Organizing Digitally – The NAS

I want to do a sort of series about how I have my digital world organized but I was sort of trying to decide the best place to start. I wanted to run down some file structure methods, and I want to run down Office 365 use, and previous backup methods, but ultimately, the core of everything, is my NAS.

So this is also sort of a followup to that last set of articles about my Synology NAS. I am sure there are other ways to do a lot of what the Synology does, but there are a lot of simple to use built in features that are nicely integrated into my workflow. It’s a little pricey to set up initially, with the box and the drives, but the reality it, any good solution will be.

Features I Use

These aren’t in any particular order, but I wanted to touch on the aspects of the NAS that I use pretty regularly.

  • OpenVPN – I used to go to a lot of hassle opening up firewall ports on my home network to different devices and machines, so I could access web cams or SSH to different servers and blah blah blah. This is a bit of a security problem, since it means lots of open target points as well. I’ve long since dumped that in favor of OpenVPN, which is built into the NAS. I connect through my laptop or my phone to my home network, then I connect to whatever network drive or SSH connection I need to. It works perfectly and requires way less hassling with the firewall.
  • Download Station – This is essentially a Tor downloader, though I think it can handle a lot of other url types. I don’t really directly interact with this, I keep a folder for incoming files that I occasionally sort and a watch folder for Torrent files that it pulls from. The fun part is syncing the watch folder using One Drive, so I can dump Torrent files to it from anywhere. And for what it’s worth, I don’t use this for piracy, primarily I use it for downloading Humble Bundle purchases. A bundle often has 20+ items, so I will bulk download the torrents (to save HB some bandwidth) and then dump them into the watch folder.
  • Video Station/DS Video – I tried running Plex for watching digital movies from the NAS but it was flaky as hell since there isn’t an official Synology app and Plex is increasingly pushing their subscription nonsense instead of just being a client/server self hosted application. Fortunately, there are Synology Apps for Fire TV (Which I use for streaming on both TVs). So I’ve sorted all of my home movies into the Videos folder and (for a future blog post) encoded them to be easily accessible and compatible.
  • Photo Station – Ok, I don’t actually use this… yet… but I want to revisit it going forward. I want to do a separate post on photos with more details, but basically, I wasn’t using the Photos folder for backup purposes, and that situation has changes recently.
  • Audio Station – I have a ton of music from different sources compiled and sorted together. It’s not my primary GoTo for music, but I want to get more organized playlists going so I can more easily use this for playing my music. For the most part, I am fine with just sticking music ON my phone though.
  • Mail Station – I don’t use Mail Station for actually sending emails, but I did set up the Mail Station server and I use it as a deep archive of emails. I essentially have all my email I have ever sent, going back to the 90s, pulled forward through various email clients, and now it’s all dumped into a Mail Server in a sorted, searchable archive.
  • Cloud Sync – Cloud Sync lets you hook your Synology to various cloud drive services and sync them to your local drives. I’ve got several Dropbox accounts that I have used in the past (Personal, server syncing, each family member) and now a couple of One Drive accounts for backup and personal document sync all linked. It even does Google Drive.

Features I Stopped Using

There aren’t a lot of features I have stopped using, but there are a couple.

  • Web Station – The Synology comes with an optional Webserver and a weird WordPress system that can be enabled. This has been weirdly buggy since day one and I already have plenty of experience managing LAMP stack servers. I recently disted off one of my older Pis, set it up with WordPress and moved the primary use I was using the Synology Web Station for to the Pi. Mostly, It was just a WordPress Archive of all of my old blog posts from various blogs. The links were weird and didn’t work properly because it didn’t quite understand subdirectories or something. The images were present but they didn’t always work because they pointed to old URLs and working the SQL system to change them always came off as wonky. Basically, I didn’t need this archive to be on the NAS and it was an easy thing to just offload to another device.
  • Cloud Station Server – This is a back up system for devices and computers. It will sync specific local folders to a folder on the NAS as a backup. Maybe I was doing something wrong but it always felt really flaky as well, so I just sort of stopped using it. I had it on every laptop in the family for a while but as laptops were replaced, then things started getting weird and getting others to grok how to pull back their files wasn’t super easy either. The better solution I have found is to just give everyone a shared folder specific to them that they can shove files they want to keep into. For my personal use it was just redundant because my entire workflow for years has essentially been cloud based with Dropbox or One Drive keeping everything backed up by default.
  • Surveillance Station – I still sort of use this, but all of my webcams died except one, which doesn’t have night mode anymore. So, it exists and I would use it, but I don’t really use it much anymore. Also. frankly, there was never anything worth seeing on the recordings.


