My "Cloud/Backup" Setup & Future Plans

TL;DR: Current Setup

The devices:

The experience is Dropbox-like, local data is kept in sync between multiple devices. This is great as I want access to this data even when I don't have an internet connection. The setup is:

That's really it, it kinda "Just Works™", using Syncthing and syncthing-android.

To Do: Backups

For now I don't really have a good backup story. My data is indeed replicated but a deletion or accidental modification on one device will be propagated to all, and that needs addressing next. I intend to use btrfs snapshots for that.

I see 2 options for replication between Odroids:

  1. replication via Syncthing and have each device do incremental snapshots
  2. one Odroid will be a "primary" and replicate its snapshots to the secondary

I'm leaning toward option 1 as it would have several benefits:


I'm quite pleased with the XU4, and the Cloud Shell 1 is nice (it's been supplanted). The only "issue" was a noisy fan which I replaced with a Noctua, and "silenced" slightly by tweaking the fan speed settings. I personally chose a setup where the fan never stops as the constant on/off is annoying. I found spinning the fan as slow as possible maintains enough air-flow that it doesn't often have to spin up. The only "pitfall" was that the fan won't start at very low speed. This is easy to tweak with a script that manually sets the speed to 100% for a few seconds before switching to auto fan control with a very low speed for the first temperature threshold.

Odroid has recently released the HC4 which has 2 SATA ports and looks really promising for these sort of DIY NAS projects. If I were starting this project today I think it would be my first pick.

The XU4Q (passive cooling version) is also probably a nice choice if you're going for a custom case. Paired with a larger and quieter case fan, this would also make for a nice solution.

A PI4 is also probably a good choice. I'm curious if its 4 GB of RAM give it an edge over the the XU4 and its 2GB.

The Long Procrastinated Journey

Initial Plans for Backup, Using BorgBackup

My initial plan (2017, what can I say I'm a very effective procrastinator) was to use BorgBackup for some of the data on my laptop. At the time the Android story wasn't as important to me. For hardware I chose an Odroid-XU4, as it packed more computing umphf than the Pi 2 and had a gigabit Ethernet port which, unlike the Pi's 100mbit Ethernet port, didn't share the USB bus with the USB ports which will have to handle the disk's IO.

I bought 2 Odroid (and cloud shells to accommodate HDDs) and was planning doing either of:

See BorgBackup's FAQ for advice

Hardware purchased and Odroid set up, procrastination kicked in (I'm supposed to say that "life got in the way" but despite the end of a long-term relationship, the start of a new long-term relationship, being laid off, finding a new job twice and emigrating... I was probably really just procrastinating).

Re-assessing the Android Story

Google Photos has been extremely convenient to use, but I had been feeling very uneasy about how much access Google has to my data. In addition moving documents between my phone, personal laptops and work laptop became an increasingly frequent chore. I would check-in for a flight on a laptop, get a PDF with a bar-code which I'd have to somehow transfer to my phone (email usually). It would be great to save a file to some directory and just have it on all devices.

At some point I heard of Syncthing, and gave it a spin, and I just loved it. It works well on Android, at least for me as I don't have an SD card.

Closing thoughts

So yeah, I don't wanna knock BorgBackup, it's really great software and if you're just looking for a an incremental, deduplicating, enctypted backup solution you really should check it out.

The sort of experience offered by Syncthing is great for me and pairing that with FS snapshots should make for a great solution for my phone's photos, and my workflows in general.

If a private Dropbox sounds good to you, try Syncthing out, and if you feel it brings you joy (like any well working tool that does its job and gets out of your way should), consider donating.

This post was mostly written on the 30th of December 2021.