Sunday, February 2, 2014


One of the interesting things about being a system administrator, is that everyone just assumes you live and breathe computers. It often inspires unsolicited conversations describing, in excruciating detail, your clients extravagant home setups (and I'm not talking about people looking for home tech support, that's another story altogether). So I often get incredulous looks and words of disbelief when I tell people that my "home setup" is just a single desktop with an external hard drive for backups. A couple years ago we expanded that to include a laptop for my wife. I guess I never really saw the fun in "taking my work home with me."

Our upcoming move overseas has spurred me to revise that policy somewhat, since the likelihood of hard drive failure skyrockets the more you move them (or leave them in extreme heat). In addition, one of the perks to living in the United States is the access to various online streaming video sources (e.g. Netflix, cable channel websites). Many of these sites are blocked to IP addresses originating geographically outside the United States. Some countries also censor specific websites or content. When I studied abroad in Hong Kong, one of my classmates was unable to check his college's e-mail because sites with the name "George Washington" were censored.

A common solution to this problem is to route your web traffic through a US host. After a bit of consideration and some price comparisons, I decided to go with an out-of-the-box solution. Since I won't be readily available to maintain it, I didn't think setting up a custom server was the best idea... and as is often the case, buying a product specifically suited to my needs was cheaper than building my own solution. To that end, I'm going to pick up a QNAP TS-219P+ with 2x 4TB hard drives, configured in RAID 1. I'm going to set it up as an offsite backup, a VPN, and a proxy server. This is not an original idea, many companies use VPNs to securely host work related files for their employees, and some larger companies even use proxy servers to obfuscate their employees internet traffic's origin. My brother, who lives in Florida, has agreed to provide power, space and cooling (the minimal amount that this product requires) in exchange for space to backup his own files. This way I can securely backup my files and access US only or censored sites while overseas.

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