back to article The cloud that goes puff: Seagate Central home NAS woes

It is “your personalised cloud” says the puff for the Seagate Central NAS. “All your videos, music, photos and documents stored on one device.” What’s wrong with this picture? If that “one device” breaks, you had better have a backup or you can lose a lot of stuff. Seagate Central I have a Seagate Central 4TB that has been …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tim. Are you and other El Reg Journos

    using tablets to write articles?

    I say this because of the tagline: "4TB of home storage is great, until you weak up to a dead device"*.

    I have noticed a few errors this week, and this is the second tagline error. I respect the fact that there is an error correction link, and I normally use it. But I feel that El Reg is becoming a bit lax toward simple spelling mistakes, formatting errors, incorrect words.

    In some cases, I can understand the odd mistake, especially with auto-correct. But this is becoming the norm.

    Or am I just being too picky, in this day an age? I mean my posts leave a lot to be desired with regards to grammar and spelling mistakes. However, I personally hold El Reg in some regard. This hurts that standing and I am a little disappointed.

    That aside fully agree with your article and anything purported to be used for backup should have a decent, ahem, backup for failures.

    *Or this is a pun, and it is above my head. In which case, this post looks rather silly.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: Tim. Are you and other El Reg Journos


      I sent a correction, as I was down voted for posting El Regs' faux pas. But here is the joke:

      until you weak up to a dead device

      I think you wake up to a dead device unless the device is weak?

      Hope this helps along with a Pint! After all it's Friday!

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

        Re: Tim. Are you and other El Reg Journos

        I figured that EL Reg was the training ground for journalists want to write for The Grauniad.

  2. wiggers

    Server or backup?

    If you use the NAS box as a server then you need a separate backup strategy. I use my NAS as a backup and just happen to use the copies of vids and music when my PC is off. Always keep at least two copies of everything, preferably three.

    1. Roger Greenwood

      Re: Server or backup?

      only 3?

    2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Server or backup?

      NAS - Network Attached Storage. There's no "B" in there - it's not a backup strategy. A backup strategy assumes that your primary drive will fail AND your backup drive fails but because you have a backup plan you can still recover the data. A NAS is not a backup plan, RAID is not a backup plan, two NAS devices is not a backup plan if they are in the same location.

      My NAS (RAID 1) backs up an image every night to a separate NAS (also RAID 1) which maintains the last seven images. The second NAS is in a another building and backs itself up to a cloud in another state. And I have spare drives sitting next to each NAS. That's a basic backup plan - active data on the NAS, seven daily backups locally and seven more backups remotely.

      1. A. Nervosa

        Re: Server or backup?

        Yeah? Well my NAS has two PSU's, two bonded NIC pairs, two RAID 6 arrays which are then mirrored to an identical offsite unit which is then backed up to tape at a third site and vaulted, which is also where I keep my bigger penis than yours.

        Then again it's probably easier to stop comparing enterprise level backup and disaster recovery strategies to a domestic home NAS drive that costs a few hundred quid.

        Well done for patting yourself on the back, though.

        1. DropBear

          Re: Server or backup?

          Psh. I do backups directly to three alternate universes all of them in higher orthogonal dimension sets (just in case ours decides to quantum-spolde or something)...

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Server or backup?

      "Always keep at least two copies of everything, preferably three."

      And keep the bloody things in separate locations.

      We've had a number of instances where staff have been burgled and lost not only their computers, but also the backups - obligingly kept on a shelf above the computer.

  3. Martin an gof Silver badge

    The problem with "cloud" as backup in this context... a: finding somewhere to store your 4TB of personal data that doesn't cost several limbs and b: getting that backup made when many domestic net connections uplink at well under 1Mbps.

    Oh, and c: finding somewhere (if you worry about these things) that doesn't keep your data in the US and is therefore subject to US data (non)protection regulations.


    1. Chris Miller

      Arm and a leg?

      Microsoft Office (around £60 pa for non-business use on up to 5 systems) includes 1TB of OneDrive 'cloud' storage, which I understand is being upgraded to 'unlimited'. Of course, you'll need a decent speed Internet connection to make best use of it (I reckon a 4TB upload would take about 3 weeks at 20Mbps).

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: Arm and a leg?

        I reckon a 4TB upload would take about 3 weeks at 20Mbps

        Sounds about right, but how many people have a reliable, 24-hour 20Mbps uplink speed?

        In my own case, I have about 1TB of important personal data to store. Most cloud services designed for home users top out at 1TB and given that we're generating perhaps 300GB or more a year at the moment (four children, each with a camera) you're starting to look at heavy duty commercial services if you really want to back *that* up to "the cloud".

