Synology C2: Tier 2 Data Deduplication

Synology

White clouds in a blue skyI’ve been backing up to the Synology C2 Backup service since it became available worldwide. For the first month, I used the Tier I plan. This tier comes with low prices, but it also has some limitations. I then looked at the Tier II plan, to see what benefits it brought in real life. The two significant differences (besides price) are unlimited backup version and data deduplication.

The price of unlimited backup versions is that all those versions count against your quota. Whereas, the Tier I plan only counts size of the size of the files that are on your NAS and ignores the backup versions. Synology promotes data deduplication as a way to save the space used. They also say “However, the Plan II-exclusive deduplication can help you reduce duplicated data across different backup versions, thus optimizing the storage usage.” But, is this really the case? In my testing, I found data deduplication does not save space across backup versions.

The Tier II plan offers data deduplication which might reduce the space used on the C2 service, and therefore how much you can back up for your money. While there are indeed specific cases where data deduplication on Synology C2 can save significant space, for typical home and small business users it won’t help very much.

If your thinking about switching to a Tier II plan for Synology C2 Backup, these are the things to consider.

HyperBackup does file-level data deduplication

According to the documentation, HyperBackup does file-level deduplication. To be deduplicated, the file contents must be the same. These means a small change in any file will result in a new file being backed up and the old file saved as a backup version. I confirmed this in my testing.

HyperBackup does not deduplicate across backup tasks

Files are not deduplicated between two Synology NAS devices, or even two different backup tasks configured on the same device. I did confirm this with testing, with and without using encryption.

So if you want to backup your primary NAS along with a backup that has the same files, you won’t be saving any space. To maximize deduplication on the Synology NAS, you’ll want everything backed up to Synology C2 in a single HyperBackup task.

HyperBackup does deduplicate identical files with different names or attributes.

In my testing, I renamed some files, and they were deduplicated correctly. The amount of storage used did not increase when I copied, then renamed 12 GB worth of files and backed them up. (There is some overhead, my storage usage increased about 50 MB.)

I also touched that 12 GB worth of files to change the modified date (this doesn’t change the file contents). and the files were properly de-duped. In this case, the old files are now a backup version, and the new files are the current backup.

There may be cases where data deduplication fails

In one of my tests, not all the files were properly deduplicated. In one test I had five identical 2.4 GB files, but with different names. After the backup, there was 8 GB of additional space was used on Synology C2, which indicates only a couple of the files were deduplicated.

To verify the files could be deduced I then backed up one of the files on its own, and then the other 4 in a second backup. In this case, all four additional coped were deduplicated.

Data deduplication takes place on the client

HyperBackup will do the deduplication before sending the file to Synology C2, which has the benefit of saving both bandwidth and time.

Summary

A Synology C2 Backup Tier II plan allows more flexibility in your backup strategy. You can keep backup versions for years, or one version per day for however long you want. But, that flexibility needs to be weighed against the added cost in space used. By their nature, the backup versions are different files and therefore won’t benefit from deduplication.

Deduplication will be of limited benefit in many situations. Unless you frequently have the same file scattered around different locations on your Synology NAS, there won’t be much space savings.

While there are reasons for wanting a Tier II plan, deduplication will not save you space over a Tier I plan if you will be keeping a lot of backup versions. You can adjust your backup rotation, but if you’re too liberal in your scheduling, you could hit the 1GB quota and be required to pay an additional €69 for the 2GB plan.

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Synology News & Security Recap – April 2018

Synology News

News tile

Security Bulletins

Drupal had a major vulnerability at the end of March which Synology has finally released on April 18th. Synology covered this vulnerability in Synology Security Bulletin SA-18:17.

Drupal is the CMS that keeps on giving. Synology announced another severe Drupal vulnerability on April 26th. Synology Security Bulletin SA-18:18 has a new Drupal vulnerability. Synology rated this as “moderate” and already has an update available in Packages.

Synology patched a vulnerability in their SSL VPN Client. Synology Security Bulletin SA-18:19 has the information. If you run the SSL VPL Client, you should upgrade to version 1.2.4-0224 as soon as possible since Synology rates this vulnerability as important, which is their highest rating.

