Upgrading My Digital Life From Chaos to Order

This whole journey started one morning when I opened my budgeting software and saw a charge come in from Dropbox Inc. for $120.

“What the fu….???”

I immediately opened a browser and logged into my account on Dropbox, and sure enough, I was on a billing plan. How did that happen? When did that happen?

As far as I could tell, it happened when I upgraded their applet on my desktop computer. Dropbox had recently gotten some press about some dark pattern behaviors and I fell victim to it, and it made me angry. Angry that as a tech-savvy person, I was tricked. And angry that a company even does this. Had I been using their free service for years? Yes. But were I to reach a point that they needed for me to pay to continue, or close my account, I probably would have started a subscription. But this dark pattern trickery was a bridge too far.

I downloaded all of my files, uninstalled their apps, and cancelled my account.

After taking a survey of all of the cloud services I was using for file storage, I started to wonder if it would be better to “take control” of my cloud needs instead of relying on a single service. I had already been playing around with a NAS at home (see the FreeNAS section here), but that solution was demanding a more solid setup rather than the chock-a-block hardware I had used.

In comes the Synology DS1621. With upgraded to 32GB of memory and 4 x 4TB hard drives in a Synology Hybrid RAID, I have 10.5 TB’s of space to use. I also set it up with a 512GB SSD cache.

This post won’t go into everything the Synology DS1621 can do. The capabilities of this thing are tremendous. I’m just going to highlight here what I’m initially using it for.

On the DS1621 I setup a VPN and domain name with a Let’s Encrypt cert. I’ve consolidated the various cloud services onto it: Dropbox, Google Drive, Google Photos, and OneDrive.

I also setup a directory for important documents, and have that backing up to an encrypted BackBlaze B2 bucket. This serves as the offsite backup for the critical documents. The beauty of this setup is the flexibility. If for some reason in the future my needs change or the service from BackBlaze changes, I can easily switch this cloud syncing to another offering elsewhere. There’s integrations with Amazon’s S3, Azure, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc.

A few bullet points on what this Synology setup gets me:

  • Consolidating all of the various cloud accounts into a single location under my control.
  • Implemented the 3-2-1 backup solution: 3 copies, 2 at home, and 1 offsite.
  • I can access the Synology remotely – but only the items I’ve allowed to be accessed.
  • I can share out items to others – i.e. tax documents to the CPA – like I was able to from Dropbox.
  • Now there’s a central and more importantly – easy – location for everyone in the household to save digital assets to.
  • Auto backup location for all Tesla sentry videos from the car.
  • Auto backup location for all security cam videos from the house cameras.

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