Disaster Prevention

It’s 2 a.m. and you’ve just finished capturing that perfect vocal take when the unthinkable happens — your hard drive crashes and all of your files are suddenly lost. From the project studio to the most professional of facilities, it’s never a question of “if” your hard drive will fail, but “when.” So here are a few solutions to keeping your studio up and running in the face of impending doom.
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To begin, the general rule of thumb is: If you don’t feel comfortable losing it, you should be making a backup copy of it, so the key is to be regular in your data backups. For the professional studio running several servers and/or NAS (network attached storage) environments, daily incremental backups are considered policy. And that’s a policy you would do well to adopt.

There are many regularly employed methods of data backup — from making CD or DVD copies of your computer files to using backup software — that provide hands-free and time-saving methods for data recovery. No matter the method you choose, the simple fact that you have taken the time to create a backup is what’s of most importance. What follows are some of the most popular means of backing up your data.

You can always burn a backup copy of your most recent session to give to the band — but what about yesterday’s vocal tracks, last week’s overdubs, and all of last month’s sessions? For some home studios this might take a few minutes each week — drop in a DVD-R, write your main drive to disk, and you’re good to go. You’ll be able to easily reference your last backup disk and not be at a complete loss. For many mid-size and professional studios this process alone isn’t enough, and often just the beginning of a well-thought-out contingency plan. Remember, a DVD will hold 4.7GB. Three years ago this may have sounded like a ton of space but for recording formats at 96K and higher, 4.7GB will sometimes not even hold one session — so strategize accordingly.

With the quickly dropping costs, and higher storage capacities, of external hard drives it’s become very convenient to backup your main hard drive. You can pick up a USB or FireWire hard drive with hundreds of GB of storage at any computer store that will easily hold hundreds of sessions, as well as all the other data important to maintaining your studio business — finance records, receipts, and even all of your email. Remember to choose a hard drive that allows you room to grow. If you have 40GB of data to backup today, you might have 60GB by the end of the year, so buying a larger capacity drive will give you more flexibility as your studio grows.

In many home and professional recording studios, there are often multiple computer systems in one studio, or a combination of studios, all networked together. Using a NAS device for your data backup means you no longer have to mirror a Direct Attached Storage device (external hard drive) on multiple computers — thus saving time while still ensuring proper backup and data recovery in the event of equipment failure. For many studios there may not be a need to backup all of the data on the main computer systems. Studio A may require 50GB of data backup, while Studio B might only have 10GB of data. If this is the case (as it often is) then a NAS backup storage device is certainly the route to take.

One of the most important and critical aspects of data backup is the software you choose. More often than not, this single element of your disaster recovery plan can mean the difference between hours versus days of time spent recovering your crashed hard drive. With the proper software you’ll not only be able to retrieve your music (and other important files) but recover a complete operating system, some applications, and user settings that will save you hours of time. Easy-to-use backup software, such as the award winning EMC Dantz Retrospect, allows you to configure incremental or continuous data backup automatically, or by the click of a button. Keep in mind that no matter the caliber or size of your studio, what is important is that you have a plan to create a fast, secure method of data recovery.

Every airplane has a “black box,” so why not have one for your computer? Using ingenious, yet simple, technology, the company ioSafe is making fire- and waterproof Disaster Ready Hard Drives. From a high security rackmount version to a more economical Mini-USB or NAS version, each Disaster Ready Drive comes with a data recovery guarantee — making the price tags (starting at under $500) more appealing, and allowing even the smallest of home studios affordable, plug-and-play solutions for disaster-ready data protection.

When it’s all said and done, data backup is just as important to your studio as your console, outboard gear, and microphones. The time you spend creating and implementing a backup copy and plan to recover it quickly comes at a great discount compared to the price you might pay if all of your data goes crashing away. So figure out which method best suits your needs and get to backing up your data. You’ll thank yourself one day.