Synology News

Synology has released a Beta for High Availability Manager 2.0.

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Synology C2 Backup: Changing The Subscription Plan

Synology

If you jumped on Synology C2 Backup soon after it became available worldwide it’s time to decide if you want to renew it, and if so, what plan to use. If your free-trial hasn’t expired yet, and you want to make a change to your Synology C2 Backup plan, then read on.

While unrelated to the actual change, it’s worth mentioning that all billing is in Euros. If you’re outside the EU, like me, then your payment method will determine the conversion rate along with any fees. Today, Google says 1 Euro will cost 1.22 USD.

I covered the various Synology C2 Backup subscription plans in my overview of the C2 backup service. To change your subscription plan, log in to your account at c2.Synology.com and go to the Backup -> Manage Subscription section.

Screenshot showing the Synology C2 Subscription management page

If you want to cancel your subscription, click Cancel under Next Plan. You can continue to use Synology C2 Backup until your current subscription runs out.

To switch to a new plan upon renewal, click Select a plan under Current Plan.

After agreeing to the terms of service you can upgrade or downgrade. There are no refunds, so if you downgrade you will have the old plan until it expires, and then renew for the lower-level plan.

Screenshot of the Synology C2 Backup subscription selection page

An upgrade is immediate. You won’t be charged until the trial ends if you are still in the trial period. If you are beyond the trial period and upgrading, you will immediately pay the difference between the old and the new plan. Click Next when you’ve made your choice.

You will then confirm your selection.

Screenshot showing the subscription confirmation screen

The My Subscription screen is updated to reflect the new information.

Screenshot showing the subscription management screen after the changes

I upgraded from a Tier I plan to a Tier II plan. The backup rotation and version control settings are fixed in Tier I plans. The version and rotation settings can be customized in Tier II plans. The screenshots below show the default settings in Hyper Backup immediately after I made the change.

Screenshot showing the backup rotation settings after switching to Tier II

Screenshot showing the backup version settings after switching to Tier II

 

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Synology Photo Station: Therapeutic Service Restarts

Synology

I’m a long time user of Synology Photo Station and have had an intermittent problem over the last few months. I frequently use the web interface or iPad app to move photos from one folder to another. This would work fine until it didn’t. I’d select multiple files to move. Unfortunately, only one file would move. This would continue until I stopped & restarted Photo Station. This wasn’t annoying enough to cause me to research the problem, and I still haven’t. But it’s been frequent enough that I decided to restart the service on a regular basis as a way to prevent this from happening.. While it could be weeks or more between occurrences, I decided to cycle Photo Station daily. I’d be doing it overnight, so there isn’t any reason not to do it.

Synology has been steadily expanding the abilities of Task Manager, and it now includes the ability to stop and start services (which includes packages).

This is simple enough to set up. Open Control panel and then open Task Scheduler. (You may need to enable Advanced Mode in Control Panel.)

Screenshot showing Task Scheduler icon in control panel

Then Click the create button and select Scheduled Task -> Service from the drop-down menus.

Screenshot showing the menus to schedule a service

This will open the Edit Task dialog for creating a new task. On the General tab enter the task name in the Task field. This will be the task that stops photo station.

Screenshot of the task scheduler general tab showing "Photo Station Stop" as the task name

Then click on Schedule to open the schedule tab. I’ll be stopping the service at 4 am every morning, so I enter that information here.

Screenshot show the Schedule tab

Then click the Task Settings to open the task settings tab. This is the Stop action, so I select Stop service as the Service action. It’s possible to select multiple services to stop, but all I need is Photo Station, so I check the box to enable it.

The Task Action tab of the task scheduler showing the Photo Station service selected

Then I click OK to save the task.

I repeat the process, changing only the task name, service action, and time.  I schedule Photo Station to start at 4:05 am.

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Synology C2 Backup: File & Application Restore

Synology

If you are a regular user of Hyper Backup, then you already know how to restore files and applications from Synology C2 using the Hyper Backup application. The process is the same; it’s just a different source location. Synology C2 also allows you to download files using the web interface in the event your NAS isn’t available. Installed packages (aka applications) can only be restored using the Hyper Backup application.

