I wrote about using Synology as a Time Machine backup destination in my previous article. This one will be about using the Synology Data Replicator 3 (DR3) software to backup my Windows PCs. Synology has a fairly large list of supported 3rd party backup applications, but DR3 is bundled with the Synology NAS so I’ll give it a try.
I’m running Synology DiskStation Manager 4 beta (DSM4) on the Synology DS212j. There isn’t a new Data Replicator software version for the DSM 4 beta so I’m using the version that was on the DSM 3 DVD that shipped with my NAS. I also checked the Synology website and it’s the latest version. For testing I have my Windows 7 Professional (64-bit) PC and a Windows 7 Home Premium (32-bit) virtual machine.
The software installation is straight-forward and uncomplicated so I won’t post screenshots. The only issue I had was that the DVD menu (spawned by autorun) didn’t have the privileges necessary to run the install and rather than generate a error or other message it just ignored the click. Running the install directly presented the expected UAC prompt and all was well. The software is in the WindowData Replicator 3 directory on the DVD.
When I started DR3 the first time I was prompted by the Windows 7 prompt to let Data Replicator 4 through the Windows firewall. Between this pop-up and the program itself there was a jumble of dialog boxes, one of which that said DR3 would have a problem because opening up the firewall failed. I cleared that warning and dug through the windows to find the firewall prompt and OK’d it. Everything ran fine after that.
Clicking the “Select” button runs through a series of dialog boxes to select the target Synology server and then the shared folder on that server. I selected my home folder on the server although you can choose any share the ID has access to.
Once the folder is selected I’d suggest going into options before doing any backup. The options are shown below:
The screenshot shows the default options. I decided to enable 3 file versions and 30 restore points. I also enabled deleting the backed up files when the local file is deleted.
The restore point option is similar to Apple’s Time Machine. It’s a point in time that has a copy of all backup files as they existed at that time. According to the docs these are not unique copies in each restore point, only one copy of each file is kept. This linking is well hidden but appears to be true. File properties through both Windows and Synology’s own File Station software show unique files and in fact show size totals for the backup directory tree as if they were unique files. But when disk space used is viewed through Storage Manager it’s obvious there’s only one copy per file. File Stations and Windows show over 27 GB of files in my backup folder but there’s less than 10 GB of space used on the entire disk (and that 10 GB is more than the backups).
File Structure On Synology NAS
Each PC and user combination gets a unique directory name that contains the backups for that user/PC combination. For example, my two PCs are:
The backups, snapshots and versions are in sub-directories of those directories.
The first screenshot at the top shows the main screen where the files to be backed up can be selected. It’s pretty standard file selection stuff. Even though some mail can be backed up, it’s mail that resides in files on the PC. I didn’t test any mail backup since I don’t use the supported apps.
Backups can be done three ways:
Immediate – the backup runs when you click the button
Sync – the files will be monitored and any changes will be replicated. You’ll be prompted to do a immediate incremental backup when you select sync. This is to catch and changes when files weren’t being monitored.
Schedule – Like the name says. Schedule a daily, weekly or monthly backup
Restores are wizard based and can be done by restore point. Any in progress backups, including sync monitoring, must be stopped before doing a restore. You can also simply browse the backed up files and pull out the one you want.
Using DR3 and Impressions
Data Replicator 3 isn’t the slickest interface out there, nor the quickest, nor feature rich. But as a file based backup program it’s not bad. The strongest features are the immediate syn and file versions.
DR3 does have some annoyances. Assuming syncing is enabled and set to start when windows boots, there will be a prompt to do a backup and then the backup progress will be on screen and can’t be closed until the backup is done. Turning off the consistency check avoids this, but at the risk of missing changes unless there’s a manual or scheduled backup done. This consistency check can take awhile for what seems like little data.
Cancelling an in progress backup causes the next backup to do a cleanup as it removes a temporary folder. This also takes awhile.
The restore points only seem to occur for the incremental backup. My DR3 restore points are all when I restarted DR3. Maybe when I run it longer and leave it undisturbed it will create a restore point. But I doubt it and it it does it’s undocumented.
The default backup selections cover the standard location for data files. If you save data in non-standard locations you’ll have to manually select them. The same if you want to back up programs. There’s no concept of file sets – such as a files of a certain type anywhere on the disk.
I save data on my Windows Home Server and have very little on my PC, so I have little need for the sync and version features. My existing Windows Home Server backup provides a bare metal restore along with file versions so I’ll stick with that even though it limited to once a day (or manual backups).
Considering Synology isn’t in the business of making backup software I expected the typical bundled software half-effort so a feature check box could be ticked. Instead I found Synology’s Data Replicator 3 to be a good (not great) software package that can do the job of protecting data files.