        Even Amazon Glacier works out expensive (in domestic terms) when you look at storing 1TB or more. It's, what, $0.01 per gig? Doesn't it also have data rate limits? I seem to remember that a colleague looked into it for some of the not-quite-vital-but-still-don't-want-to-lose data at work (with an assumption of 8TB) and realised that if we *did* lose the online NAS *and* the backup NAS and then had to restore from Glacier, the download charges would be extortionate. In this case, speed wasn't even an issue.

        My uplink speed (semi-rural ADSL, single provider, no cable) is 448kbps. Cloud backup is simply *not viable*, either from a cost point-of-view or a practicality (speed) PoV.

        Solution in progress: duplicate my FreeNAS box, synch the two at home, transfer box offsite and do incrementals. Bonus, offsite is my mum's and second box can then do Time Machine for her Mac, and backup to us.

        That said, 1TB 2.5" WD Red drives aren't exactly cheap, and I intend to put 6 in each box...


        1. Chris Miller

          Re: Arm and a leg?

          All good points, Martin. My upload speed has just increased (thanks to FTTC in rural Buckinghamshire) from 1 Mbps to 20, so I'm lucky*. But I uploaded 150GB (I guess you must shoot a lot more video than I do) in 3 weeks on the 'old' line.

          * I could have had a 'residential' service (50M down + 5 up), but have gone for a 'business' option (75M down + 20 up) at an extra cost of ~£5 a month - no contention issues so far.

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Re: Arm and a leg?

            I guess you must shoot a lot more video than I do

            Put it this way, we came back from a week in North Wales last May with some 31GB of photos and videos between us. Among other things, middle son had been competing at the Urdd Eisteddfod and so by the time I'd edited the film of that together with some - how shall I put this - more "professional" video of the same event, the total amount of data stored for that week stood at around 47GB. Some of this is duplicate files which could now be lost I'm sure, and if I were being *really* ruthless maybe I could cull another couple of hundred MB of out-of-focus photographs.

            But then some child would murder me; "I really liked that photo of the chicken that was so out of focus it looked like an orange football"...

            And that's it. The 1TB currently in use on the NAS is 90% self-generated photos and videos.

            Fact of life these days I think. Certainly takes up less space in a cupboard than the boxes and boxes of 35mm negatives, prints, transparencies, Hi8 and DV video tapes, rolls of 8mm film and crates of home-recorded cassettes that I have generated over the last 40 years or so, and despite the problems it is eminently more back-up-able. Scans and digitised copies of old media makes up much of the remaining 10%.


    2. JC_

      Re: The problem with "cloud" as backup in this context...

      finding somewhere to store your 4TB of personal data that doesn't cost several limbs

      CrashPlan is unlimited for £40 or so per year. The upload speed was about 5Mb/s (but with compressed data, so double that) out of the 16Mb/s upstream connection available.

      C - what's C? Ignorance is bliss :/

    3. Annihilator Silver badge

      Re: The problem with "cloud" as backup in this context...

      "Oh, and c: finding somewhere (if you worry about these things) that doesn't keep your data in the US and is therefore subject to US data (non)protection regulations."

      To be fair, storing it anywhere in the world is pretty much susceptible to a data (non)protection regulations. Do you really think the rest of the world's outrage at the US is anything other than hypocrisy?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The problem with "cloud" as backup in this context...

      "Oh, and c: finding somewhere (if you worry about these things) that doesn't keep your data in the US and is therefore subject to US data (non)protection regulations."

      I don't want *anybody* looking at my personal data. Not governments and not anybody else.

      How are these cloud services guaranteeing my privacy? What prevents employees at these services from browsing through my stuff? What if they get hacked? What if the company goes out of business and somebody buys all their servers/drives and then goes through them?

      As soon as I upload my stuff to somewhere I have little to no faith in it remaining private.

      Solution is not to upload your stuff to the stupid cloud. Just buy some small external drives which are basically free now and back your stuff up to those. No concerns about recurring cost or upload speed or anything. Easy enough to swap drives every few weeks with somewhere offsite. Done. No need to invent problems for yourself.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Get with the times.......

        If you're really worried that 'the man' is interested in seeing the videos of what you and your favorite goat get up to when you're alone, we have this funky thing called 'encryption'.


  4. Velv

    USB Desktop Hard Drives

    I have two. Anywhere between once a week and once month I plug one in and let the NAS backup utility copy all data.

    At least one disk is always at my Mothers house 7 miles away.