I’ll cover doing restores using the Hyper Backup wizard, the Hyper Backup Backup browser, and the C2 web interface.

In these examples, I’ll be restoring the following files which are located in a share called BackupTest, which contains the following files, along with the #recycle sub-folder.

Screenshot showing the contents of the BackupTest share

The #recycle folder contains one deleted file (desktop.ini is a configuration file for the recycle folder).

Screenshot of the #recycle folder

Hyper Backup Restore – The Wizard Method (Files)

Running Hyper Backup and selecting the Restore option is both powerful and limiting. It’s the only way to restore packages, while at the same time it will overwrite any existing files, even newer files. There isn’t an option to restore files to an alternate location.

In this example I’ve edited VersionTesting.txt, giving it a timestamp that’s now after the backup. I’ve deleted all the other files which are now in the #recycle folder.

So BackupTest now looks like this.

Screenshot of the BackupTest folder after editing and deleting files

While the #recycle folder looks like this:

Screenshot showing #recycle folder after deleting files

As the title of this section implies, what to restore is selected by running the restore wizard.

Start Hyper Backup and click on the restore icon on the bottom left.
 Screenshot showing where to click

Select Data from the popup menu.


Screenshot showing the popup menu

Select the restore source location (your C2 files), then click Next
  Screenshot of the source selection screen

Enter the backup encryption password (or select the key file) if prompted, then click OK
   Screenshot of the encryption key prompt
In most cases, you can accept the default selection to skip restoring the configuration. In this case, I’m restoring a few files, so I don’t want the configuration restored. Click Next when you’ve made your choice.

Screenshot of the configuration restore selection screen
The next screen allows you to select the files to restore. The area along the bottom (outlined in green, labeled “2”) allows you to select files from the backup archives. (Up to 30 days, or 11 versions, for Tier 1 plans. Tier 2 plans allow customization.)The area outlined in maroon, labeled “1”, is used to select the directories to restore. You cannot choose individual files. The red exclamation triangle warns that existing folders will be replaced and existing files will be lost if they are newer than the files being restored.

Click Next when you’ve made all your choices.

Screenshot showing the folder selection screen

Next is the application selection screen. I’ll cover this in the next section, so I’m not selecting anything now. In nearly all real-life cases you will want to restore data and apps at the same time. For some apps, this is required. Click Next to move on.

Screenshot of the Application selection screen

The final screen before the restore starts shows a summary of the selections. Click Apply to start the restore.

Screenshot of the summary screen

The restore progress will be shown on the screen until it reports success.

Screenshot of a successful restore

After the restore finishes, VersionText.txt is back to an older version having been overwritten by the restore. The #recycle folder is untouched.

Screenshot showing that the #recycle folder was not affected by the restore

Some things to keep in mind:

  • You are restoring from the internet. Your restore speed will be limited by your internet connection. The data restored will also count against any data caps imposed by your ISP.
  • Individual files cannot be selected, only directories (aka folders).
  • Any existing directories will be overwritten by the restore. Any updates since the backup being restored will be lost. Any files added since the ones being restored will be deleted.
  • The #recycle folder, if it exists, is not affected (it is not backed up to Synology C2).

Hyper Backup Restore – The Wizard Method (Applications)

Restoring applications from Synology C2 using Hyper Backup is the same as restoring data. The application selections are made in the same wizard used to restore files. The application selection screen appears in Step 7 in the previous section. I split it out for clarity, but you should typically restore data and applications at the same time. Several applications will insist that data be restored at the same time.

This is the application selection screen:

Screenshot of the Application selection screen

At one time it was necessary to install an application before doing the restore. If the application is not installed the restore wizard will display a message such as:

Screenshot of the Application restore warning message

This could be interpreted as meaning you should install the app first. I’m not sure when the requirement to pre-install the app went away, but currently, the application will be re-installed as part of the restore. A better message would be “…will also be installed.”

Some applications, such as Drive, Moments, and Photo Station, will automatically select any dependent file shares to be restored. These will be identified in the wizard. (Moments also requires that the Drive app be restored at the same time.)

