Best way to Backup Large External Hard Drives

If you do lots of image/video work with a Macbook Pro, you need a very good, big external Thunderbolt drive.

Then you need to backup it up. While cloud backup (such as CrashPlan) is great, it’s good to have a local copy as well. TimeMachine doesn’t cut it.

I don’t want 10 drives on my standing desk!

How about a NAS drive (Networked Attached Storage)?

And using either:

  1. Carbon Copy Cloner (aka CCC). Here’s a doc on using Carbon Copy Cloner to backup to NAS.
  2. Crashplan. Here’s a doc on using CrashPlan with NAS.

There’s a Wirecutter Article on NAS.

NAS Hardware Options

Prices are as of August 9, 2015

Western Digital

WD My Cloud EX2 6 TB: Pre-configured Network Attached Storage featuring WD Red Drives: $376.99, or $63/TB

WD My Cloud EX2 8 TB: Pre-configured Network Attached Storage featuring WD Red Drives: $464.99, or $58/TB

WD My Cloud EX2 10 TB: Pre-configured Network Attached Storage featuring WD Red Drives: $586.74 or $59/TB

WD My Cloud EX2 12 TB: Pre-configured Network Attached Storage featuring WD Red Drives: $662.5 or $56/TB

Based on reading many of the numerous reviews, the WD gets the job done at a very competitive price point with few disadvantages.


These are the favorites of the Wirecutter Article. Seems more expensive, but possibly worth it.
QNAP TS-451-14R 4TB Desktop iSCSI/NAS, 4-bay Intel Celeron, Raw 4TB (1x4TB NAS Drive) (TS-451-14R-US)

QNAP TS-451-4G-44R 16TB Desktop iSCSI/NAS, 4-bay Intel Celeron, 4GB RAM, Raw 16TB (4x4TB NAS Drive) (TS-451-4G-44R-US): $1179 or $73/TB

Or this one and buy some drives:
QNAP TS-451 4-Bay Personal Cloud NAS, Intel 2.41GHz Dual Core CPU with Media Transcoding (TS-451-US): $459

WD Red 6TB NAS Hard Drive: 1 to 8-bay RAID Hard Drive: 3.5-inch SATA 6 Gb/s, IntelliPower, 64MB Cache WD60EFRX so $249 for 6TB.

So the total would be $459 + $249 = $708 or $118/TB. For 2 drives, $957 or $80/TB.


These seem more expensive than the WD offerings. The reviews don’t seem compelling over the WD offerings. Does anybody have a good reason why these are worth considering?
Drobo 5N 5-Bay NAS Storage Array, Gigabit Ethernet with 5 x 2TB 3.5-Inch SATA Hard Drive (DRDS4A21-10TB): $1099.99 or $110/TB

Drobo 5N 5-Bay NAS Storage Array, Gigabit Ethernet with 5 x 3TB 3.5-Inch SATA Hard Drive (DRDS4A21-15TB)
$1199 or $80/TB


  1. Would using NAS + either CCC or CrashPlan locally be good for several family machines to use?
  2. Which is best among CCC or CrashPlan?
  3. How does using NAS compare to setting up a separate (Linux or Mac) server?
  4. Should there be a backup of the NAS used for backup? Or maybe external CrashPlan backup of only the folders that are shared folders rather than backup folders? This could be done from a client mounting this drive.
  5. Would it make more sense to separate the drive used for backup from the drive used for shared family storage? Or get one GIANT drive.


(Will be updated once I get some feedback. Seems like a big NAS is the way to go, regardless).

Time Machine has this annoying habit of expanding to fill the hard drive with past versions of files and folders, so the best way to control it is to create a partition and limit it to that partition. With that in mind, it would be good to calculate and dedicate the rest of the space to either storing image files for each of the hard drives you want to back up (using CCC), or to create separate partitions for Time Machine or ChronoSync (my fav) to back up drives file by file. In general i prefer using CCC to create image files from system drives, while I prefer to create 1:1 file backups using CS for data/archive drives. The fact that this is a NAS shouldn’t change much else, though you will have an occasional fail over a large backup every now and then due to network error, just try again the next night.

