP accounts you set up in step 5d.
5f (option 2): Use this option to set up synchronization (as described in step 4.) Get FTPSync here, and set up access using the same three items shown in option 1.
5g (option 3): This is the slickest option, which is what I’m going to try first. On your remote computer, install NetDrive (freeware download here), which let’s you setup a virtual local drive. It looks and acts like a local Windows drive, but it processes corresponding FTP traffic behind the scenes. You’ll need to set up the three security items from option 1 in the NetDrive configuration. Once the virtual drive is set up, you can use your favorite Sync option from step 4 to handle backups. Or you can just access and use the drive. NetDrive was developed by Novel and is unsupported freeware, so it may not stand up to future Windows updates. There is a similar product call WebDrive, but it’s not free.
If anyone has any better ideas, please share!