These dependent shares cannot be modified. This can be troublesome for applications which rely on a sub-folder in the Homes share. The entire Homes share will be restored, even sub-folders that are unrelated to the application being restored.

For example, if your Moments app needs to be restored your entire home folder will be replaced from the backup, and any changes since the backup will be lost, even if they are unrelated to Moments. You may have to re-install the application through Package Center, then restore the files, and finally manually recreate any customizations (this could be a lot of work and time). Another option would be to get a current Home folder backup, then restore Moments, then restore the other Home non-Moments sub-folders from the backup you just made.

If you use Synology Office then you should select Office for restoration whenever you restore Drive. Office files are now kept in an Office database and not in Drive folders. This isn’t obvious since the gateway to Office documents is the Drive app.

If the app is already installed, it will be stopped during the restore and automatically restarted when the restore is done.

As far as the restore process goes, files are restored first then the applications are restored.

Hyper Backup Restore – Using Backup Explorer

In addition to restoring individual directories as the Wizard can, Backup Explorer can be used to restore selected files and folders while also providing the ability to restore to a new location. These are all things that the wizard-based restore cannot do. Backup Explorer can also be told not to overwrite existing files. Applications cannot be restored using Backup Explorer.

To use the Wizard start Hyper Backup then select the backup task that has the backup files that you need. Then click the Backup Explorer icon.

Screenshot showing how the start Backup Explorer

The Backup Explorer will open.

Screenshot of the backup explorer

The bottom section (labeled “2”) allows you to pick older backups if you want to revert to an older version. The top section is used as a typical file Explorer or Finder.

To navigate through backup versions, you can click the calendar to pick a date:

Screenshot of the Backup Explorer calendar date picker

Or you can click on one of the circles in the timeline:

Screenshot of the Backup Explorer timeline date picker

Finally, you can also click the navigation arrows to move to the previous or next backup in the timeline.

Screenshot of the Backup Explorer timeline version browser

You can browse and select files or directories to restore (or copy). The options for files include “Copy To,” “Restore,” and “Download.” The options for directories are just “Copy To” and “Restore,” “Download” is not available. You can select multiple files or folders as long as they appear together in the directory/file list on the right. The fie shares themselves cannot be selected, although you can select everything at the shares top level.

Copy To

The “Copy To” action allows you to copy the file to any location on the NAS, or to any share that the NAS has mapped. You can optionally overwrite files with the same name, or skip files with the same name. You cannot “Copy To” a location on your local computer.

Restore

The “Restore” action returns the backed up files to their original location on the NAS, overwriting any existing files or directories.

Download

The “Download” action is only available for files and will download the file(s) to your local computer.

Web Restore

You can also download backed up files directly from the web. The interface is similar to Backup Explorer, although the only option is to download files, one at a time, to your local PC.

To access your files on the web login to your C2 account at c2.Synology.com and select the Backup Dashboard. Then select the backup task that has the files you need, and click the backup explorer icon (it is hidden until you mouse over the task).

Screenshot of the Web restore main page

This will open the Backup Explorer which is nearly identical to the one in Hyper Backup.

Screenshot of the web restore backup explorer

The only option is to download files, and this must be done one file at a time. To download a file first select it. Click the download icon when it appears. The download icon only appears once you mouseover the file.

Screenshot of the Web restore download icon

Summary

  • The Hyper Backup Restore Wizard is the only way to restore applications (packages).
  • The Hyper Backup Restore Wizard can’t restore individual files; entire directories must be restored.
  • The Hyper Backup Restore Wizard can only restore files and applications to the original location, overwriting any files that may still be there.
  • The Hyper Backup Backup Browser can restore individual files. It can also copy files to an alternate location or be told to skip restoring any files that already exist.
  • The web-based Backup Browser can only download individual files, one at a time.
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Synology News & Security Recap – Mid-April 2018

Synology News

News tileApril is half over, and there’s only one minor piece of news from Synology. After a flurry of security bulletins at the end of March, April has been quiet so far. The only news was a minor update to DiskStation Manager.