    Backup is about what you can afford to lose. I've created myself an acceptable loss scenario that works for me, and I suspect it will work for many other people.

  5. Wemb

    But they do understand about backup...

    That's why they brought this box.

    I can't count the number of times I've had this conversation with users.

    "Our HD/PC/Server has died! We need the data back!"

    "What? You didn't have a backup?"

    "Of course we did! It's the HD/PC/Server."

    "So where's the -other- copy of your data?"

    "What other copy?"


    1. DNTP

      Re: But they do understand about backup...

      I had EXACTLY this conversation two months ago with one of the lab groups, who literally dropped their backup drive on the floor and shortly after realized the data literally didn't exist anywhere else.

      Sometimes I wish I were working in the for-profit sector with an actual IT department and policies and everything beyond "something broke lets ask Dan if he can fix it."

  6. GreggS

    Having gone through this myself

    I feel your pain. I was quite lucky in the fact that I could read the contents of the drive from my now broken Buffalo linkstation and was able to copy them to a new device. Now I use a Synology NAS in RAID 6 configuration (4 disks) which is backed up to a USB attached drive (just to copy my photos and music). I also have a second Synology NAS I am able to use as well another Buffalo Linkstation. Not that i'm paranoid or anything, but they WILL fail!

    1. AOD

      Re: Having gone through this myself

      As a Qnap owner (TS410 - running in RAID 5) I had my first near miss when I found the box wasn't responding one day. A visual inspection showed 2 of the 4 drives were red (degraded). A reboot didn't help and only when I hard power cycled the unit (cleanly, I should add) did it all come back to life with 4 good drives and everything intact.

      It wasn't clear what had caused this til I noticed the clock on our oven was flashing 12:00 constantly. Seemingly during the night the power must have dropped out for a short period, resulting in an unhappy NAS.

      The box is used mostly for storing our media library (physical media in loft being a form of backup) but also family photos as well. After that episode, my next purchase was a UPS to prevent a power related issue, but I then also set about ensuring the photos were mirrored both to another server (HP Microserver running Xenserver with a Quantastor VM) but also to multiple "cloud" destinations including Crashplan, Livedrive and Amazon S3. For the record, the Microserver "listens" to the UPS via the QNAP and also gets notified of "on battery" events so it can cleanly shutdown should the need arise.

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: Having gone through this myself

        We have a TS412 at work with 4 drives in RAID6. It has always been on an industrial-strength UPS (APC 3KVA jobbie in the top of the rack which does boost and buck as well as pure sinewave UPS duties for the NAS, a couple of switches, two PCs and a server) and yet a month or so ago I tried to log into the management interface (spit) to find the unit "frozen".

        Clean reboot being impossible I had to force the thing to power down and when I went to the room to do that I noticed two of the drives were flashing red.

        After a reboot the array was "degraded" and although the two offline drives checked out absolutely fine in SMART tests, *nothing* would persuade the unit to add them back into the array. I tried the help forums ("have you tried hot swapping the drives?") and the manual was particularly useless "once you've sorted out the dodgy disc the array will rebuild". Like heck it does.

        In the end I did a "full surface scan" on both discs (simultaneously) and as soon as the first one had finished (about four hours later - 1TB drives) the rebuild started. The second disc also passed the scan with no errors, but wasn't added back to the array until the first rebuild had finished, whereupon a second rebuild started. In all from pressing "scan" to getting a fully functional array back took somewhere around 28 hours (can't remember offhand).

        Until your post I thought I was unique - I haven't managed to find anything so exactly similar on the Qnap forums!


        (Beer - because I sympathise)

  7. Natalie Gritpants Silver badge

    There are two types of people who store data on computers

    Those that have lost data and those that are going to lose data.

  8. Rol

    Share the risk

    I have personal stuff that is backed up a few times, but the bulk of my data is music and the like.

    This bulk is shared around my friends and thus backed up several times in multiple locations.

    It proved a lifesaver for my friend who had his 2TB HD dropped while running, he just bought a new one, popped it round my place and everything was back as it was.

    It pays to share.

    1. AOD
      Thumb Up

      Re: Share the risk

      Some of the backup software makes it very easy to share in this manner.

      For example, the Crashplan client allows you to do this without paying them for any cloud storage. You can backup to remote "friend" machines and even better, you can seed an initial backup locally onto an external drive that is then taken to your friend's house (aka "offsite") and plugged in there. Subsequent backups will then only transfer the deltas (eg new/changed data).

      For the record, I have a paid plan with Crashplan, but no other connection with the company than that.

