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In the last Multiverse blog, we talked about Linear Tape-Open (LTO) and why it is such a great archival and storage system. In keeping with this theme of data backup and how it affects the video production realm, here we are going to take a look at the dangers of not having multiple copies of important media files…and how VERY common it is for hard drives to fail.
There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who have experienced a hard drive failure, and those who are about to. While this is obviously stated with a bit of cynicism and humor, it is important to make sure this common occurrence does not lead to the loss of vital information with regard to video production elements.
What’s a Hard Drive Backup System?
The purpose of a hard drive backup system is to ensure that your digital data can survive any of the hazards that undoubtedly await. In principle and on paper, this is a straightforward process: Copy all of your files to some other device(s), keep the backup somewhere safe and use it to restore the data in the event of a problem. And sure, if you’re a one-computer user and everything you want to preserve can fit on one hard drive, it really can be as simple as this.
For many of Multiverse’s clients, however, things get a little more complex. The images and footage that need to be backed up may not reside on one computer, much less on one hard drive, and there are likely multiple versions of the images. For video projects, there are always additional project files and assets – such as graphics and music – that must be analyzed to determine which are going to be kept and how that’s all going to be kept organized. How do you update backups as you work on files? How do you validate the backups so you can be certain that the archive can be properly restored in the event of a problem?
Here’s where looking at the tools used in backups comes into play, allowing us to see how we can put it all together safely and efficiently.
Hard Drive Backup Backup System Tools
I. Primary vs. Backups
While it may sound obvious, you can’t create a good backup strategy until you know what you’re actually backing up. What’s needed here and what Multiverse Media Group uses on a regular basis is a primary copy of the data before backups are created. If there is no primary copy, how can a backup system not always feel like a mess? At each stage of an image’s lifecycle, for example, you need to know which is the primary copy of the data.
II. The 3-2-1 Rule
The simplest way to remember how to back up images and video footage is to use what we call the “3-2-1 Rule”:
- We recommend keeping THREE copies of any important file (a primary and two backups).
- We recommend having the files on TWO different media types (such as hard drive and optical media) to protect against different kinds of hazards.
- ONE copy should ideally be stored offsite – or at least offline.
Of course, while 3-2-1 storage is the ideal arrangement, we understand that it’s not always possible; a second media type, for example, is impractical for many businesses during the “ingestion” or “working file” stage. In these cases, many businesses dealing with video make do with hard-drive-only copies of their data. Still, the best practices continue to require three copies and some physical separation between the copies.
III. Solutions to Combat Threats
In order to design a hard drive backup system that works for you, it’s important to understand the kinds of problems associated with – and that can lead to – data loss. Here are some of the dangers that can threaten your data’s well-being:
- Device failure
- Malicious damage
- Volume and directory glitches
- Transfer corruption
- Lightning strike/voltage surge
- Fire or water damage
- Human error
Offline backups that don’t get updated immediately are a valuable part of protection against these threats.
In continuing with that theme, one of the best tools to combat threats such as this has been:
IV. Online Backup Services
Currently, there has emerged an easier way to secure irreplaceable documents, media files and even video production elements: Have an online backup service automatically upload them to the cloud. As much as we take them for granted, hard drives are incredibly complex and any number of things, as we have been discussing, can render them useless at any moment. Hard drives crash, operating systems become corrupted and more traditional disasters like fires, floods and earthquakes can spell the end of your digital media and documents.
While the most diligent among us perform backups at regular intervals, the rest have been turning to online backup services to protect these digital goods. Online backup services have a user install software on a PC that scans storage for files worthy of backup, encrypt them for security and send them up to the good ole cloud. Once files are stored on those cloud servers, they’re accessible for restoration to the same PC should a file go missing. In many cases, the service allows access to files from Web browsers and mobile devices.
It’s only a matter of time before we all lose a hard drive with precious images or video files. But this terrible experience should get you on the road to a truly secure and comprehensive backup system…one that will help you learn the parts of a secure setup for your data and hopefully avoid the perils many that have come before you have faced.