Data Migration When My Network Drive Started to Fail

My Seagate network attached storage was ailing.  I could tell by the way it would need to reset after awhile in ways it hadn’t before.  Finally, it would only stay accessible for minutes at a time.  This is a home device, so I had to find a SOHO approach to get my data to a new drive.  Here’s what I did.

The Seagate GoFlex Home personal NAS is pretty old technology.  It’s a consumer product, as are all personal network storage appliances, and so doesn’t age all that well.  In my case, the operating system was Linux-based, the interface was Flash-based, and the media server was an archaic implementation of minidlna.

There was no easy way to keep the drive updated, which worried me because it can be Internet-facing.  I didn’t want to run a resource that was Internet-accessible – like these people running Seagate devices – that I couldn’t keep properly patched.  I kept it off the Internet, accessible only to internal users.  It worked great, as a PC backup and shared media source for our family network.

Like many personal NAS devices, it had the ability to connect a USB drive to it.  This became the easiest way to backup the NAS periodically to an external, portable drive.  When my NAS started to fail, it meant I had the NAS and the USB drive as sources to move the content forward.

Migrating the Content Off

Most personal NAS are just a hard drive connected to a computer board that has a small operating system embedded on a chip.  It’s this additional functionality that makes it into an appliance rather than just an external drive.  You can use SSH to connect to a GoFlex device (or my new one, a Western Digital MyCloud Personal).  It’s a command line interface, so you need to feel comfortable in Linux without an interface.  I’d done this a couple of times when the minidlna media server hung up.

One thing I couldn’t do was transfer the content directly from the old NAS (GoFlex Home) to the new one (WD MyCloud).  The GoFlex would not stay up long enough to copy the gigabytes of data I had.  The simplest way was to break the drive out of it’s case and use it as a normal hard drive.  Here is a nice short video on how to do it.  Long story short, you pop one end off (not the end with the SATA drive connection) and then slowly lever the front and back halves apart.  Once you’ve done that, you’re looking at a Seagate (Barracuda in my case) hard drive in a metal case.

That’s the thing about the personal NAS.  It’s just a hard drive with some extra functionality.  The GoFlex drive unplugs from it’s powered base, which is where the extra board is.  I’m not sure about the WD MyCloud drive (yet).  Once I had the SATA hard drive out of it’s GoFlex Home case, I plugged it into my desktop PC as a second drive and was ready to go.

Not surprisingly, my latest USB backup wasn’t 100% of what was on my networked storage.  This is why I wanted to use the USB as a fall back but primarily rely on the hard drive if I could.  With the GoFlex drive now in my PC, I copied it over again onto the external USB drive.  I skipped all the files it had and brought the USB drive up to a current state.  Now I could leave my original GoFlex drive alone and just use the USB.

Content on the New NAS

I’ve documented some of the hassle I had trying to get my new NAS on my network.  Once it was on, though, it should have been an easy step to drag the contents of the USB external drive (or the GoFlex drive in my PC, for that matter) over to the new MyCloud drive.  And it is, but is incredibly slow.  For my 350 GBs of data, I was looking at days.

Fortunately, I found someone else who had already gone down this path.  First, I configured my new MyCloud to have a static IP address.  When you first install it, it picks up a new address through DHCP.  Then you unplug the MyCloud network cable from the router or network jack it’s connected to, and connect it directly to your desktop or laptop computer’s network jack.  Your computer also needs to have a static IP.

In order to be able to open Windows Explorer and browse both your USB drive and your MyCloud device, you need to tell your computer the NAS is there.  You can’t browse using network services because your router, which normally provides that functionality, isn’t there.  In my case, I opened a command prompt (Windows key, then type cmd) and mapped a drive letter to the NAS:

net use z: \\the_static_IP_address_of_your_MyCloud\public

The z: is just a letter between A and Z to use – you can use any letter that isn’t already in use.  The \public is a share that I knew existed on the MyCloud.  It was the same on the GoFlex.  You may need to explore your NAS to determine what default shares it has (you’ll need to plug it back into the router to do that).

Once that command had completed (I believe it asks you for the username you set on the MyCloud and a password, which may be blank because the first, default user isn’t asked for one, so just hit ENTER), I could go to Windows Explorer and open the two drives:  the USB drive at E or F or whatever, and the NAS drive at Z.  Now when I dragged the content over, it was clipping along at about 10x the speed it was over the network.

The data has all transferred and my USB is now just a restore point in case anything fails immediately.  Once I unplugged the MyCloud NAS from my laptop and plugged it back into the router, it was immediately network accessible.  I still have the GoFlex SATA drive in my PC but, when I rebooted, it threw a SMART warning that the drive was failing.  It would have been nice if the NAS had been able to give that warning.  I’m going to leave it in there for a bit but am assuming it’s not long for this world.

Although it uses the cloud terminology, the MyCloud Personal NAS is not a cloud device.  I think I can say that with some authority.  It reminds of a Tonido service.  You can access your device on your own network, and you can enable it to connect to the Western Digital site, which allows you remote access over the Internet to your drive and data.

But I don’t want my WD MyCloud Internet-facing any more than I wanted my GoFlex Home drive accessible via the Web.  The NAS drive supports an FTP server as well as SSH and there’s too much risk of misconfiguring it and making the drive’s contents accessible to people outside the network.

It’s a good reminder for me that consumer technology should be updated regularly because, unless it’s getting regular firmware, it’s increasingly likely to be exploitable.  And it may not be built to last, like enterprise hardware is.  I’m delighted with the MyCloud Personal so far.  The interface is just normal Web technology – no Flash – and the Twonky Media server that is embedded is a huge improvement over the minidlna server.


David Whelan

I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.