Are You Backed Up? If Not, You Should Read This

09-22-2013 01:00 PM

The problem with backing up is that it is boring and time-consuming, and as equipment has become more reliable over the years we have become complacent about taking the time and trouble to do it. Then it all goes wrong at the worst possible moment and you are left stranded. So instead of waiting for the big bang, why not put a backup strategy into place now? That way, when something goes wrong, which it inevitably will, it will only be a minor inconvenience rather than a catastrophic failure.
I want to stress here the difference between backing up your system drive — that is, the drive with your computer’s operating system and applications — and backing up your media drives, which you use for your Pro Tools Sessions and so on. The focus of this article is the backing up of your media drives.
Hopefully, we have all heard the mantra ‘You aren’t backed up unless you have your data in three locations, one of which is off-site.’ In other words, you need the original file and two copies, preferably on different types of media, with one of those copies stored at a different location to the other two. The point is that if there were a fire or worse at your main location, you would still have a copy of all your data safely stored somewhere else.
The format that is in common usage now is the LTO format, which offers a range of capacities, with LTO-1 providing up to 100GB through to LTO-6 able to handle up to 2.5TB. Tape drives need software to enable you to use them. This means that you lock yourself into a format that might die, or lose software support, so you risk ending up with a load of backup tapes that you can’t retrieve any data from. Another down side of tape-based backup systems is that it takes time to restore a Session back off the tape onto a drive before you can restart work.
Hard drives
This format of backup is becoming more and more popular as a valid and effective way of backing up data. As the cost of drives continues to fall, it is also becoming a very cost-effective way to back up and archive data in the capacities that we need. 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, the lubricant in the bearings goes sticky and the drive may not spin up when you come to retrieve the data a couple of years later. To combat this, many people plug their backup drives in and run them once every six months, to help reduce the chance of sticky bearings. As with all types of backup media, you should always buy the best: 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 that offer a five-year warranty, such as Seagate. However more and more people are putting together large active drive systems where the drives are online all the time and the data can be kept more safely, as drive storage space is getting cheaper and cheaper.
Backing up by hand
One nice way of creating a backup and pulling everything involved in a Session together is to use the ‘Save Copy In’ option from the File menu. Save Copy In is, more often than not, used for saving a copy of a Session in a format for an earlier version of Pro Tools. However, Avid also designed it to be able to save a complete backup copy of a Session, including all the media, video files, plug-in settings and everything.
Semi-Automatic Systems
The alternative to manual backup is to use some form of archiving or synchronising software that will make sure that the backup media and the source media have the same data on them. There is a range of software packages to choose from. On the Mac front I use Synchronise! X Plus, like its posher brother Synchronise! Pro X, they both come from a great little company called Qdea, but be aware that when you buy the software you only buy a time-limited licence, which will need renewing if you want to continue to use it after two years. Another program I use for fully automated backups of my office-related files is Chronosync from Econ Technologies, as it is fully scriptable — I even have it configured to send me emails so I know whether the overnight backups have been successful, or if there have been any errors.
On the PC front, Neil recommends Microsoft’s SyncToy which is free, where as for more conventional backup work he recommends the free version of Paragon’s Backup And Recovery (there’s a paid version too if you want more but the free one offers ample features).
What about off site storage?

There are several generic cloud