Avoid losing months of your work

Tips for securing your own data

An article by Erwin Timmerman


DAWs are great. They are relatively cheap, and you can produce quality recordings that would have cost you multiple times as much when you would have wanted the same sound quality on analog equipment. Not to mention the great digital effects boards or plug-ins you can have fun with.

BUT... the drawback of DAWs is that they store their data on relatively vulnerable media, for example, on a harddrive. A tape can degrade somewhat in time, and lose a bit of it's sound quality, but the information will still be there. A hard drive on the other hand uses electronic and very complex micro mechanical parts, which all can become defective. If it DOES break down, count on it that ALL it's data is gone (unless you're willing to spend several grand on a data recovery company, who can try to recover it for you), whereas when a tape gets trashed in the recorder, it will still partly be readable.

When you're using a PC-DAW running Windows, apart from hardware defects, you might get struck by a virus attack. Or even just some program that didn't install correctly and wiped a disk (I personally KNOW somebody to whom this has actually happened).  Or a defragmentation session that crashed. And finally there is always a chance that you'll have fire or your computer or gear is stolen. Insurance can never pay for your lost work.

Granted, all these things by themselves do not have a very large chance of happening. Yet, mid 1999, it happened to Chris Gieseke.   Chris is a very well known person over on the alt.music.4-track newsgroup, and has authored an article about Getting Started in Recording for the Independent Music Site.  Soon after his crash, he posted the following letter:

> My main hard drive on my DAW died this weekend and took

> with it 4 months worth of songwriting.

So, it DOES happen. Computer stuff is great, it can make you do things you never dreamed of, but it can ruin your life's work in a split second as well, if you're not careful. Being careful in this case means: MAKE BACKUPS.

Why wouldn't you be careful? The reason is quite obvious. Someone on the Yamaha A3000 mailing list lost a lot of work because of a HD crash. In his "HELP HELP HELP" message he said something I too often hear: "I didn't bother to think about backups, because I never had a problem before.."

That, my friends, is the most important reason some people occasionally lose their life's work simply because they didn't have a stupid backup. Most of the time people start to backup their files AFTER the first crash. It's up to you if you want to take that chance.

Consider this: how much time would YOU lose if you suddenly lost all your files right now (for example by HD-crash)? One week? One month? Your complete project? Think about this for a while and then decide if you want to take this risk, even though it is small.

For people who don't want to take this chance of losing data, here are some tips.

In a HD-rec situation this would mean: use ZIP disks or CD writers, and always store your projects twice, on two different ZIP's or CD's. If you have your DAW attached to your PC with a burner do a SCSI copy of the harddisks or ZIPs to your burner (in the Teklab software archive, there's a program called disk2file that can do this). In the case of ZIPs it wastes 550 MEGS per CD, but CD's are quite cheap (you can even use REwritables) and your work is invaluable.

Maybe all this seems a bit of overkill. Well, hopefully you will make all your backups for nothing (which means that you don't need them because there is no crash or fire or ...). But I know several people personally who got into trouble because they lost their files. One lost ALL his ACAD drawings, a few years work, and didn't have any backup. I also know someone who has put a tapestreamer in his PC after I strongly urged him to do so, and he is very glad he did it because the thing has saved him once already.

So: making backups may seem a waste of time, but will prove to be invaluable when you suddenly need them. And believe me, sooner or later, you will. Don't get caught by surprise.


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