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What do producers use to back up their music content (tracks, songs, instrumentals etc.). I know the computer itself act as a storage for music but what do they use as a secondary back-up option considering they could lose the data on their computer? Are Clouds, external hardware, USB’s more common?

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Warning! some cynicism may be observed in the following…

If you're poor, like most of us, you still have to make periodic backups of your entire machine. One on-site & one off-site.

Add to this that you really want to back up each project exactly as it was when you finished it in case you need to come back to remix later. You can do this by copying off to removable hard drives you can store on a shelf until needed, even DVD or BluRay copies, safely duplicated & kept at your mum's..

If you're rich, of course, you just add a whole slew of expensive off-site &/or internet backup sites so your data is guaranteed to be perfectly safe for decades...

This, however, is guaranteed to all come back later to bite you very hard in the a$$

5 years, maybe 10 years later you need a project out to do a remix or work further on it. Heck, some record company might even be offering you a lot of money to do this. I know, I've been there.

So, what do you find when you try to load up your old project -
Oops, your sequencer's file type changed since then, so the old project will no longer load.
Workaround - you manage to blag a copy of the older software which will allow you to transition that project to a newer form.
Then you discover similar issues with your plugins. The newer ones won't load the presets you'd saved with the old versions.
So you beg, plead & cajole to get hold of those older versions.
But… the older versions will only run on Windows XP… which you haven't used in years.
So you manage to find an old hooky copy of XP & set it up in a VM that won't connect to Microsoft & shut you out before you manage to get this preset translated.
Unfortunately, the sequencer you have won't run on XP, so you have to go find a version that will, whilst also still being able to recognise the licences held on your decade-newer dongle.

Right, now we have v2 of a plugin, running on v3 of a sequencer, capable of saving out a v4-compatible file so you can move back to your modern machine, running v9 but will still work on v5 files.

...the v2 plugin can't save in any format that the v4 plugin can read.
the v3 plugin can do that, but doesn't sound anything like the v2 at the same settings. The v5 plugin won't accept anything older than a v4 preset & v5 is the only one that will run in your v9 sequencer.

Your entire guitar amp setup for a whole album cannot be recovered.

You're screwed.

You also discover that your very expensive reverb, bought & paid for all those years ago, will not authorise because the authorisation servers went offline years ago. If only you'd kept that old machine with it already authorised..

You're screwed.

Not to blow my own trumpet here, but I've worked with all the guys who made all the software I'm referring to above [Microsoft not included]. Some of them I've known for 30 years. I can write to each of them directly to ask for fully-licensed copies of any version of any of their software from the past couple of decades. I am rather advantaged in this. I appreciate very few other people would ever be able to get this type of access.

I'm still screwed!!

TL:DR

The only way to even attempt to ensure the long-term survival of an important project is to shut down the computer, wrap it in cling-film & store it, together with the monitor & any authorisation dongles, in a fire-proof cabinet in a flood-proof room… just in case in 10 years you might need to work on it again.

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  • The wrapped-up computer system probably won't even boot "when" you need it. It has physical components which can deteriorate even in storage. – piiperi Reinstate Monica Mar 29 at 12:01
  • Oh, there's always the Library of Alexandria aspect. You could preserve this stuff safely for decades, centuries... then be sacked by invading heathens. All I'm saying is that without this type of extreme precaution you will have almost zero hope of getting it all to work a decade later. If a computer breaks, you can fix or replace most of it & still have the same authorised system at the end.. or more chance than without it. This tale is learned from bitter experience; it's not just a theoretical exercise. – Tetsujin Mar 29 at 12:13
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    While I agree with everything you’ve said @Tetsujin, if you just want to be able to edit, remix, remaster old projects and not change the actual notes, just bounce everything to audio... – Bob Broadley Mar 29 at 14:21
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    @BobBroadley - oh, absolutely. I agree - though did I mention I have no access to my old multitracks.. they were all safely stored on 16-track ½", but you try finding one of those these days ;)) Same for anything 'safely stored' on floppy disk. The only reason I have my ¼" masters safe these days is because I borrowed a Revox & some nice converters from the BBC, bought a device from the States so I could spend 6 weeks baking the tapes [1980s Ampex… oops!] then shifting them to a more modern format; which I shall now invest the time to keep in up to date, accessible formats as long as I can. – Tetsujin Mar 29 at 14:30
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    I was peripherally involved in the process to recover Larry Adler's piano rolls that were made for him by George Gershwin - which mainly proves that if you have enough money & fame, & the investment of a multi-national corporation who make midi-controllable real pianos… you can pretty much rescue anything ;) [which reminds me, I actually had those midi files at one time… where the heck did they get to? ] – Tetsujin Mar 29 at 14:43
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As per Juvenile, back it up.

Or, the TLDR is: just make sure to back up whatever hard drive that you're using. Just clone it entirely and regularly.

Sure you could set up some cloud sync but a) you'd be trusting a third party to make sure that your data is safe and b) it can get expensive because audio files are much larger than the text/doc files these services are intended for.

I'd suggest something similar to "Option 2" in the preceding link. Jamie's quite abrasive in his Windows stance so let me recommend FreeFileSync. Maybe Windows users have a better recommendation, but as a sometimes Windows user, that's what I use.

Just make sure that you have at least one copy on a separate drive and hopefully keep it offsite (or a fire, flood, or burglary could ruin you).

To recap:

  • If you use a mac (or Linux) maybe just consider an rsync script because it's simple and works. If you have a have mac TimeMachine is also acceptable.
  • If you use Windows, consider FreeFileSync or something similar that can clone an entire drive.
  • Cloud services are nice for text/doc files and they are nice for sharing files with others, but don't trust them as a backup strategy or for your sample/session storage. Use physical media instead.
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