In this article we suggest several essential safeguarding solutions and highlight the problems they endeavour to solve. Safeguarding our recording studios requires a considered approach, it is so much more than just general security, protecting our gear from theft. Events that can impact our studios for the worse usually happen out of the blue, which can cause major upheaval in the day to day running of our studios.
For working audio professionals, safeguarding their studios is a necessary means of protecting their earning potential. They know that if their gear is no longer available for whatever reason, they will be unable to earn.
If the following preventative measures are not in place in your studio you run a high risk of learning a costly lesson. Don’t be that person who didn't take action. Think smart, put some of the following safeguarding measures in place in your studio before it’s too late.
What If The Power Goes Out In My Recording Studio Suddenly?
Mains electricity can be unpredictable at times, for most people power cuts are unusual, but they still happen and without warning. But a single power cut can't damage studio gear, can it? Think again. Several years ago a power cut toasted one of my outboard preamps. Another power cut destroyed a cheap, but useful, computer display. Power cuts happen, and when they do, you want your beloved studio gear, computer or critical media drives to be safe, wouldn't you?
There are several essential systems that you need to consider if you have not yet given this particular scenario any thought. In the event of a power outage, the following devices will provide you with precious time to respond to the power cut and peace of mind that your essential gear is safe and sound.
The Powers Of Power Conditioners
Power conditioners have never been the sexiest piece of gear you can buy for your studio. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't consider getting one. They play an important role in any studio, even if they don't appear to be doing anything while sitting next to a tasty tube EQs or compressors. If you own a selection of expensive outboard gear you owe it to yourself, and your gear, to protect those investments. Power cuts can be silent killers of gear.
Power conditioners also maintain a clean, smooth and consistent supply of power which can improve the sound of outboard gear. Many trustworthy power conditioners include RFI and EMI filters which lower the noise floor from domestic electricity supplies. In the event of a power cut no power spikes can get past. If I had a power conditioner at the time my preamp was hit the day of that fateful power cut I know my pre would have survived. As for computer display, luckily it was cheap to replace.
UPS - Uninterruptible Power Supplies
Uninterruptible Power Supplies are a beefed-up approach for safeguarding your studio from sudden power cuts. In the event of a power failure, these devices are designed to switch to temporary power so that your essential services do not fall over. They are not intended to run for hours but are enough to give you the time to save and back-up your work until you can get back to work. Depending on your needs a UPS can be a relatively inexpensive investment for a small studio, so consider one to ensure that if the lights go out on you studio they don’t go out on your creative efforts.
All uninterruptible power supplies are not created equal. There are three main types you need to know of if you are considering getting one for your studio:
Offline/Standby UPS: These work by supplying your computer with power directly from your wall socket while the internal battery waits charged on standby. In the event of a power outage standby the UPS recognises it and automatically shifts to battery power. These may be ok for computers but the process of switching from mains to a battery in some of these types of UPS devices can cause a temporary dip in power which can be dangerous for some types of studio equipment.
Online UPS: These are quite pricey but still worth considering. Unlike standby UPS which only switch of AC to DC when a power cut occurs, online UPS devices provide constant power through its battery before sending it to your gear.
Line-Interactive UPS: These are widely considered the best allrounder UPS and cost a lot less than most online UPS systems. They use a particular kind of transformer which can vary output voltage in response to temporary power changes. If the power drops in your studio the transformer can manage a steady output without turning over to the battery.
Our friends at OWC and MacSales.com is a great source for the well-regarded APC Back-UPS line, which also includes a $150,000 equipment protection policy.
Anyone who has worked in digital creative production long enough knows first hand the pain of losing a drive. The experience is only ever painful if the media on those dead drives were not backed up. It's twice as painful if the lost media turns out to be unretrievable or uneconomical to restore through specialist services. This is a regrettable lesson many have had to learn the hard way, if it hasn’t happened to you yet then you are on borrowed time.
Any form of hard drive, be it internal storage or external are cheap to source. There is no excuse these days for not having at least one backup drive working in your studio. Though, to be totally backed up you will need a third backup in place, preferably off-site to protect your media assets from possible theft, fire or “act of god” events.
Hard drives often fail suddenly due to power cuts or mechanical failure over time. Count your lucky stars if you notice a fault with a drive early on. These sorts of heads-up give you valuable time to lifeboat your digital assets across to another drive before total drive failure, but such luck is rare. It's smart to always assume your drives will die on you without warning especially if your drives are over four years old. Thinking this way will force you to not only get a backup solution in place that works but also maintain a regular backup procedure. After all, there's little to no point having any backup systems in your studio if backups are not scheduled regularly.
The following four point strategy is a good rule of thumb to use when considering a backup solution:
What do you need to backup?
Where will you backup?
How will you backup?
When will you backup?
What If My Studio Gear Suddenly Breaks Or Criminals Have Broken In?
I consider myself lucky that burglars have not targeted my studio. There have been small inexpensive items disappear from time to time in my studio but regardless of the cost, it is still a gut-wrenching feeling when you discover your gear has been stolen. Though I have never been burgled, I still safeguard my studio from theft.
But what if studio gear suddenly stops working due to a design flaw or failure? This can feel a little bit like theft. Either way, theft or sudden failures of gear leaves us without the tools we rely on to get work done in our studios. What can we do to safeguard our equipment? The following solutions focus solely on protecting and replacing recording studio assets.
Recording Studio Security
Assuming our studios are safe from opportunistic thieves is unwise. Thieves are smart and if they want access to your studio in the dead of night they will find a way unless you have measures in place that can make them think twice.
In the following two articles, we explain how we addressed our studio security.
Recording Studio Insurance
Worst case scenario. Your studio has been broken into, some of your essential and pricy studio gear is gone, what next? In these difficult times you should be safe in the knowledge that your insurance company will support you in replacing your stolen property. Many people don't believe in paying for insurance policies as they believe they will never need it, but what if one day they do?
Insurance is another safeguarding measure that can support you if the worst were to happen, not just against theft but other events that can destroy your studio and assets within. Insurance isn't expensive if you choose only to cover the essential and expensive gear you need back. Many policies offer a reduction in cost if you state that you are prepared to pay a higher excess in the event of a claim. With insurance, I can not afford not to have it. If I needed it and it wasn't there the cost of getting my studio up and running again would be impossible.
When you buy any form of technology from a dealer, it will come with a warranty. If, one day, an item you purchased decided to fail within its warranty period you are well within your consumer rights to request a replacement or free repair service. Some companies, such as Apple, offer extended warranties that cover your purchase over several years. For studio computers used in a professional capacity, we strongly suggest you opt for these extended warranties. They have proven to many of us on The Production Expert Team to be absolute lifesavers and well worth the extra spend.
This article was never intended to alarm anyone, instead, it’s intended to inspire us to take better care of our studios. Studio gear isn’t always cheap, most of us have worked very hard to get it and it’s all too easy to take our studios for granted when we are busy producing amazing music.