Will our Protools backup scheme work?
December 12, 2005 5:33 AM   Subscribe

A few questions about our Pro-Tools setup.

We're concerned about performance and backing up data. What we had considered doing was:

a) purchase a Lacie drive (160 GB Firewire) ( to hang off our laptop Mac OS X 10.4) and persist our Digi 002 Protools (LE version 7) sessions.

b) purchase an external DVD writer and burn the sessions from every day onto DVD for the back catalog.

Can anybody foresee any problems with our setup? Might there be a more cost effective yet equally secure way to do it?
posted by jon_kill to Technology (7 answers total)
One problem with the systems that you've outlined are that both the backup and the originals will probably be stored in the same physical location. This is fine (and helpful) in the case of hard-drive failure, but disastrous in event of a fire, flood or break-in. If someone steals your studio equipment, they'll be likely to take the backup sets with them.

One option is to have two external drives. The first night, you back up onto drive 1 and then take it home. Second night, you back up onto drive 2 and then take that one home, remembering to bring in drive 1 the following morning. Repeat process ad infinitum. This relies on your motivation (can't be bothered to take the drive home) and memory (forgot to bring the drive in) though! The same thing can be accomplished more easily with DVD-Rs - just take them home after you've burned them.

Alternatively, if you have a broadband internet connection, you could backup your files to a remote server. I use Strongspace - 20gig of storage for $35 /month. The downside is that if you do need to backup, you'll need to download your files first.

I'd suggest a combination of remote backup and hard drive storage should serve you well. Of course, if this is a commercial studio and you'd lose a lot of money should the recordings get lost then you should look into professional backup systems.
posted by blag at 6:59 AM on December 12, 2005

Response by poster: Yeah, the DVDs were gonna be taken home from the studio, by at least two band members. It's not a pro studio but we plan on recording a lot and having a flexible catalog/backup system.
posted by jon_kill at 7:09 AM on December 12, 2005

The downside is that if you do need to backup, you'll need to download your files first.

should read:

The downside is that if you do need to restore from a backup, you'll need to download your files first.
posted by blag at 7:30 AM on December 12, 2005

I've been told that external Firewire drives are better for writing ProTools sessions to than the computer's internal drive. I've never verified this claim, but one engineer I know claims the Lacie external Firewire drives are better and faster than the ones that come in his Mac computers.
posted by skylar at 8:13 AM on December 12, 2005

Speed and reliability are mutually exclusive goals.

This translates to mean that you will need to pay more to get both.

I'll give you a concrete and simple example: RAID 0 and 1 mirroring.

RAID 0 joins two smaller drives together into one "virtual" drive that sits on your desktop. Because there are two drive controllers, data is split up and written to the two drives much faster than to one physical drive. The downside is that should one drive in this arrangement fail, the data on both drives are lost. RAID 0 is how you find most disk enclosures sold to the digital musician and video crowds, because it is an easy way to add speed.

RAID 1 takes two drives and mirrors the data on each. Data you write to one drive is written to the other. Writes take pretty much twice as long. Reads are generally not affected. If you're doing a lot of multitrack recording (writing) then this is an issue. On the other hand, if one drive suffers a hardware failure, the other drive takes over transparently and your studio is still up and running.

A single drive gives you neither mirroring nor striping (joining) so you don't get any backup at all, nor any speed benefit, other than that the drive will be slightly faster than your laptop drive. A single FireWire drive will be better than your laptop's drive in any case.

More complex RAID options join more than two drives and aim to give a specific balance of speed and reliability. But it is always a tradeoff. You'll need to decide which specification is more important to you, or come up with a system that meets your needs.

For example, you could have a fast, striped recording setup during the day. At the end of the day, hook up your fast storage to a slower backup setup, run a backup during off-hours, and you have a copy of the day's work.

On another tip, LaCie sells "BigDisks" that are essentially RAID 0 boxes: two drives stuck together. This, with FireWire 800, will give very good performance relative to a laptop drive, at the expense of reliability.
posted by Rothko at 10:05 AM on December 12, 2005

Note on the BigDisks, some of them don't even do RAID 0, rather than interleaving chunks between two disks, they seem to fill one disk and then spill to the next. This is slightly better than RAID0 from a reliability perspective (though still pretty crummy), and gives no performance boost.
posted by Good Brain at 10:41 AM on December 12, 2005

Something you might want to consider: I find the Lacie drives to be quite loud (my 150 GB model is in the process of dying, so perhaps my experience is unusual). I edit and produce radio pieces and interviews on my Mac, and back everything up to the Lacie just as you describe.

But what's frustrating is that I can't record voiceovers directly into my machine because of hard drive noise. So I end up doing voice work in another room, and then dumping it into my machine. This might not be an issue for you, but I thought it worth mentioning. Read up on the noise levels of drives before your purchase and/or figure out a way to store them away from your recording area (which is my current project).
posted by aladfar at 12:04 PM on December 12, 2005

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