Tape Op #108 - Larry's opening question on data backups

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b3groover
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Tape Op #108 - Larry's opening question on data backups

Post by b3groover » Wed Jul 15, 2015 11:36 am

I'm enjoying the latest, as I always do. Thanks to everyone who keeps Tape Op going.

Regarding Larry Crane's opening paragraphs on the issue of client data, I'd like to perhaps offer a few insights.

Long-term storage of data is a major problem and is only going to get worse as time moves on and we require more and more bytes.

Backing up data on harddrives is not the best idea. Harddrives only have a shelf life of about 10 years or so and should be "spun up" once a year and not sitting on a shelf powered down for long lengths of time. As amazing as they are, they are a finicky technology and not suitable for long-term data storage.

In an ironic twist, since Larry mentions he would never store all the analog tapes necessary for the sessions he's done, currently the best back-up solution is actually... tape. Digital Linear Tape or DLT to be exact.

At a local studio where I often work as both a musician and engineer, the owner utilizes DLT tape backups for every session he does. DLT is expensive; the drives themselves are around $1000 (with some high capacity models costing twice that) and tape is often $50 to $100 for each cartridge. But it's the most reliable solution there is and he includes those charges (for the media itself) in his studio rates. I can ask him to bring up a ProTools session I did 12 years ago and I know with confidence (as does he) that it will be there archived on the tape, ready to restore. He keeps all the tapes in a cabinet and a spreedsheet on his computer detailing the contents of every tape.

I would highly recommend that professional studios invest in a reliable back-up system for client's data.
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Post by JGriffin » Thu Jul 16, 2015 11:54 am

Good stuff! I'd also suggest that engineers and studios have a clear understanding with clients as to who is responsible for keeping and maintaining backups. I try to keep everything, but any media can fail in some way - and for the rates some clients are able to pay I don't want the responsibility of storing their project files indefinitely. Those clients are (nicely) advised to take their files away on a drive, and not to expect that I'll have them forever.
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Post by kslight » Thu Jul 16, 2015 1:06 pm

Yeah like with any other business that will handle clients digital files, maintaining these files for an extended period of time is a billable service. Even if you have a perfect onsite backup medium, all it takes is one catastrophe to destroy it all. That linear tape backup system is worthless after a studio fire destroys it, just like any other onsite backup. Thus I would not want to be legally responsible in such an instance, and if the client values the long term integrity of their files then there are going to be ongoing associated costs to securely maintain them..offsite AND onsite.

It is a nice practice to archive client data just because, and on the hopes that they call you in 10 years to remaster into a new format, or whatever. But in the instance that your backup fails for whatever reason, it would be best that the client understands the implications and they need to maintain backups as well, and or pay for data management (provided by the studio or a specialist). It would be my concern that charging a one time media fee for the studio to keep onsite implies the studio in its data integrity and as a data management service. So if a studio chooses to employ a media fee, they should also have in writing exactly the extent of their responsibility, if any, to CYOA. If the studio instead tells the client to provide their own media and for the client to take it home and make their own backups...the studio is not implicated.

I am not in the business of providing legal advice, but I know I would hate to be a small studio owner with good intentions only to get sued by the only client that makes it big in 10 years and needs to remix and rerelease their back catalog....or whatever.

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Post by b3groover » Sun Jul 19, 2015 11:53 am

Very good points. I do not know if he has a stipulation concerning the backups. I will ask and suggest he add something to his contract in case he doesn't.
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Post by ott0bot » Sun Jul 19, 2015 2:55 pm

Good info. After a session I use archival DVD's for back up. I usually keep a copy if it's a client I work with on a regular basis. I also keep copies on both of my back up drives. I don't do enough projects to warrant anything too pricey. For bigger sessions archival bluray could work too. I mean 100 year shelf life when stored properly seems pretty good, but they haven't been around for 100 years to confirm the truth of their longevity claims.

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Post by digitaldrummer » Mon Jul 20, 2015 12:17 pm

another consideration....

in 10 years, you can expect to see (like we saw in the last 10)...

-- changes in DAW software (most offer updates every 1-2 years)
-- changes in plugins (many times driven by the DAW change)
-- changes in operating systems (Apple and MSFT want more of your $$ too, although many changes are driven by Intel hw changes)
-- interfaces for converters (USB, FW, thunderbolt I, II, etc)
-- interfaces for hard disks (PATA, SATA, FW, USB2, USB3, etc.)
-- changes in media type (floppy/CD/DVD/BluRay)
-- tape (DAT/DLT/etc)
the list goes on...

and although many of these changes maintain backward compatibility, there comes a time for every technology where it is no longer feasible and then you are forced to change. how many people kept tapes but nothing to playback on? I kept some favorite LPs but I have not had a turntable in 20 years.

right now we are starting to see Flash (SSDs) come down in price. Its not quite on par with spinning disk, but it will catch up pretty soon. I was asking my clients to buy 16/32/64GB flash memory sticks (so they can take their sessions/masters with them), but now SSDs are getting cheap enough. Of course these are only as good as long as we still have USB or SATA ports to connect them to. so don't throw out your old computer either!

and btw, CD/DVDs don't last forever either. especially if sunlight hits them. I've been archiving to DVD, copying to a USB stick or SSD, and sometimes have a copy on my HDD or in the cloud (a lot of free but not always reliable storage out there..)

Mike

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