There are a couple of approaches you can take to data storage in the modern recording studio, assuming you're not old school and record to tape. For this article let us assume you use drives to store data digitally.
The One Disk For All Approach
The first approach is to build a monster storage device that you keep all your projects/sessions on. The big storage device approach means;
A strategy for organising the data in a way that makes every project/session and song easy to find. This system is most likely a folder structure that at the top level has the client/session/song etc.
A good backup strategy that means your entire drive is backed up routinely to ensure any data loss is minimal. What we mean by a good backup strategy is that you have at the very least one copy of the data and an off-site copy too.
The second approach is to treat hard drives as you would have tape when we recorded on tape and had a separate drive for each client or perhaps each project.
The drive-as-tape approach means;
Clearly labelling each drive you have with a label maker like the Dymo ones.
Backing up the drive to ensure there is no loss of data.
Having a safe and secure place to store all the drives when not in use.
An aide-memoire to periodically spin the disks up for maintenance purposes.
Both approaches to organising studio data have their merits, but I'm becoming increasingly drawn to the drive-as-tape approach that I know some of my peers have been doing for years. The attraction of the drive-as-tape approach means I'm not constantly trying to buy bigger storage devices as I run out of capacity, which can happen every few months.
Furthermore, as with tape, I can also charge the cost of the storage to the client as part of the project and if they wish I can make a copy of it and let them have it if they wish, of course, once the project is paid in full.
The drive-as-tape approach also makes backing up easier, you buy two drives and clone them and at the same time push a third copy into the cloud as you go.
Of course there is a middle way which is to have a drive per client and then put all their work on it. I do this for some clients but it still means you end up with massive drives the longer the client is with you.
Calculating The Space Needed
Let's assume you are recording 100 stereo WAV tracks at 24bit, 44.1kHz for 5 minutes then a song is going to take up about 8gb. Then let's assume you have ten tracks on the session then you need about 100gb for that session. A 256gb SSD is less than £40 on Amazon, a portable hard drive about the same price, so for less than £100 you can have a drive for the project, a second cloned drive and push a third copy to the cloud for almost next to nothing. 100GB of Google Drive is £1.59/month, which again could be passed on as a cost to the client. If you are working in post-production, then you'll need to do the same maths to estimate what space you will need. One thing to note which is more common in film and TV than music, you may not be able to put the data in the cloud for security reasons, so check contracts before doing this.
There’s handy online DAW Disk Space Calculator here
What Do You Do?
One thing is clear drives are far less expensive than a roll of 2” tape which can hold around 4 songs at 30ips with tones etc. A quick look at prices for 2” tape new and you are unlikely to get change out of around £250. So buying a drive per project at around £50 isn’t excessive.
What method do you employ, a huge drive that contains all your client work or on a drive-as-tape method? We would be interested in your workflow and your experience of using either, tips always welcome!