The real workflow from the NAS comes from shared folders. Everyone has access to the Family Photos folder mapped to their laptops. I created a shared folder for all of the Blog graphics my wife was using for her blog work that everyone can access since my daughters both helped her with that. They use a shared drive for all of the Ebay and Mercari photos they work on.

I keep folders for photos, and videos and ebooks. I keep folders for important family documents like Tax Returns. All of this can easily be synced to a backup in the cloud and I have a couple of USB keys and loose drives that I do periodic manual backups to, that get stuck in a fire proof safe.

It also lets me map other network drives in as well, for shuffling files around. I have a whole second Linux box set up that has another 4TB or so space in it across several drives, that I use to store less important files like Installable programs and games, ISOs, temporary files for video editing projects, a mountain of internet memes and images saved over the years, music concerts I’ve downloaded, etc. Plus I can map things like, the web root for my Raspberry Pi, or set up a one way(ish) SSH tunnel to my Webserver for pulling backups through.

The box itself sits behind the TV upstairs, and if there ever was a fire or something, it’s likely one of the things I might try to grab on the way out the door, but I’d like to thing my system is robust enough that even if it were lost anything important would be recoverable.

Organizing Eternally

For the past few years, I have been in a pretty hard core “Organizing mode” on a lot of various fronts. It honestly feels like an endless uphill climb because there is just so much and it doesn’t help that I am constantly adapting and updating the methodology. Some of these topics are ones I will likely touch on in more detail in the future, especially the technology related ones, but I wanted to run over a quick list. This is partially for my own sanity.

Physical Organization

Part of this involved The Basement upgrades, which aren’t really complete but they are at a good stopping point. Most of my physical stuff is pretty well organized, for the most part. The basement has a second half that’s a little jankey that we use for storage. It’s lined with totes for various holiday decorations and winder clothes, and one corner is all of my stuff I don’t have room to display or use, sorted into a bunch of shoebox sized totes, along with a bunch of boxes in larger totes. I’ve thinned out a lot of my extra electronics over the years. I’ve started thinning out some of my video games stuff as well, often because I have PC versions or even just newer versions on newer consoles.

Having a toy collection requires a fair amount of organzining. For example, I use these tackle boxes to sort out the accessories.

For import figures, I generally give each figure it’s own cubby, bot things like Marvel Legends, I have entire sections for alternate heads and hands. I’ve got effect parts sorted, missiles sorted, transformer guns sorted, I have one that’s all 4″ scaled parts. I have a different organizer that’s just 1/12th accessory parts I have collected over the years for use in photos.


I want to do an entire post just for photos. I take an enormous amount of photos. It’s slowed down now that my kids are all adults, and there is less going on, but just a quick check suggests I have at least 250,000 photos or 160 gigabytes of data.

Photos of school and family events, photos of projects, photos of toys, just tons and tons of photos. Half of these photos never get used or posted anywhere but they are meticulously organized.

I am also slowly working on scanning in old photos from my own photos to my parent’s photos to my in law’s photos.


I also have a lot of video files. And not just movies and TV from the high seas. I honestly don’t really have a ton of that to start with, you can pretty much just get everything somewhere on streaming these days so why bother. But family movies. I’ve had several digital video games over the years, and at least one Professional Panasonic camera I used to do Professional video production (IE, I got paid for it). Video takes up a lot more space than photos though, so I’ve been working on converting a lot of that down. Video will probably also get it’s own post.

Files in General

Another topic for discussion I want to cover that I have been sorting is files in general. I’ll admit, it’s a bit of a problem, but digital storage is cheap, and I save a shitload of files. From random memes, interesting landscapes, photos of toys others have taken, news clippings, hot-to articles, and other web stuff, to my own files. I’ve got files I’ve moved forward from floppy disks to zip disks to CD-Rs to modern day that were writings or drawings or even custom levels for super old DOS games.