Security Bulletins

As I said up top, there are no new security bulletins. But, it’s worth mentioning that the sever vulnerability in Drupal is still ongoing and unresolved by Synology. If you run Drupal on a Synology NAS, you should refer to the security bulletin and contact Synology.

DiskStation Manager (DSM) Updates

DiskStation Manager was updated to version: 6.1.6-15266-1, which displays as DSM 6.1.6-15266 Update 1 in Control Panel.

The update contains two fixes:

  1. Fixed an issue where Drive might not work properly when the indexing rules have been changed.
  2. Fixed an issue where certain functions in Package Center might not work properly on Synology NVR products.

I’ve applied the update without incident. No restart of the NAS was needed.

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Synology News & Security Recap for March 2018

Synology News

News tile

There were a couple of security bulletins during the first half of March, which I recapped here. The last half of March brought nine additional security bulletins and a security-focused update to DSM.

With these bulletins, I noticed Synology stopped doing security updates for DSM 6.0 and DSM 5.2. Their patch for these older releases is to upgrade to the latest 6.1 release. I don’t run any of these older versions, so this may have happened long ago and I never noticed.

Security Bulletins

File Station has a moderate code injection vulnerability that is resolved by upgrading to version 1.1.4-0122 or above. The security bulletin is Synology-SA-18:09 File Station.

CardDAV Server has a moderate code injection vulnerability that is resolved by upgrading to version 6.0.8-0086 or above. The security bulletin is Synology-SA-18:10 CardDAV Server.

Drive has a moderate code injection vulnerability that is resolved by upgrading to version 1.0.2-10275 or above. The security bulletin is Synology-SA-18:11 Drive.

Office has a moderate code injection vulnerability that is resolved by upgrading to version 3.0.3-2143 or above.The security bulletin is Synology-SA-18:12 Office.

NTP has a moderate vulnerability that allows association attacks. NTP is part of the OS (DSM/SRM) for all Synology hardware, so an OS update is required to patch this issue. An update is available for all Synology hardware except the VS960HD. DSM versions must be updated to 6.1.6-15266 or above to resolve the issue. SRM versions must be updated to 1.1.6-6931-3 or above to resolve the issue. Full details are in the Synology-SA-18:13 NTP security bulletin.

DiskStation Manager itself has multiple vulnerabilities that rate an “Important” rating (the highest Synology assigns) since they could allow credentials to be stolen. Upgrade DSM to version 6.1.6-15266 or above in order to patch these vulnerabilities. The security bulletin is Synology-SA-18:14 DSM.

Photo Station has an important (Synology’s highest rating) vulnerability that can allow a remote attacker to hijack administrator authentication. If you run Photo Station 6.8 then upgrade to 6.8.5-3471 or above. If you run Photo Station 6.3 then upgrade to 6.3-2975 or above. The security bulletin is Synology-SA-18:15 Photo Station.

Calendar has a moderate vulnerability that is patched by upgrading to 2.1.2-0511 or above. An attacker can create arbitrary events in the calendar. The security bulletin is Synology-SA-18:16 Calendar.

Drupal has an important (Synology’s highest rating) vulnerability that allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code. This one is extremely severe since the Drupal community expected immediate exploits using this vulnerability once it was announced. If you run Drupal on Synology refer to the bulletin. As I write this, there is no mitigation from Synology other than to contact them, which you should do immediately. The security bulletin is Synology-SA-18:17 Drupal.

DiskStation Manager (DSM) Updates

DiskStation Manager (DSM) was updated to version 6.1.6-15266 on March 27, 2018. It does require a reboot. While not exclusively security related, the fixed issues list is heavy on security fixes so you should apply the update as soon as possible.

Fixed Issues

  1. Fixed an issue where iSCSI service may stop under windows cluster environment.
  2. Fixed an issue where the history record of Resource Monitor may not be updated.
  3. Fixed an issue where Korean files may not be read by HFS+.
  4. Fixed a security vulnerability regarding p7zip (CVE-2017-17969).
  5. Fixed multiple security vulnerabilities regarding NTP (Synology-SA-18:13).
  6. Fixed multiple security vulnerabilities regarding Linux kernel (CVE-2017-15649, CVE-2017-17712).
  7. Fixed a security vulnerability regarding isc-dhcp (CVE-2018-5732).
  8. Fixed multiple security vulnerabilities regarding Samba (Synology-SA-18:08).
  9. Fixed multiple vulnerabilities (Synology-SA-18:14).

