In this article we are going to take a look at the Auto Backup feature built into Pro Tools. Note this isn’t an auto save feature where the sesion is saved every x minutes. It is an auto backup system where Pro Tools saves a copy of the session in a special Session Backup folder.
Make sure you are using the Pro Tools Auto backup feature as one day soon it will save your bacon! Go into the Operation tab of the Pro Tools Preferences and you will see a section where you can set up the Auto Backup option. With this option active, Pro Tools will save a copy of the session every x minutes. You can also set how many copies are kept.
Even with the Auto Backup option active, I still will hit Save regularly and especially after a particularly tricky edit so even if I have a problem in the 5 minutes since the last auto backup I won’t have to repeat that tricky edit again.
But neither of these options will protect you against a hard drive blip or even failure. To get protection against drive problems we need to back up all the session media only another drive or media type.
Backups are probably the most boring way to save your life
We hopefully have all heard the mantra “you aren’t backed up unless you have your data in 3 locations, one of which is off site”. In other words you need the original file and two copies preferably on different types of media and one of those copies stored at a different location to the other two so if there was a fire or worse at your main location you would still have a copy of all your data safely stored somewhere else.
The problem with backing up is that it is boring, time consuming and as equipment has become more reliable we become complacent about taking the trouble to backup until BANG it all goes wrong and then we panic!!
Better safe than sorry
So instead of waiting for the big bang why not put a backup strategy into place now so that when something goes wrong, which it inevitably will, it will only be a minor inconvenience rather than a catastrophic failure.
We really shouldn’t get complacent about hard drive failures. When I do, I always remind myself of a description I was given once, of how a hard drive works. When retrieving a piece of data they equated it to flying a jumbo jet at zero altitude and finding a needle in a haystack. Now that is for just one piece of data, your drive is doing this feat many many times a second and we complain when sometimes it doesn’t do it every time!! Another reason for complacency is that in the spec for every drive is a rating for ‘Mean Time Between Failure’ or MTBF for short. The problem is that this number is usually anywhere between 50 & 100 years! Not a real world number. A more common estimate for drive reliability is around 3 years especially for media drives which arguably get a much harder hammering than drives in normal office type computers. However you cannot rely on any of these figures. As drive recovery companies will tell you, hard drives can and do fail very early in life or go on long after they have meant to have died and gone to heaven so you cannot rely on these figures.
This format of backup is becoming more and more popular as a valid and effective way of backing up data with the cost of drives continuing to fall it is also becoming a very cost effective way to backup and archive data especially in the capacities that we need for with all the media relating to our Pro Tools sessions. The only possible drawback to this technique is that there is some evidence that if you leave a drive on the shelf for a significant period of time then the lubricant in the bearing goes sticky and the drive wouldn’t spin up when you come to retrieve the data a couple of years later. The other trick is to plug your back up drives and run them up once every six months to help reduce the chance of sticky bearings. As with all types of backup media always buy the best quality as there is no point in backing up and archiving your valuable sessions only to store them on a cheap old drive you had lying around. Stick to top grade brands with a five year warranty like Seagate.
You can use software to assist you in managing this kind of backup ad they are based on the concept of comparing two folders and copying across anything that is new. I use Synchronize! X Plus
that comes from a great little company called Qdea, both my clients and I find it simple and easy to use. There used to be a free application called Silverkeeper that came with LaCie drives but they have announced it is now ‘end of line’ so I would not advise you to go for it now.