1 Like

According the wirecutter researchers ( the WD My Cloud Mirror is a cheaper option for home users than the EX2 with the same specs. They seem to have found that the Mirror is pretty much identical to the EX2 except cheaper because it doesn’t come with business features like Active Directory support. Looks like the 10 TB and 12 TB versions are about the same cost as the EX2 though. You can also get a cheaper option if you get a NAS enclosure and install drives yourself.

1 Like

I’ve had the same problem as my girlfriend makes videos for YouTube. I had a Windows Home Server V1 for many years, but the drives are nearing EOL, so recently I got the Diskstation DS1515+ and loaded it up with a bunch of WD 5TB drives. It’s pretty easy to set up and I can set it as a Time Machine destination for my Mac. The Synology software running on that thing is actually pretty good and allows you to do lots of neat things, like basically making your own private 12TB version of Dropbox.

If you don’t want to use Time Machine, you can just use it like a file server. For my Windows machines, I back up to the NAS using Acronis True Image so I can restore from bare metal, but it works for Macs as well.

The whole advantage of CrashPlan is that it’s really cheap online storage since they don’t charge based on space used. They may get upset if you are using TBs of space, though they don’t have an official limit. Personally, I found their app to be a memory hog so I stopped using it, but I’m pretty sure that was an issue with it trying to piggy-back off of Windows’s shadow volume service.

I don’t have an offsite backup of my stuff right now, which is a major no-no. I think what I may do is back up the NAS to Amazon Glacier or something.

Wow, that Dropbox feature is nice. At $100/yr per family member for Dropbox, that could feature could pay for the device. Have you setup backups for you phones to NAS? Wondering if that might be worth while.

Are you running the drives so they are RAID redundant? So you’re just missing offsite backup?

I’m using TBs on CrashPlan and they never complained. Now that my family is getting 6s Plus cameras that take 4K video plus DSLR images…we really need a centralized place to stash this. Desktop drives don’t cut it.

@robwise, maybe you can use an unused machine to run Crashplan and backup your NAS? I’m using Crashplan on my MBP, and I have to pause it everyday when I’m working. I had to specially configure it to use a large amount of memory as I’ve got years of photos, and so many files attached to my MBP.

Bottom line is that I sometimes think I should put all my image work on a machine other than my main work machine.

I haven’t personally set my phones to backup to the NAS, no. I have the free iCloud backup doing most of the data and all of my contacts are in Gmail contacts. Photos and video I just transfer manually every couple of months or so. If you’re a heavy photo/video taker with your phone, there are Synology mobile apps that will allow you to backup to the NAS.

The Synology software lets you choose what type of RAID you want to use. I’d definitely read this page on it if you’re interested. I’m currently using their hybrid RAID called SHR (they describe it on that previous page). Also check out their RAID calculator tool.

Yeah, the 4k video and RAW format images can really eat up space! I think that running Crashplan on a Synology is kind of sketchy and not officially supported, although people have figured out how to do it. Running it from another machine may work, as long as Crashplan doesn’t have some sort of policy about backing up networked drives.

One issue I’ve found with video editing is that trying to edit a video that is across the network is really painful. There’s just not enough throughput or something so the editor will be less responsive to starting and stopping video and will also render slower. So what we do is work on the video on the computer’s SSDs and then when we’re done, we move it all to the NAS for archiving.

Thanks @robwise. The Synology software suite sounds quite compelling, and possibly cost effective if I got off a bunch of cloud plans.

Incidentally, I have a WD 8TB external thunderbolt drive, and it works great with my MacBook Pro, except for trying to figure how to backup a 8TB drive. I’m slightly concerned as the RAID is not redundant, but the fast type of RAID. Anyway, I’ve got CrashPlan almost done backing it up, after about 2 months.