Wrap Your Head Around Backups —  Musicians Edition

Wrap Your Head Around Backups — Musicians Edition

You know you need it but just the thought of it is so… boring. I get it. I get that feeling too and I’m a techie! That said, if making music is your business, then you have to set yourself up for success by being prepared as much as possible. Here’s how to do it.

The gist is, you want

  • a setup that makes sense for your work
  • a physical backup (or two) — this would be the fastest recovery method
  • a cloud backup — slower than physical, but good to have in case your physical backup is also lost.
  • a workflow that will allow you to focus on music, not backups!

The Setup

Here are a few types of files you might primarily be concerned about

  • Your “finished products”: releases, artwork, and any other accompanying document. You need to be able to access those from anywhere, quickly. For that, I recommend saving them to a synchronized cloud storage service like DropBox, Box, iCloud, GoogleDrive so that you can get to them from any of your devices anytime. I personally use DropBox, which is $9.99/month for 1TB
  • Your recording projects such as Logic Pro X or ProTools sessions. Depending on how much you’ve got, it may or may not make sense to have it all in Dropbox. I personally save the recent ones/the ones I’m currently working on in Dropbox for easier collaboration. If you are very prolific and are running out of space to store them, you could move those to an external drive. Let’s call this your archive drive. You may have multiple ones.
  • Your sample libraries and loops such as EastWest, Ivory or ThatSound. These easily take up a lot of storage. Left on your main computer, you will quickly find your system slowed down to a crawl due to lack of space. It would make more sense to move those to a separate drive. I am moving all of mine to a 4TB external drive that I call the sample library drive: https://www.logicprohelp.com/move-logics-additional-content-secondary-drive/

Physical Backup + Cloud Backup service

Dropbox and similar services only provide a convenient way to access particular files (that are in the Dropbox folder). It does not store all your other stuff such as app data, mail, downloads, documents, etc. For that, you want a true backup system. Preferably, you want both a physical and cloud backup for extra protection.

Physical Backup

First let’s talk physical backup. If you’re a Mac user, you already have the most intuitive backup system at your fingertips: Time Machine. If you’re on Windows, perhaps Genie might be a comparable alternative. If you’re on Linux, you probably don’t need my help ;-)

Time Machine basically stores a copy of your system and files and allows you to “go back in time” by restoring your system with all its files exactly as it was at a particular point in the past. Let’s say you installed some new software that completely screwed things up, you can just go back and pretend it never happened. How far back you can go depends on how much storage space you have for the backups. Time Machine will do an initial full backup (which may take an entire day), then incrementally save the changes you make. It’s very easy to set up. You can also encrypt the backup.

There is one catch. Time Machine backups are not bootable. If your computer’s main drive is completely fried, you need to be able to boot from something before you can restore from Time Machine. For this reason, it is also advisable to have a bootable backup of your main drive. This would especially come in handy when you’re on deadline. You can do so using Carbon Copy Clone ($39.99) or using the Mac’s free Disk Utility to do it manually. CCC allows you to schedule it and make automatic incremental backups, which is nice.

Cloud Backup

Why do you need this? Well, let’s say someone broke into your house and stole both your computer and your backup drive. Then what?

I am currently researching options. Here are a few:

BackBlaze offers unlimited storage, advanced security features, they’ll send you a hard drive anywhere in the world for free if you need to restore your data. It has a 15-day trial and then it’s about $5/month per device. It works with both Mac & Windows.

Synchronize! Pro is the only one that offers a bootable backup. It seems to also offer unlimited storage and archiving capabilities to free up space on your drive. Unfortunately it does not support versions of Mac OS more recent than 10.10. We are currently on 10.14 so that’s a problem in the long run if the software is going to be discontinued. It works on Mac only.

CrashPlan keeps your deleted files forever, has unlimited storage, advanced security features. It is used by many large corporations so it is unlikely to go away soon. However it is the most expensive option I found so far. It offers a free month trial then is $10/month per device for the small business option. It works on both Mac & Windows.

Final Thoughts

Arguably, the online backup systems could be a replacement for the physical backups. The only caveat is that, when on deadline, you want to be able to get your stuff fast.

Remember, you want a “set it and forget it” system so that you can do it once, then go back to way more interesting tasks like making music :-)

Credits:
The tips were compiled from a forum discussion I had with a few other ladies (and gents) in the biz. Thanks to Patti Boss, Carla Kay Barlow, Anne House, Michelle Lockey, Bill Lefler for sharing their strategies with me.


Wrap Your Head Around Backups —  Musicians Edition was originally published in SmartMusicianGuide on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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