As some readers may know I currently work in Higher Education and while all of the business data is trivial to backup providing any level of backup service to students and academics is significantly harder. The challenges faced include the myriad of Operating Systems in use (Windows/OSX/Linux), the fact that the devices being backed up are inherently ‘untrusted’ (i.e. owned by the individual) and that they are often on networks (be it eduroam/public/home) that have no direct connectivity back to the internal trusted network.

Most enterprise class backup systems just aren’t suited to this kind of environment in that they cannot be securely published through a firewall or have exorbitant licencing costs for the number of devices to be protected (a few file servers vs 500+ student owned laptops).

One solution to this issue cropped up at a recent trade show where Synology were demonstrating their Synology DiskStation Manager NAS software which set itself apart from the traditional enterprise backup solutions with…

  • Support up to 16,000 users on high end models (and 2048 on the kind of model that we would consider using) with no extra licencing costs, users can have storage quotas set either by group or per user
  • Secure remote access (simply publish a single port which can be protected by HTTPS for encryption in transit)
  • Home grown backup clients for modern versions of Windows, OSX/macOS and Linux
  • On the point of OSX/macOS the backup client for Synology does not rely on Time Machine and so overcomes the issues associated with having to be on the same network as your backup device
  • Home grown Btrfs file system which auto detects (and fixes) corrupted files through metadata along with extensive snapshot support
  • Up to 32 recovery points and real-time file protection (when connected to the DiskStation)

So time for some screenshots! Below we have the initial setup of the Disk Station Manager and the installation of the client on a Windows PC.

Then restoring a file that has been deleted on the Windows PC; note that you can restore either individual files or entire folders to a point in time.

The same but for OSX…

So that’s all of the good, the only downside we have found thus far is while shared drives can be protected with encryption it is not possible to protect each individual home area (per user) with a unique encryption key thus opening up issues with data privacy. However, if you consider the following scenario…

  • A business needs to provide backup to remote workers
    • Those remote workers do not connect to the trusted network often
      • Perhaps they don’t like VPNs/DirectAccess (and so rules out using Offline Files)
    • and those remote workers do not use a commercial ‘cloud’ service to protect their data with
      • Perhaps trusting a 3rd party to host the data is not an option
    • The remote workers use OSX/macOS

…then using a Synology DiskStation should be a serious consideration for that business.

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series 4 SSIDs 1 Secondary Academy

By comparison to the Domain WiFi setup the configuration for the Apple network is much simpler.

The one tiny little exception is that the Apple Discovery Protocol (Bonjour) is by design unable to traverse VLANs. In many networks this wouldn’t be a problem however we have a item of software called AirServer on our Windows clients that ties into the AirPlay feature on iPads to project the iPad screen onto the PC screen. To get this feature working the Bonjour discovery packets need to move from the Windows VLAN to the Mac VLAN.

So first up the configuration for the SSID on our HP MSM controller-

To get the Bonjour packets to traverse the VLAN we need a ‘Bonjour Gateway’; to get this going I will be using a Virtual Machine with 3 network adapters running Ubuntu Client (if you are confidant with Linux then feel free to use the server edition!) and a bit of software called Avahi.

The guide here – shows very well how to setup the Avahi software; in my case I went without the VLANs and just used native NICs sitting in the Server, Windows Clients and Mac Clients VLANs.

A few more details in the screen shots below-

Next up is an article on the BYOD SSID which uses a very cool feature on our Smoothwall firewall to make logins really easy.

Go into any school these days and it will be hard to avoid any shiny ‘iDevices’ and in support of that I have recently deployed AirServer by App Dynamic.

The installer is provided as an MSI although our retailer suggested a command line option to deploy and activate the software for all users of the PC; a very nice idea there is a much simpler method which involves a quick modification of the downloaded MSI using Orca. For the full guide take a look at the screenshot sequence below-

One point to note is that upon installation the installer will reach out to the AirServer website to perform product activation; as in most schools a web proxy will get in the way of this however if you allow unfiltered access to the authentication will go through without any issues.

Another point to note – make sure you have all the prerequisites installed on any machine targeted for AirServer installation. The deployment of these is outside the scope of this document however the easiest way I have found so far is to download the full iTunes installer, unzip it (with 7zip) and deploy the MSIs inside it separately.