In our last article we covered RAIDs, assembly and protools for setting up a great audio data delivery system. Now we’re going to cover the most important aspect of any data delivery system: backup and redundancy.
“I’ve Got A RAID 10. My Data Is Safe.”
Jesus Saves and So Should You. And that goes for backing up all your data. There’s a lot of myths about the best way to back things up. RAIDs, redundancy, tape media. There’s any number of ways to skin the data safety cat, but consider this scenario:
You have 4 TB of data which comprises your magnum opus directorial work on a 2.5 hour feature film. You’re working with files on a 10 drive RAID 1+0. Nice. Moreover, you have a 4 TB single drive which you have everything copied on, and you have it safely stored in your closet. This is a pretty “safe” data backup situation, and it’s unlikely that you’d lose all three copies of this data. The RAID 10 gives you a fast access to the data as you read and instant backup to anything which is new, and the periodic backing up to the single drive takes care of anything which might happen to the whole system.
But check this out: it’s a dark and stormy night. You’re doing a render, and you leave to get something to eat.
Lightning strikes the flagpole on your house, and sends a strong electrical spike through your electrical system. It fries everything, but before it does, the computer, which was in the middle of a write cycle, corrupts the file architecture, and because you’re in RAID 10, the backup is also corrupted. The whole system goes down. The lighting causes a fire, and your home burns down…including your closet 4TB drive. All. Your. Data. Is. Lost.
Now, this is a pretty crazy circumstance, and there is no way to fully protect your data. Some say “tape backup is best,” but fire and EMP kill that. Some say optical, but at 35 GB a disk, do you really want to spend 5 years and hundreds of disks writing Blu-Rays? No. The best solution is one which gives maximum protection, maximum speed and minimum effort. My way is by no means the right way. I’ve had my share of lost data, and since I’m sort of OCD about hard drives anyway, sometimes my very tinkering has me lose data. Yeah. Stupid. I know. But here is what we do and the rules I suggest you consider:
The Rules For Backup
No matter what the configuration of RAID, NO RAID SHOULD BE CONSIDERED A TRUE BACKUP. Remember, the more drives you have in a RAID, the more the chances of failure. And while RAID 10/5/6/1 offer some redundancy, no RAID of three drives or more has a lower failure rate than a single drive (manufacturer notwithstanding). Of course a two drive RAID 1 system is the exception.
• Do not use any RAID which has non-parity redundancy. In other words, don’t ever use RAID 1 or 10. Why? Because if a corruption happens on a read or write, your backup is also equally corrupted. All that money you spent on mirroring actually caused you to lose your data. Instead, use a cloning application which has a scheduled backup to, ideally, a single drive (I use Carbon Copy Cloner). This way, if a corruption happens, you can easily stop the cloning program, and restore from your backup.
• NEVER. USE. TIME. MACHINE (Mac folks only)
• Have two backups of all your data on single disk drives. One stays at your place. Another doesn’t.
• Back everything up to tape if you can afford it.
• Back up mission critical documents to the cloud. Footage is usually too much, but your sessions, projects and AE files, yes. It’s reasonably feasible to back up entire audio mixes as well.
Is this plan perfect? Nope. Does it protect against EMP? No, unless your off-site backup is 30 miles away. But for smaller budgets and home locations, this one works.
This article is by no means the de facto standard of how to do data delivery for audio, but I hope it gets you rolling in the right direction. As always, feel free to comment on your experiences so we can all learn, laugh and love.
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