  9. phuzz Silver badge

    Not all disks are SATA

    At work we had a 2.5" WD Passport USB harddrive which eventually died. So, as geeks, we pulled it apart to try plugging the drive into a SATA port, just to see if anything was recoverable.

    Unfortunately the drive does not have a SATA port, instead it's got a USB interface soldered straight on, not very helpful.

    Of course, as professionals this was one of five daily backup drives, so no data was lost.

  10. Christian Berger

    Why would you use a NAS with just one disk?

    I mean you should at the very least have a RAID... particularly since large harddisks are still more expensive per Terabyte.

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: Why would you use a NAS with just one disk?

      Much better to have two NASs with one disk each. One as the backup of the other. That way you may be able to find a strategy that also protects you against theft, controller failure, flood, fire, children, animals, ...

      Actually since some form of off-site backup is best, one NAS with one disk and two same-size USB hard drives may be even better. Regularly: backup NAS to USB hard drive, take the hard drive to the off-site location, return with the other hard drive for the next off-site backup. Off-site equals some relative's or friend's house.

      For the inexperienced who ask why two USB disks ... this way, there is no time at which both the NAS and its only backup could get stolen, fried or drowned together by one event. One backup disk is *always* off-site.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    These strategies remind me of the mainframe days when a disk was 8MB in a large plastic pack. It was manually loaded onto a drive the size of a washing machine (or fridge). The operator had a problem reading the system disk - so he moved it to another drive. When it still failed - he moved it to every other drive in turn. When he had run out of drives - he took the back-up system disk and tried that - it failed too.

    The problem had been a head crash on the first drive. The damaged disk then wrecked the heads of the other drives - and in turn they wrecked the back-up disk.

    Over the years several customers encountered that scenario.

  12. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    There are only two types of users ...

    ... those who have lost data, and those who are going to lose data.

    Look on the bright side, you'll take precautions in future and this will not happen again.

  13. Decade

    Oh lucky you

    When my Seagate devices fail, they tend to fail because the hard drive develops errors. I try to read the drive in another enclosure, but it never works.

  14. Stuart Halliday

    Sorry, you're telling Register readers how to suck eggs?

    Did the average IQ level suddenly drop?

    Maybe the Journalist needs to go back to a magazine like "Computers for Seniors"?

  15. Steven Jones

    That's why everybody should have backup policies...

    How many times can it be pointed out, have a backup strategy, and implement it properly. No device is foolproof. No cloud storage system will be perfect. Even if the hardware is perfect, software is not, and neither is you (the user) perfect. And then there's the little issue of ransomware or other malicious software.

    Have a backup system, make sure it works and it validates what it does properly. Decide how much data you can afford to lose, and plan you system appropriately. Relying on a single storage device or service, not matter how well engineered is insufficient. Nothing on earth can guarantee you won't lose data, but you can improve the odds.

    My mechanism involves two independent backup external drives, which I rotate frequently, and I always keep one off site. It is far, far quicker to recover from than any cloud system. And that includes driving 25 miles to my parent's house (where I keep the second copy) to pick up the "disaster recovery" system. (By all means use cloud for small incremental changes for interim backups as well).

    I count this as a low cost solution given the risks of losing all your data.

    1. JimWin

      Re: That's why everybody should have backup policies...

      In my case, I have no access to an off-site location, so I use a fire-safe as an alternative. I backup to partitions on both the computer hard drive and also to an external drive. I (try to) keep at least regular weekly backups on the external drive and rely on a fire-safe to protect against the worst possibilities.

      No strategy is infallible so I figure the bottom line is to use redundancy to protect against the worst cases.

      1. DropBear

        Re: That's why everybody should have backup policies...

        Not that I know anything at all about safes, but are you sure that fire-safe is rated to keep (the data on) a HDD / USB stick / whatever intact in case of a fire instead of, say, simply hoping to keep paper inside it from combusting?

  16. Infernoz Bronze badge

    Anyone using a single drive NAS i.e. without RAID1, 5 or better is franky naive

    You get what you pay for, or a little less it you build it yourself, and that device is too cheap junk, as the Amazon reviews document.

    Drives fail when you least expect it and often without a recent enough backup, and you will be in misery if the head crashed, because that £500 recovery service (if you can afford it) can just say sorry... been there!

    I looked at decent off-the-shelf NAS, choked at the prices with/without drives and know that RAID 1, 5, 6 are flawed because they only cover drive data corruption.

    I build my own FreeNAS boxes with quality commodity PC motherboards, quality PSUs and huge WD Red as RAIDZ2; I have had one out of six new drives fail (free warranty replacement via Scan), quickly spotted as fading and failed by ZFS and Smart for each box I built, with no risk of data loss; RAID1, 5 and 6 only detect a failure late, with the risk of data corruption until a new drive is added and rebuilt.

