How to back up your production files efficiently for the long run
I'm a nerd. I always search for better ways of what I do, how I do, and when I do. Likewise, I also search for better ways to back up my project files better and end up with my way.
My first job is to serve my clients. Music is an eternal thing, so my serving must be too. There can be artists who want a revision after a year for a song or need the stems for live shows. I have to be there for them whatever happens in the future. It doesn't matter if my house or my studio burn, and I may lose all my hard drives. I should have a system for all the situations like this. As I said, I’m a nerd.
If you're in the business for a time, you should know that everything sucks on someday. Your DAW crashes or gets corrupted, your third-party plugins don’t work with the new OS version that you just updated, or your hard drive doesn't work anymore for no reason. We have to think as if everything can suck someday, and we have to act like that.
Firstly, we have to learn how to save those projects. The first thing that I do after a project ends is cleaning it up. There can be some audio files that I don't use and don't need at all. I don't want them to take place on my drives and cloud for no reason. Every DAW has its cleaning up features, and as this blog post is not about cleaning up, I won't tell you how to do that. But you can read how I do this on Logic Pro on the blog post that I wrote about preparing your Logic Pro files for your mixing engineer, under the "Consolidate and clean up your files'' headline.
I can't be sure if I can reach those project files after 5 or 10 years. In case I can't reach them, I bounce the stem files after the cleaning up process. I use bus groups on my mixing template, so I solo those groups and click bounce. It costs me some time, but I don't have an assistant yet. There is some software that can do the work for you while you're preparing your dinner, but I'm not convinced if it's worth its money for now. Therefore, if you're bouncing too many files in a day, you can think about trying to Bounce Butler.
Saving stem files has another advantage. Some artists don't know if they would need them in the future, so they don't ask for those files in the first place, but they would need them to perform that track live.
A client of mine asked for the stems of the three years old project. I was using Pro Tools at those times, but I don't even have it on my computer anymore. Even if I was still using Pro Tools, I don't think that I would open that project and bounce the stems as they were because I don't have the same plugins anymore. Some of them are even not supported anymore. I bet that I would spend my whole day trying to send decent files. In the best case, I would subscribe to Pro Tools for a month, and it would cost me 30 dollars.
But guess what happened? Instead, those struggles, I went to Google Drive, found those projects, took the links of the stem files, and sent them to the client in 2 minutes while he was still on the phone, anxious about the situation. It saved me so much time and money while giving me the reputation of I'm always behind my work.
Let’s talk about how I run and keep those files. I work on all my project files via an external SSD. This way, I have an average of 100 GB of space on my MacBook Pro so that the system could work efficiently. If you run out of disk, your computer will start to slow down. It's not just my advice, also Apple suggests that working on an external SSD is better for CPU usage.
I also use Google Drive, which syncs with this SSD all the time. If I lose my drive, I can download all my files in minutes with a good internet connection. The good thing about syncing is that I save so much time while sending files away. I click the bounce button and send the link of the file that Google Drive just uploaded without even asking me. I also keep my old files on the cloud, so it's the first backup system that I have.
I have another hard drive that I use for more long-term backing up. I take my project there at the end of the workday. So in case I lose the project that day, or I do something irrevocable, I go for yesterday's backup. I use ChronoSync to sync those files. You can do this manually, but it’s much easier and faster with it. You can also use mirror drives by using ChronoSync, and it’s another option for back up your files. It has too many options in it but the main point for me is syncing one drive to another.
Maybe you will think that I'm crazy, but I have another hard drive for the long-term back-ups. I update it once a week or month to be sure that I have full insurance.
There are definitely other ways, but this is what works well for me. I hope you can learn something from it. Ciao.