Backup Strategies

I also do my best to keep a fairly robust backup system for the things I’d rather not lose (mostly family photos and important documents). Some of which I have had to update recently due to software changes by certain companies (Amazon no longer working with Synology).

A lot of the systems are similar, but I want to go over some of my general organizing techniques in the near future because it’s something that’s been on my mind a lot for a while now. It also works pretty well, for the most part, especially now that I am caught up.

Helping Myself to Ensure Better Productivity

I find as I get older, I am not so great at remembering everything that I really should be doing regularly. Not just necessary things, but things I want to to. I’ve been working out some better systems to push myself to keep up with all of these sort of little tasks.

Microsoft ToDo

Any ToDo list app works here, I use Microsoft ToDo. I used to use Wonderlist, but Microsoft bought them out and it’s essentially folding into MS ToDo. I try to keep my lists somewhat streamlined down so it doesn’t become a cluttered mess. For example…

The Reminders List. All of my regular reminders go here. Every week I get a reminder to take out the trash after work. The same goes for Recycling. I get daily reminders in the morning for taking my vitamin and just before lunch to take my Acid reducer medicine. I get weekly reminders for other regular tasks as well, such as redeeming my Forza Rewards in the game Forza, checking on the free PDF of the week on Drivethrough RPG, and redeeming the free game of the week on the Epic Game Store. I also have Monthly reminders for checking on several auto-withdraw bill payments, or changing the furnace filter. I’ve got an irregular reminder to change out my pajamas every few days because I can never keep track of how many days I have worn the same pajamas.

The Grocery List. It’s called Grocery, but it’s more of a general list of more pressing things todo or purchase. It is often, just groceries though.

General ToDo Lists. I have lists for movies or TV I want to watch, books I want to read, projects, and I might want to do someday in the future.

The Calendar

I have also started using my calendar a lot more aggressively. I have several sub calendars going on different types of events as well. I do keep some reminder style tasks on the calendar instead of the ToDo List app as well. The general difference is that ToDo List reminders are effectively “never ending”, while Calendar Reminders are more ephemeral and have a set period of time. For example, Hasbro was running a contest on their Instagram for ten days, I used the calendar to schedule ten days of reminders.

The calendar has become extra useful during this COVID-19 time as well. A lot of musical acts are doing online shows. And since my plan to go to more concerts clearly isn’t going to go anywhere at this time, I can at least set up events to remind myself when live shows are going on.

I also use it to mark out generic blocks for work events, so I can better keep track of what I might have going on for scheduling other activities like Doctor’s appointments.

Send To Device

Something else I have been trying to push myself on, is taking care of things *now*. Or at least soon. Often I would come across things I want to download, or little projects to set up and try, often while browsing on my phone. This used to end up in one of two things. I would leave the tab open forever on my phone, or I would book mark it and forget about it.

I use Firefox on my phone and my PCs, so the bookmarks all sync, but I still have to remember to check them.

What I have discovered that I’ve been doing more is the “Send to Device” feature. I can take a tab on my phone and send it to either my Laptop or Desktop, instead of book marking it. This way, when I sit down and open up the appropriate device, that tab will show up, and be in my face as a reminder of “Do this NOW”. It’s really helped with actually taking care of some quick tasks that I may find while on my phone, but aren’t convenient to do immediately.

Track All the Things

I am going to keep this short, because it really needs to be it’s own post, but I have started heaving tracking a lot of aspects of what I do with my time. I don’t really DO anything with this data, but it motivates me in two ways.

The tracking itself is a thing that pops up as a reminder of something that needs done. Not having anything to fill in, makes me feel a little guilty about my productivity. It’s sort of an angle of negative self reinforcement.

Two, I like doing it, even if nothing comes of it.

Like I said, I will probably do a separate post, but I have been tracking:

  • TV I watch
  • Movies I watch
  • Music I Listen To
  • Books I’ve read
  • Online Courses I’ve done
  • My Mood, 2x a day
  • How much Duolingo I do each day
  • Fitness (Steps, Push Ups, Sit Ups)
  • How often I shave or get my hair cut
  • General Health Issues
  • Gas Consumption
  • Basically everything

I use several apps for this and some spreadsheets. But more on all that later.