    I use small size drive RAID 1 in desktops and it has saved me several times from data loss which periodic backup can't do; I'd use ZFS there too if I could find standard OS boot support by the OSs I like using.

    1. Rainer

      Re: Anyone using a single drive NAS i.e. without RAID1, 5 or better is franky naive

      If you use ZFS for important data, you also need to have ECC-RAM.

      Without it, it's a gamble.

      So, unless your desktop has ECC-RAM, I'd think twice about using ZFS on it.

  17. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Something else to watch/listen for...

    Something else to watch/listen for.. I had a HD enclosure (not a NAS, but I'm sure this could happen on some NAS systems too) that was using dual hard drives, to provide double capacity (i.e. not mirrored.) THE NUMPTIES DIDN'T USE AN UPGRADED POWER SUPPLY.

    So, after a while, it was effectively providing the drives with a "brownout" amount of power. You get fair warning, the drives did not sound healthy for a few days, and the power supply was audibly hissing. I ordered a replacement power supply... basically, they went bad like clockwork about every 6 months due to probably being inadequate rating for the power used. On the second power supply, before I realized what was happening, the motor on one drive burned out, and the other drive was damaged (anywhere it had written when it did not have enough power was irrecoverably mapped out as a bad sector; whether there was REAL damage or not, the drive used up it's spare sectors, so it had *visible* bad sectors (that would not map out any more due to the spares being used up), and would not even try to zero out these bad sectors and mark them no longer bad if I zeroed the disk. Boo.)

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cloud sales

    The active word here is "back up".

    The originals will be intact, unless the back up was used as primary storage without any mirroring, an interesting mistake by a tech site journo.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Last time I bought anything even remotely like this was as the floods hit Thailand three years ago and drive prices started rapidly ticking up and shelves emptying. Argos still had lots of of Seagate 3TB USB drives in their stores significantly cheaper than everywhere else and with a voucher offer (maybe 20 quid with every 100 quid spend iirc) that made repeated purchases cheaper still. Drove round a dozen out of town stores and cleared them all out. A few minutes with a hammer and chisel and the cases were split open. Exact same drive model as the off the shelf bare drive at about 40% of the then 'retail' cost where shelves were bare. Clearly with no warranty but <touch wood> they have all been ok with near zero errors at around 20000+ hours, unlike the Seagate 1.5TB that keeled over regularly and were all dead before 30000 hours.

  20. Screwed

    Cloud backup sounds useful. It can be useful. But pray that you do not have a situation in which loss of a physical drive is treated as "don't need to back that up any more, and let's get rid of any copies of the data that was on the drive". That is actually far worse than having chosen to delete the data - at least then there would have been 30 days (or whatever) to recover it from the recycle bin.

    Too many cloud backups appear to be mirrors rather than real backups.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Backup software?

    Can anyone recommend (preferably free) backup software that will allow me to backup to a External USB or NAS certain directories on a Windows PC, please?

    When I last used windows to copy 'My Documents' I was very surprised to find that A. every so often it baulked for one reason or another and then B. I had very little idea as to which files it had copied and which not, as it did use a copying sequence that I couldn't make out. I'm used to RISC OS where everything is copied in order i.e. nothing in the second directory within a directory will be copied until all of the first is complete. This means you can easily navigate down the hierarchy to the last file copied.

    1. AOD

      Re: Backup software?

      Crashplan will allow you to backup your chosen directories to an external USB drive.

      If you want to backup data to your NAS, my advice would be to be to setup an iSCSI share that then gives you an extra drive accessible to your Windows machine. Then you save to a folder within that.

      The following article gives the lowdown on this.

      Also, have a +1 from me for the RISCOS reference as a previous Archimedes/RISC PC (A710 and StrongARM) owner.

    2. pjalsta

      Re: Backup software?

      freefilesync - it's free, has a slightly complex user interface but I think works brilliantly.

  22. Rainer

    I really don't see how someone would use a cloud backup service for anything close to 1 TB - or even more data.

    If the drive fails and the data isn't worthless anyway, you normally want to have access to the data ASAP. Usually a day later. Not a week. Or two.

    If you have that much data and it's worth something, you need an enterprise solution.

    If the data is not worth that much, then you need to segregate the important from the unimportant until you can pay for a sensible backup strategy that allows a restore in reasonable time.

    A backup that can't be restored in reasonable time is almost as bad as no backup at all.

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