Other Synology News

March also saw Synology make their C2 Backup service available to users worldwide. I’ve begun to use it here in the United States. My current experience, and what I learned so far are in my Synology C2 Overview, Setting up Synology C2 Backup and the Synology C2 Web Management articles.

Synology also released new hardware. The RS2418+/RS2418RP+ models start at about $1,700 and are targeted to small and medium businesses. They are 2U rack-mountable units. The RP model has redundant power supplies. Synology’s press release is here.

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Ting Mobile Service: Overview

Mobile

Ting Mobile is one of the two cellular services I like and recommend. (The other is Google’s Project Fi.) The main benefits of Ting are the low cost and straight-forward pricing. There’s no local store for you to walk into and sign-up, so switching to Ting can take a little more effort on your part. Their customer support, via phone, online chat, or email is terrific, but it’s not face-to-face.

What Will You Pay?

Ting separates the cost of the phone from the service. You can buy or finance a phone through them, or you can bring any compatible phone that you already have. Technically, financing is through a third party, but you get it during the phone purchase process.

If you already know you want to bring your own phone then use Ting’s phone checker to see if they support your phone and if it’s eligible for Ting. If you can’t bring your phone and are dead-set against a new phone, then there’s no reason to continue.

Ting divides their plans into tiers for each service type. The services are Minutes, Text Messages, and Data, along with the phone line itself. Each device is $6 per month, and you can have multiple devices, each with their own phone number. It’s not strictly only pay for what you use but it is close. You don’t pick a plan, but at the end of the month, you pay for the tiers that you ended up using. You can pull out your current cellular bill and use Ting’s rate calculator to see what you would have paid with Ting. Some additional taxes and fees that aren’t shown in the calculator.

As an example, in February my total Ting bill was $23.32 which included:

  • $6 for the device
  • $9 for 204 minutes
  • $3 for 13 text messages
  • $3 for 14 megabytes of data
  • $2.32 for taxes & fees, of which $0.94 was the sales tax.

I say this isn’t truly only pay for what you use because I could have used an additional 296 minutes, 87 text messages and 86 MB of data without increasing my bill. This is because I was already in the billing tier for the service. Still, I find the charges reasonable, especially when compared to my previous carriers.

While my February usage was lower than usual, my average bill since May 2017 is $25.98. There are months where I do need to use more data, so it’s nice not to have to pre-pay or pre-select my plan. Since billing is open-ended, you can set alerts to warn you when you reach a usage threshold that concerns you.

If you don’t use the phone at all, you pay only $6. You can deactivate a device which keeps it registered with Ting, but you are not charged for the line until you reactivate it (you can’t keep the phone number with an inactive device).

Which Phone?

This is where Ting can get a little confusing. You can bring your own phone, although, with the wide variety of phones out there, not all can be supported. Ting also uses two different national networks, GSM and CDMA, and they may support different features on the same phone.

The simplest (at in least effort) solution is to buy a phone from Ting. Look through the Ting Store for available models. You don’t have to buy from them. Feel free to shop for the phone elsewhere and bring it to Ting. If you are shopping for a new phone, I recommend looking for a multi-network phone (GSM+CDMA). This will allow maximum flexibility now and in the future. I discuss the two network options in a later section.

If you are bringing your own phone, then use Ting’s phone checker to see if they support your phone and if it’s eligible for Ting. They’ll list which network is supported by the phone and any features that may not be available. If Ting says your phone is CDMA only, you may want to reconsider using Ting or that phone. I provide more details in the Which Network section below, but Ting’s CDMA network is provided by Sprint which is weak in many areas. Although, if you currently use and like Sprint, you can safely switch and pay less.

If you are bringing your own phone, it must be “unlocked.” If you are still paying for the phone, then it is most likely locked, and you will need to pay off the balance, and possibly meet other terms in your contract. If the phone is paid off and owned outright by you, then it can be unlocked. With some carriers, you may need still need to get the carrier to unlock the phone.

