I recently purchased a PR4100 to replace / upgrade from a pretty old low-end Netgear 2-bay NAS. Overall, I am quite satisfied with the performance of the unit. I’m not doing anything terribly complicated or sophisticated with the NAS: it’s basically used as a common data repository for files shared between two computers on my home network and as a primary backup location for files from those computers (using Resilio Sync, for which I already had a home Pro license.) Although most of the content on the NAS is media (photo, video, music) I have not set it up as a media server as yet and don’t know whether I will or not (primarily because PLEX lacks Adobe Lightroom integration, which makes it unsuitable for my needs.)
Given my simple needs, I was not overly concerned with the lack of sophistication and options I found available with the My Cloud firmware, especially when compared with Netgear. However, one thing I found it could not do, which I could on the Netgear, was create scheduled and managed backups from the NAS to an external USB drive (I have been using WD Passport drives for this). I find this to be a glaring weakness of the WD offering. Searching through the forums I found solutions that involved creating scripts and cron jobs, which, although I am capable of tackling, I would prefer a much simpler solution (and obviously one that is baked into the firmware.)
I have found a couple of solutions to this problem in a Windows environment (and i’m betting similar options can be found in the Mac world) using off-the-shelf software; some freeware and some not. I thought I would pass on some of my experiences for those who are interested in exploring these and other similar products as solutions for your needs.
First of all, I already had set up some of the folders I wanted to back up from the NAS in two different ways for accessing them from my computer:
- One was to map a folder within the public share on the NAS as a network drive on my computer (WD has easy to follow instructions if you need them on the support site).
- The second was to create a symbolic link to a folder on the NAS and place it in my user directory (I use Link Shell Extension: http://schinagl.priv.at/nt/hardlinkshellext/linkshellextension.html).
Many of the backup software products I tried were not capable of backing up from or to network locations; be they shares, mapped drives, or linked locations.
Of the several software solutions I tested, I found only one - Aomei backupper (google it) that could recognize the NAS as both a source and destination location for backups. It can do scheduled, incremental backups.
It has a lot of other capabilities (system backups, partition backups) that are outside the scope of this discussion, but which make it useful for other needs. The only thing that made me pass on Aomei as the solution of choice is that creating a backup scheme (how many versions to keep, when to delete, etc.) are not available in the free version and I wasn’t ready to pay for a solution when I had a no additional cost solution at hand (see below.) That means that if you’re doing incremental backups, at some point manual intervention is required or you just have one full backup and a never-ending series of incremental backups.
If I were satisfied to have a full backup only, the solution I would consider is Cobian Backup. It can see the NAS and the USB drive as network locations, it can do scheduled backups and it has the advantage of being able to see the backed up files directly from Windows, which means you don’t really need a restore function, because you can just copy files back to wherever with native Windows functionality. It cannot do incremental or differential backups. The thing that steered me away from living with these limitations was that one of the directories I want to back up is huge and creating full backups each time seemed wasteful. Also, the product site has been taken over by a new owner and this could make the future of the software uncertain.
The solution I landed upon occurred after a facepalm while wishing I didn’t have to pay for getting what I really wanted. I realized I already had something in hand that would work. I am currently using CrashPlan for my cloud backups. CrashPlan has the option to do backups to a local location and has the capability of backing up from and to mapped (and symlinked) network locations. It can do scheduled and managed backups.
Obviously, this is not the answer for everyone, but if you already have a some sort of backup solution in hand, it would be worth checking out whether it can accomplish closing the gap that WD has left in it’s backup capabilities in My Cloud.