Backup to, from, and between NAS Devices with BackupChain Backup Software
Backing up files to and from Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices is best done using a reliable backup software tool on a task schedule, so that it runs automatically at set intervals. Give this backup software a try and you’ll find it is perfect for QNAP, Buffalo, Drobo, and Synology NAS devices.
BackupChain, a PC and Windows Server backup software product used by over 40,000 IT professionals worldwide, offers a variety of features to speed up NAS backups:
BackupChain includes many backup-from-NAS and backup-to-NAS features but also offers live disk image backup, disk cloning, Hyper-V backup, VMware backup, Microsoft Exchange backup, and Microsoft SQL Server backup. File servers may be backed up using a fully automatic and configurable version backup and file versioning control. You can back up from one NAS to another, even over the Internet. File versioning (keep several changes of each file) is configurable in many ways. You can back up from as well as to Network Attached Storage devices, such as Drobo and Synology, at the same time and in parallel if needed.
Benefit from automatic deduplication of large files, such as Hyper-V virtual machines, or SQL Server databases and simultaneous file backups and parallel tasks for maximum throughput. In addition, BackupChain can be configured to use multiple CPU cores to speed up backups. To ensure your backups are accessible even in decades from now, various open standard formats are supported, such as ZIP and 7-Zip. BackupChain also offers Secure Cloud Remote Backup options and backs up files, VMs, and services while they are in use to the cloud. Moreover, files can be encrypted, with incremental and differential deduplication options. Take BackupChain for a test drive and download the full version now!
Why You Shouldn’t Run Backups on a NAS Server Using a Pull Strategy
NAS server devices are good for managing storage, such as hard drives, and provide that storage on the network for other servers to use. Virtual machine backups and other types of backups that involve a large volume of information are best handled at the source, i.e. on the server that manages and offers them. Instead of pulling large virtual machine files from Hyper-V servers to a NAS server, it’s more efficient to run compression and deduplication at the source and then transfer smaller delta files from the Hyper-V Server to the NAS device. This takes the CPU load off the NAS device and also dramatically reduces network traffic. No matter how capable the NAS hardware is, if a sufficient number of servers needs to be protected, either the NAS or the network will become overloaded unnecessarily when backups are “pulled” instead of “pushed” to the NAS server. Ideally you will want to reduce the load on the network as well as on the NAS server as much as possible, for best performance overall.
In addition, there are many scenarios where the “pull strategy” doesn’t work at all. SQL Server, for example, locks its data files, as do all Office applications. When you use BackupChain on the SQL Server itself, it is able to communicate with SQL Server and obtain a consistent live copy of all SQL database files for backup. A NAS server cannot do this remotely. The SQL Server hardware is also better equipped to compress and deduplicate backup files before they are ready for the archive; hence, a NAS server is best used for what it was designed to do: to store data and not process it.
For these main reasons we recommend installing BackupChain on your servers and workstations and using the NAS server device as the target.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Your NAS Server’s Sync Feature
Many NAS devices are seriously under-powered and the software that ships with it tends to be substandard, at the very least and almost always is not of server-grade quality. What do mean by server-grade? A server-grade software tool uses extensive error control, tracing, and logging, along with countless “sanity checks” behind the scenes to ensure that all processes actually run properly and produce the desired results.
Here is an example related to sync features that aren’t quite server-grade. Some of our customers used to deploy NAS servers with a internet-capable sync feature before switching to BackupChain. The problem was that they didn’t know that was an issue with their synchronization. What was the problem? The problem was that the sync wasn’t always running properly, or not at all. It would skip files, stop in the middle and leave out folder structures. To make things worse, there was no log or notification mechanism. The developers of that NAS apparently wrote the software as if digital systems never ever fail, as if connection links never break, the file system never corrupts, and hard disk sectors never go bad. One day when their main NAS broke they discovered the hard way that their backup NAS was not up-to-date for a very long time. Unfortunately no one noticed but also technically there wasn’t a way to find out that it was, other than by comparing folder contents manually on each NAS, which is obviously not a workable solution.
