data backup
Brenda Bieger

Back It Up!

An old high school friend of mine is responsible for internet security for a large media company and he’s ALWAYS reminding me to update my passwords and pay close attention to my wireless networks. He also is the one who told me that if my data isn’t backed up in at least 3 places, it’s not actually backed up. For the longest time I didn’t take his recommendations seriously, until one day when I nearly paid the price for my negligence.

I dodged a bullet, however. I had literally just acted on his advice right before I had a hard drive crash that would have cost me a lot of headaches and money. Data recovery can cost well over $1,000 and that alone should be enough to persuade us to have a data back up strategy.

The Advice

It was simple, really. Just buy a few external hard drives and make redundant copies of my data. The added twist to this was that one of these would live off site at another location whether it be a relative’s, friend’s, or somewhere else you consider safe. That way should something so terrible like a fire or flood happen at your studio, your data lives on.

OWC has been a great resource for buying my hard drives ever since. While data storage can cost into the multiple thousands for RAID configurations and servers, it is likely that the budget most of us have to work with won’t allow for such a luxury (yet). It’s a bit more affordable sometimes to simply purchase single hard drives to serve this purpose, adding storage as your needs grow. If you’re incorporating the cost of a hard drive with each of your client’s sessions, your storage expense  shouldn’t grow too terribly quickly.

My Early Method

I bought five drives. One drive was dedicated to my Mac’s Time Machine while another drive served as my main work drive. My work drive was where I would work from, saving sessions and session assets leaving my Mac’s internal storage available for only systems and softwares. I would then back up my work drive and store old assets to second drive as well as copying those same files to another drive. The last drive was yet another copy that I kept at a friend’s house, bring it back every week or so for another back up.

Because of budget, these drives were 2TB, 7200 RPM externals from OWC. Solid state drives (SSD) are a bit more reliable in the long term because there are no moving parts in its construction. SSDs are also generally faster, too. They are also a lot more expensive. The drives I bought, however, worked perfectly and weren’t terribly expensive, in fact they are still in use today. Now that I was backed up with redundancies in place, I needed a quick system of backing up rather than manually doing it all of the time.


I reached out to my friend about how I could cut back on how long it took to do all of these back ups though affordability was still necessary. Turned out, it was quite easy. There are a couple of very reliable softwares that do the backing up automatically, and more importantly, daily. (Or nightly.) Every professional should be backing up data every day and these softwares take that boring chore off our plates.

One friend of mine has been using Carbon Copy Cloner with great results. I also recently saw that Chris Ronan Murphy uses the same software. Carbon Copy Cloner quickly identifies new files or modified files, and automatically backs them up. (If you set up a task for it to do so.) You can also create a clone of your boot drive on your computer should it ever crash,  so you can simply boot from the cloned drive after you’ve resolved your hardware issue. This software is under $40 and offers the features needed like scheduled tasks and boot drive cloning. Ronan discusses how he uses Carbon Copy Cloner before traveling abroad with his drives in this video.

The New Method

Now that I’ve surpassed 20TB of data storage I feel it’s time to consider a new method or system for backing up my data. I can finally try going RAID. What is RAID, you may be wondering? Redundant Array of Independent Disks. It’s basically doing what I’m already doing, just more quickly and simplified and in a single chassis. How RAID configurations save data can be different but generally speaking, it’s just a big bank of drives. I’ve already spent more money on external drives than I would have had I just bought a RAID configuration. However, even with a RAID solution, I would need offsite storage or an awesome bank vault that no fire could destroy. (I’d put my microphones in it, too!)

I’ve had colleagues pay a lot of money for data recovery because they didn’t have a data back up solution in place.  I didn’t want to be in that same situation myself. Any working professional should have an end of day back up routine, but I’d go even farther and say that any creative person should be making regular back ups, whether your a working professional or not. Your work is culturally significant.