Cloud Storage

Backup Strategies for Musicians

You have just created your latest masterpiece when your computer crashes. No matter what you try it won’t boot to the desktop and the hard drive has died. That masterpiece you have slaved over has gone off to the music lab in the sky. This is where a backup strategy saves the day. Read on as I provide you with ways to secure your music creations.

Backup – The Existence of Data

You may have heard the saying that data does not exist unless you have two backups of it. However, these backups should also be kept in different locations for them to truly exist. This protects you from complete disaster if something happens to your primary location. For example theft or fire.

Lets first look at the types of backup that are available. The easiest and most widely available is external USB storage. It is easy enough these days to put a spare hard drive into a USB enclosure and expand your storage capabilities. There are also docks that connect by USB so that you can easily swap drives.

Moving a step further we come to a personal NAS (Network Attached Storage). These are standalone units that can hold multi-terabytes of data and are good for large files. Finally we come to cloud storage. There are some that don’t trust the security of cloud storage providers but this option is entirely up to you. I will however cover cloud storage for those that want to investigate this avenue as a form of backup.

External USB Drives

There are a couple of varieties worth checking out. The first are enclosures, which start with holding a single drive and range to multiple drives. If you are looking at something that will provide a little redundancy then you will need something sporting Raid. This means that there is some security were one drive fails as you should then be able to recover your data. Operating a Raid setup, however, is not an alternative to a backup.

I personally use a docking bay. This allows me to quickly swap drives for different backup purposes. For example I have a couple of 2 Terabyte drives that I swap out depending on the backup I am creating. My backup drives are as follows:-

  • System Backup – 500gb drive
  • Kontakt Libraries – 4tb drive
  • Omnisphere Library – 2tb drive
  • Projects 2x 2tb drives

These are all stored in a fireproof case in case the worse happens. Depending on whether any changes have been made to the live data a backup takes place a least once a month. However, live projects are backed up at the end of every session.

When using external devices these should attach by USB 3 at the very minimum. Anything less than this will take a long time and is not really viable for the purposes of making a large backup.

Network Attached Storage (NAS)

We have currently created one line of defence for data loss. Another line you may want to look at is running your own network storage. The advantage of a NAS means you can access your data from more than one PC/Mac without having to have the primary computer on. It is also not reliant on operating system.

The main players in the NAS market are Synology and Qnap. Both offer affordable devices to scale your storage requirements accordingly. I have a Synology DS916+ holding 16tb of storage but with disk redundancy it holds 8tb. Although I hold my data on the external drives, the same data is backed up to the NAS on a monthly basis.

Backup

This ensures I have at least two copies of the data in easy reach in case my PC crashes or needs to be rebuilt. It also allows me to access any of my archived projects from any computer, including when I am away from the studio. This is because the NAS can be accessed through the internet using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

A NAS does not just have to be a glorified backup drive. Both Synology and Qnap allow you to stream media from the device either to your TV or a Sonos box.

Cloud Storage

The final link in the chain is cloud storage. I know of some people who do not trust Cloud Storage due to privacy issues. However, I believe it should be considered as a viable solution in a full back up strategy.

A number of companies provide cloud storage at different price points. I do not intend to provide a round up here suffice to say I use cloud storage in moderation. I tend to ensure all my live projects are backed up to the cloud in case the worst happens.

Cloud

It is not financially viable to back up all the sample libraries as this is tens of terabytes and would cost too much to do. The alternative here is to utilise another NAS and store this at another trusted location, for example a family member. This way you can backup to that NAS overnight from your local NAS and data is stored in two places.

Conclusion

Whatever you feel about backing up it is an unfortunate necessity if you want to avoid losing any data. There is nothing worse than spending days on a project only for your hard drive to fail and you are unable to recover your work.

I will look at specific software to perform these continuous backups in another blog post. I hope that this article helps you to consider and think about your own backup plans. If you have any tips of your own regarding backup strategies please share them below so we can all learn from each other.

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