In part 8 of our Getting To Grips With Pro Tools series, we are going to take a look at the Auto Backup feature built into Pro Tools as well as a simple first step to backing up your sessions onto another drive.
Auto Backup In 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 Operations 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 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 have become more complacent about taking the trouble to back up 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 rotational 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 1 to 2 years, especially for normal drives. It has been interesting to see the warranty period on hard drives drop as the price has dropped. I recently had to replace several drives that were coming to the end of their life. When I bought them, they had a 3-year warranty. The replacements from the same drive manufacturer, same model etc, now only have a 1-year warranty, so I shopped around for brands and grades of drives with a 3-year warranty. However you cannot rely on any of these figures, but they are a guide as to how long the manufacturer thinks they may last. 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.
Backing Up Onto Hard Drives
This format of backup is now the norm and an effective way of backing up data with the cost of rotational drives so low, it is also 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 some older drives on the shelf for a significant period of time, then the lubricant in the bearing can go sticky and the drive wouldn’t spin up when you come to retrieve the data a couple of years later. One trick is to plug in 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. For example, check out the Enterprise class drives that G-Technology uses in their storage solutions.
As drive capacities have increased it is now possible to get dedicated archive drives. I bought a Seagate Archive HDD v2 8TB SATA 6Gb/s 128MB Cache Internal Bare Drive with SMR Technology 3.5" - ST8000AS0022 for around £200. I was then able to copy the material from all my archive drives as well as backup DVDs etc to create one master archive drive, which I could keep online and spinning. This also had the advantage of having my entire archive of sessions stretching back 10 years or so online and accessible. The downside is I have all my eggs in one basket. If that 8TB fails I lose all my backups. So the plan is to get another two and clone the master archive drive and then rotate these so one of them is always off-site, and so meeting the criteria of having the data backed u in 3 places with one off-site.
For me, SSDs are still too expensive to use for backup and there is some debate as to their ability to store data for long periods. I have no doubt this will change but for now, rotational archive drives are a very cost-effective solution.
What Software To Use?
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. For cloning and scheduled backups, I use Carbon Copy Cloner. On the PC front, I am aware of is Norton Security With Backup and Syncromat from Usov Labs, but I don't have personal hands-on experience of either of these.
What software do you use to manage your backups onto hard drives?
Next time in Getting To Grips With Pro Tools we will look at creating Templates in Pro Tools.