AT&T will unlock phones after they are paid for, but it is not automatic and must be requested. AT&T has instructions for submitting the unlock request here or go directly to the unlock form here. AT&T says it could take two days to process the unlock request.

Up until now, Verizon phones have been immediately unlocked, although they are changing this. Today, phones purchased from Verizon are unlocked when they are sold, so any Verizon phone you have is already unlocked. While the details aren’t announced, starting sometime in the spring of 2018 phones sold directly by Verizon will be locked for some time after it is sold. Verizon says this is to prevent fraudulent purchases, so the duration of the lock should be short.

Phones purchased directly from the phone manufacturer are typically unlocked if you paid the full price up front, even if you use it on Verizon or AT&T.

Which Network?

There are two main cellular technologies in the United States, and Ting supports both. Which should you pick?

The short answers:

  • If the Ting phone checker tells you that your phone is tied to a specific network then that network is your only choice. You should still check that network’s coverage in your area.
  • If you have Sprint and find the coverage good, but want to save money, then pick the CDMA network.
  • If you have T-Mobile and find the coverage good, but want to save money, then select the GSM network.
  • If you have T-Mobile but find the coverage and quality poor, then Ting may not be for you. You can look at the GSM option, it might be okay in your specific area, but it’s generally the weaker choice.
  • If none of the above applies to you, then pick the GSM network. You should still explore the coverage in your specific area but start with GSM.

Here’s the detail on the above answers…

The two cellular technologies are GSM (Global System for Mobiles) and CDMA (Core Division Multiple Access). Your phone’s hardware must support the network to use it. While many phones can use either network, many more are tied to one technology.

CDMA is used by Verizon, Sprint, and US Cellular. Phones from these carriers may be limited to CDMA. AT&T, T-Mobile and most of the world uses GSM. Phones from these carriers may be limited to GSM.

Ting gets its CDMA network from Sprint and its GSM network from T-Mobile. If you currently have Sprint or T-Mobile and have good coverage, you’ll want to stick with that same network. If you have lousy coverage, you’ll want to look at the other network. Ting does have coverage maps available.

The network provider is much more important than the underlying technology. Verizon was my previous carrier, and I got good service nearly everywhere I went. The Ting coverage map looked good for CDMA, so I tried that first, which was a mistake. Coverage was spotty in some areas I traveled to and consistently worse than my Verizon service. I then tried GSM and coverage was much better in the areas I typically traveled, and comparable to the service I was getting with Verizon. (This is one reason I recommend a multi-network phone when considering a new phone, I can use the phone with any network just by changing the SIM. I can also easily switch to another carrier if I grow to dislike Ting.)

While there are variations between locations, generally the T-Mobile GSM network is stronger than the Sprint CDMA network. Sprint is usually considered the weakest of the four U.S. cell networks (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint). In Connecticut, where I am, further research showed me that T-Mobile’s network was far stronger than Sprint’s across the state, and into neighboring states.

If you want a new phone, but have a working phone now, I would suggest trying your current phone on Ting to see what type of service you get. A SIM only costs $9 (plus shipping), and you can try a new phone number with one or both networks without affecting with your current phone plan or phone number. Don’t expect to reuse this SIM if you later decide to port your old phone number over to Ting; you may need a new SIM). This is what I did to find that the CDMA network wasn’t a good choice for me. You will need to be able to swap the SIM into and out of your phone, and only the SIM in your phone will be active.

Summary

Ting provides some excellent cost savings when compared to the major carriers. While there’s no official family plan, you can add multiple phones, tablets or computers, and all the data is pooled when calculating what you pay.

In the next installment I’ll cover porting your existing phone number to Ting.

If you found this guide helpful and want to try Ting, you can use this referral link to get us both some money. You’ll get $25 off a device or as a Ting Credit, and I’ll get a $25 Ting credit.

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Synology C2 Backup: Web Based Management

Synology

This is the third in my series of articles about Synology C2 Backup. In this article, I’ll cover the web interface for managing your backup and your storage plan subscription. The previous articles included an Overview of Synology C2 Backup and Setting Up Synology C2 Backup.