When you are dealing with important information, it makes sense to rely on time-tested, server-grade software solutions that actually work reliably under all reasonably to be expected circumstances. You will want your tools to provide a log and various notification features, so that the IT administrators will be alerted in the case of malfunction. In addition, when you back up a server on Windows, our backup solution uses a mechanism that provides a consistent view of the entire storage at a specific point in time. Many NAS devices do not offer such a feature, but it’s a critical mechanism, especially for large file servers. Imagine a folder structure with millions of files and folders. The NAS sync process might take hours to process it. In the meantime, users may change, delete, rename, and add files as they wish. The result is that the backed up content doesn’t match any particular point in time of the original, i.e. compared to the source. The folder structure on the backup NAS ends up being inconsistent. A consistent backup is a “freeze” of the folder structure, so that no matter what users change while the backup is running, and no matter how long the backup takes, the backup is guaranteed to be consistent and it reflects the complete content on the original server at a very specific point in time. Even if NAS sync features were reliable, without the consistency feature the NAS sync features are worthless for critical business data and therefore not recommended.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Your NAS as a File Server
The short answer is: reliability, flexibility, Windows compatibility, and consistent backups are difficult to achieve with most NAS servers. A major selling point for low-end NAS devices is their simplicity. You can just add hard drives and set up a share and that’s all that’s needed to provide storage on the network. For a home environment and very small teams in a small organization where cost is the most important factor in the purchase decision, this all makes perfect sense. However, NAS servers, there are exceptions for high-end devices, aren’t really a business-grade file server solution. If you use a Windows Storage Server based device, which uses Windows internally, then the NAS server will in fact function as a Windows Server on the network with full support of Active Directory and NTFS. We strongly recommend a Windows Storage Server based NAS or using an actual Windows Server as your file server, and there are many good reasons for our recommendation.
For example, Windows Server is the Microsoft recommended environment for file sharing within organizations of all sizes. Active Directory allows for a centralized management of permissions and NTFS is used throughout to ensure files can be safely moved within the network without losing critical information, such as access permissions. Most low-end NAS are not based on Windows and this causes various issues that don’t become visible immediately. For example, NTFS restricts and allows different types of file names, characters in file paths, and total path lengths, than the operating systems used inside most NAS servers. Also ACLs are not represented equally on the NAS devices as in NTFS. This means, sooner or later your team will end up having difficulties copying files into the NAS due to the file name or path length, or due to misrepresentation of ACLs.
NAS devices are generally under-powered, with limited RAM and CPU power, to keep the cost down. Windows Server, on the other hand, is an operating system built to offer robust file shares to thousands of concurrent users; hence, the hardware that it runs on is also better equipped than a typical NAS server. Especially when it comes to backups, it’s much more beneficial to run your backups on the Windows Server that hosts the file share, rather than pull files from a NAS. Windows Server can provide a consistent view of the file system so that the entire folder contents can be backed up consistently. This means that no matter how many files and folders are changed while a backup is running, the backup itself will always reflect the point in time when the backup commenced. This feature is crucial for good backups. In addition, backup software such as BackupChain can be configured to preserve ACLs so that all file and folder permissions are also preserved in the backup folder structure.
What is Our Recommendation for Network Attached Storage?
Network Attached Storage (NAS) refers to a simple to manage file server. Generally, NAS are deployed in businesses and homes as affordable, low-cost, independent storage space servers on a computer network. Popular NAS brands include: QNap, IOmega, Drobo, Buffalo, Synology, Netgear, IOSafe, Diskstation, and ReadyNAS. For home use and very small deployments for a few individuals in a small team, it makes sense to use a low-end NAS device. However, larger teams are generally much better off using a Windows Server as their file server, along with an Active Directory server, which could be hosted on the same server.
Instead of using pull-strategies (NAS pulling files and folders from other devices), we strongly recommend installing BackupChain on PCs and servers instead, and using the NAS server as a pure storage device. The best scenario in terms of compatibility, performance, flexibility, and reliability is to use a Windows powered NAS server, or a Windows Server as your backup server instead.
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