We often get asked to recommend storage solutions for Pro Tools media and sessions. Recently we had a question come in from community member 'Korean Steve' who is expanding and wants to put an appropriate storage solution in place.
Dear Pro Tools Experts Team, I am Korean Steve, a lowly composer working out of a little home studio within my apartment. I have been silently following your blog and weekly podcast and am a big fan of your work. Thank you for the time and effort you boys are putting into this project, besides that you are providing us all with a lot of useful information. It is refreshing to follow discussions which stay more or less on point and on a somewhat civil level especially when compared to several of the major audio communities, e.g. KVR and Gearslutz.
As I mentioned, I am just a lowly composer... I do not consider myself a member of the golden PRO audio club just yet, but i have big hopes and dreams and working towards them. I work mainly with orchestral compositions (in the box) for smaller projects and documentaries and I have the desire to enter the video game industry.
All my work is done on a high end PC with with a standard non-raided disks using Pro Tools' round robin disk allocation feature. Recently as my projects have become larger I have started looking into more advanced storage solutions. There are currently many options out there, here are a few examples:
- Internal raid controller and SATA/SAS hdd raid
- Internal dedicated recording SSD
- Internal dedicated recording SSD raid
- External hdd raid disk array
- External SSD / SSD-raid array
- Enterprise iSCSI arrays
I was wondering what kind of storage solutions you are using and why (since you are all working in different audio segments). For example:
- Are you working with internal drives or are you using an external array?
- Are you using mechanical drives or have you switched to SSDs?
- Are you pleased with your current configuration or do you have it only as a placeholder until something better is available?
So as Steve asked what we all use we are all going to explain what are storage and backup solutions we have in place and whether we have any plans to improve them in place. Each team member is going to provide a detailed look at their storage solutions, how they are configured and why they have chosen what they have chosen. Let's start with my setup...
Mike's Pro Tools Storage Setup
I have had a succession of Mac tower machines going back to G3 and G4 towers before moving onto the Intel Mac Pro machines. I tell you this because the Mac Pro machines have bays for internal storage and in my 4 bays I have the following...
- Angelbird 512G SSD For Mac - This is my boot drive and you can read more about it in my review.
- Western Digital 3TB Enterprise Class drive - This drive is where I keep all my 50,000 plus sound effects, samples for VIs and all my videos for Pro Tools Expert, Groove 3 etc. I recently upgraded this drive because the old Seagate drive was coming to the end of its life.
- Western Digital 4TB Enterprise Class Drive - This drive is my main drive for all current and recent Pro Tools sessions.
- Seagate 8TB Archive Class Drive - This is my Time Machine Backup drive and I have Time Machine configured to backup the other three drives, my Macintosh HD boot drive, my Work Drive and my Storage drive. Time Machine is one part of my backup strategy.
For my other drives, I have a 5 slot chassis that is connected to my computer via ESATA. As cheesegrater Mac Pros don't have ESATA as standard I have a Sonnet Tempo card in one of my pci-e slots. In this chassis I have the following...
- Seagate 8TB Archive Class Drive - This is my session backup drive. When I used to use the Storcase removable caddy system (see below) I had a series of storage drives. This was because drives became the most cost effective way to store data. But around 12 months ago when I upgraded my storage solutions I copied all the data off my 7 storage drives as well as a box full of DVDs onto this backup drive.
- Western Digital 1 TB Drive - This is split into two partitions and contains backups of my two SSD drives. One old version, before I did a clean install of everything, and one a clone of the new SSD drive just after the clean install. These are static clones, they aren't being updated, but are there just in case I find something I missed from the clean install and also a version of my boot drive as close to the clean install as possible.
- Seagate 1.5 TB SATA Drive 1 - This is one of two drives that I will be retiring very soon. It was part of a batch of Seagate 1.5TB drives that started letting me down at around the same time and so it doesn't contain anything that isn't somewhere else.
- Seagate 1.5 TB SATA Drive 2 - The is the second of 2 soon to be retired drives. This was my drive that have archived Pro Tools sessions on it. Again there is nothing on it that isn't stored somewhere else.
- Seagate 2TB SATA Drive - This used to be my Time Machine backup drive and so is a parked drive and is a snap-shoot of my backup at the time I changed over to the 8TB drive. It may contain content that isn't elsewhere and so it is a useful archive drive from earlier times.
I am planning to take out both of the Seagate 1.5TB drive and install another 8TB Seagate archive drive and set it up as a clone of the session backup drive.
Keep The Drives Spinning
In earlier times I had a two slot Kingston Technology removable caddy chassis into which I could swap drives connected to my computer using Firewire 800. So I used to have two 'working drives' for my current and recent work, spread across both drives as well as a shelf full of storage drives.
When using drives as archive storage devices, parking them on the shelf can have its problems. If the drives are not spinning the bearings can become sticky so they when you put them back in they don't spin up, and if a drive doesn't spin you cannot get the data off it and your archive is lost. This was the major driver for me to get a large drive and then consolidate the shelf full of archive drives onto one drive that I can keep spinning. It also makes it a lot easier to put up any archive sessions too, as the drive is always connected to my system.
Why Use Enterprise Class Drives?
I am replacing my drives with Enterprise class drives, because they have a longer life span. There was a time when Seagate Barracuda drives had a 5 year warranty, not anymore. I believe that the manufacturer's warranty period is a good indication to the expected life span of a drive and I have seen the warranty period come down on Seagate drives hence my move to enterprise class drives. Yes they are more expensive but what price do you put on reliability?
What About The Cloud?
We run a Mac Mini as a File Server for the whole house with the aim that no documents etc are kept on local drives, and so all documents etc are all stored on one 500GB drive along with my library of software installers, again so I can access them from any Mac in the house. That drive is cloned every night onto a second drive and is also backed up to my Dropbox account. I have a 1TB Professional account with Dropbox. I changed to this solution when Copy pulled the plug on their service. I decided to go with a big player like Dropbox in the hope I wouldn't have another Copy like saga.
I also backup key selected projects and content to my Dropbox as well but it isn't practical to have all my projects backed up into the Cloud. I am considering getting another 8TB archive drive and storing that off site and rotating it with the other clone I am planning to give me a practical and cost effective off site backup.
So there is a breakdown of my storage setup, how it has developed, how it is configured and my plans for future development. Over the coming weeks each team member will be sharing their story, experiences and storage setup. Let us know what you think...