Ok I’m a little reluctant on this one as this is definitely a case of don’t do it this way! I should qualify this by saying that unlike the rest of the team, as someone who doesn’t run their own business what I am describing is my regime (or lack thereof) for managing my personal data. My “work” data is part of a large institution with professional backup in place as administered by an IT department.
It has been my intention for quite a long time to invest in a RAID NAS enclosure. I like the look of the Drobos though other options exist. My intention to invest (invest really is the wrong word here…) in a RAID but my reluctance to spend the significant amount of money such a solution involves has led to me relying on manual backups until I eventually consolidate my backups on to a RAID.
So what is the ugly truth?
For backup of my main work computer I run automated backups on to my 2TB WD MyCloud, Important files are also backed up to Dropbox and I have a bootable clone of my system drive which I run manually maybe once a month. If it weren’t for my dropbox syncing important documents and files across all my devices I’d be concerned about this but considering my professional work is secure already I’m satisfied with this for personal documents.
For Pro Tools sessions I used to use my 500GB Glyph as my working drive, I’m sure the size gives the clue as to the age of that drive but it’s still on the shelf as an additional archive, though it doesn’t get spun up very often these days as it is preposterously noisy! Back in the old days (I forget precisely which version this changed at but I’m sure I was still doing it for PT 7.4) you had to have a qualifying drive with the correct chipset to run Pro Tools sessions from an external drive. This was my qualified drive. In those days I’m pretty sure I was backing up to CDR, spanning sessions across multiple discs, DVD-R seemed such a luxury when I finally got one.
I still have the successor to the Glyph on the shelf next to it. A 1TB WD MyBook. These have good connectivity, though not as good as the Glyph, part of the reason why that is still on the shelf is because it is occasionally very useful when the firewire buss needs extending further than usual having dual 800 and a 400 port. Firewire, and particularly Firewire 400 isn’t somewhere I go often these days but there are plenty of FW interfaces around, including my pensioned off but not yet disposed of 003R. The MyBook enclosure has always bothered me though. It’s designed to stand upright but is alarmingly top heavy and the slightest knock or pull on a cable makes it fall over with a none too encouraging crash - not good during read/write. Because of this it has lived on it’s side for a long time.
For Pro Tools work and backup, these days I’m using a 3.5” HDD dock. The dock I have is USB3 and while I’ve looked at Thunderbolt drives, I’ve never had any issues using this system even for quite large sessions. I always run with disc cache enabled and for any proper tracking work I have always recorded using TDM or more recently HDX systems.
Carbon Copy Cloner
While the biggest transformation I could make to my data management is to put my hand in my pocket and buy the RAID I’ve been meaning to get for a while. Instead I choose to fritter my available funds on luxuries like food and accommodation… Joking aside, the product which has made the biggest impact on my data recently has been buying a copy of Carbon Copy Cloner. This is an essential and I have a couple of WD MyPassport Ultras which I have partitioned into clones of my system drives, both current and the previous OS. It makes taking the plunge of wiping your drive and upgrading (should that be “downgrading”) to the newest OS much less of a commitment.
An off-site backup option which I no longer use is Gobbler. When Gobbler first launched they ran a (for the time) generous free offer to academic users of 25 gigabytes and I used to use that as an off site backup for archived versions of Pro Tools sessions. I never really took to the new version of Gobbler and the data was abandoned when they moved to the new model. We all know that commercial cloud based storage, while technically very secure is vulnerable from a business perspective, luckily I wasn’t ever a Copy user so I wasn’t affected by the closure of that system.
Bigger, Faster Drives But The Same Issues
I’m concerned for the future of data in general, and I know I’m not alone. Hard drives fail with use and seize when stored. Optical media deteriorate over time and many modern computers don’t have drives to read them, businesses offer cloud storage but only for as long as those businesses turn a profit. I recently resurrected a 15 year old PC laptop and the availability of a floppy drive prompted me to look through the contents of the handful of floppy discs I still have. It made me think about how in the mid 90s we were straining against the capacity of our external media. 1.44Mb was tiny and spanning files across multiple discs took an age. Who would have thought that in 2016 we’d still be trying to share data through insufficiently small storage which takes too long to access - I’m talking about my Dropbox account here but it could just as easily be my free Avid collaboration account.