There are two ways to access the C2 backup website. First, you can open Hyper Backup on your NAS and select any backup task that uses C2. Then click on the Synology C2 link next to “service provider.” The Synology C2 website will open in your default web browser.

Screenshot showing how to access C2 Web through HyperBackup

Alternately, you can go directly to c2.synology.com in your web browser, then click on Sign In located in the top right corner (at least that’s where it is today).

The login screen is displayed (the same one you saw when you first linked your Synology to C2). Log in with your credentials.

Manage Backups

After you log in, your Dashboard will appear. (If you have multiple C2 services they will appear along the top and you may need to select Backup manually.) The left column will have two choices; “Dashboard”, which is the default selection after login, and “Manage Subscription,” which does what it says on the tin. I’ll cover the Dashboard first.

The layout is clean and well organized, providing three main categories of information. If you don’t see the dashboard, then click the Dashboard selection along the left.

Screen shot of the Synology C2 Backup Dashboard

The first section (labeled “1” in the screenshot) shows your total space currently used, along with space allocation for your plan. If you are on a Tier 1 plan the total used is based on what’s on your NAS according to Synology, but more accurately described as the size of your last backup. Past versions are not included in the total used even if they are available to be restored. If you are on a Tier 2 plan then this is the total space actually used, including any past versions still available, but minus any space saved by deduplication.

The second section (labeled “2”) shows how much space is used by each NAS backing up to the account.

The third section (labeled “3”) shows every backup task that uses this C2 account. It helpfully provides the time and duration from the last time that the task ran.

If you hover over a backup task with your mouse two icons will appear to the right (on the same line as that task). The first, a magnifying glass will open a file browser in a new browser window (or tab, depending on your browser settings). This will allow you to browse files in your current and past backups. I’ll cover this in a later article about doing restores from C2.

The second icon, a trash can, does what you would think. It will delete the backup task and all associated data.

Screenshot of the Synology C2 Data Deletion Warning

Manage Subscription

If you click on Subscription on the left, you’ll see the subscription management page.

Screenshot of the Manage subscription tab in the C2 web interface

There are no refunds, so you can’t actually cancel your current plan. I couldn’t find anything that states what happens when you change a plan. For example, downgrading to a plan too small for your current usage seems possible (I stopped just before confirming the change). What I suspect will happen is that any downgrades (1TB to 300MB for example) won’t happen until renewal. This is also in line with their “no refund” policy which makes it the likely path for downgrades. For a space upgrade, Synology gives you the option of upgrading immediately or waiting until the plan comes up for renewal. Synology doesn’t specify billing terms for immediate upgrades, but I would expect the charge is prorated. (I will tinker with various plan changes as my free trial nears the end, but I don’t want to risk shortening my trial while I’m still testing).

If you want to cancel your subscription, select Cancel in the “Next Plan” section. This is better thought of as turning off auto-renewal since the current, already paid for, subscription remains active until its expiration date. Synology will keep backing up data for seven days after your plan expires, then they will delete your data. Synology doesn’t specify how long before they delete the data, so expect it to be gone after seven days, although it may be a little longer. They say in their FAQ: “On the seventh day after expiration, your Synology NAS will stop backing up data to C2, and your backed-up data will be deleted after continued non-payment.”

There’s not much to the web interface for Synology C2 Backup. While the web interface has some nice features, managing the subscription is the only thing that can’t be done directly on the NAS.

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Do Yo Have Synology C2 Backup Questions?

Synology

While Synology’s C2 Backup isn’t that much different than other cloud storage services, I’ve become intrigued by it, and want to give it a thorough test & review.

If you have any questions or comments about Synology C2 Backup or the Hyper Backup application on the NAS, feel free to leave a comment on this post or email me at ray[at]osquestguides.com. I’ll try to reply directly. These questions or comments will also help me decide where to focus (or not focus).

Currently on the list are overviews of the web interface (such as account management) and file restores.

My current Synology C2 Backup articles are Synology C2 Backup: Overview and Synology C2 Backup: Setting It Up.

 

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