I’ve just read a post by a Dan White, of DJ Tech Tools, about another member who had all his gear stolen from his car. Everything was taken, including his laptop and his ‘only’ copy of his music collection. I am pretty paranoid about data security, read all about it below.
Having been digital DJ’ing now since 1998, using vinyl and CD’s for many years before that, I have made all the mistakes with my music collection. Initially, having no back-up, I managed to lose a sizable part my music so had to start again. Data security was low on my list of priorities but after this disaster I now take it very seriously. I already owned a physical TONNE of vinyl and CD’s so had to start to ripping all over again. Nowadays, I buy my music online so, at least I can re-download all my previous purchases.I really can’t believe I was so ‘stupid’ to not take proper care of my most important business asset.
I will cover most aspects of protecting music collections and equipment, but will start with making sure my music is always secure. Protecting equipment will be covered in a later post. Hopefully my insights will help you all with your own data security issues.
What do I do to ensure Data Security?
As I previously said, I buy my music online. The online retailer keeps a record of all my purchases which makes it easy for me to get a new copy of anything I lose or gets corrupted etc. This is great except that if I was to lose my complete collection, somewhere near 75,000 tracks, it would take forever to download them all, audio analyse and correct them before I can get back on the road to earn my living. At least I can fall back on this if I ever have a total failure!
How I obtain, store and back up my music collection.
I start off by buying my music online from my preferred online music retailer. There are many of these guys around, some specialising in specific music genre, so I am sure you all have your favourites. After purchasing and downloading the files to my downloads folder I move the files to a ‘working’ folder. During their stay in this folder, I carry out a few tasks to make my life easier.
First, I ensure each track is correctly tagged with all of its identification tags so it is catalogued correctly and easy to find in the software used on my working PC’s. My tool of choice is called Mp3tag which makes it easy to tag the files. Mp3Tag is simple to use. Users are able to select which information they wish to tag to a track and the software remembers this for future use. I remember the early days when I needed to alter every tag in Winamp, Mp3Tag makes this a quick and simple process.
Second, I balance the volume levels, repair clipped peaks (there are often thousands in a single track), correct the pitch and add warmth to each and every track. I use Platinum Notes for this. This is a pretty complicated piece of software allowing users to select individual settings. I find it works perfectly well at the default settings, at least for music. Speech is another matter and would need investigated further.
Next, I re-tag all the tracks, using Mp3tag, so they are all identified with the Platinum Notes suffix. This helps me to identify any tracks in my collection which have not been tagged so far.
Total Audio Converter
Finally, before moving the files to their permanent home, I convert the files to my preferred bit rate etc. using Total Audio Converter. This ensures every track is of the optimum bitrate. Total Audio Converter also allows users to change the audio format to one of their liking. I have now graduated to using .flac files and have found a slight increase in audio quality. These files are about 3 times the size of .mp3 files but with storage being very cost effective this is a good way to go. Users are also able to rip and burn CD’s.
By following these steps, every track I own plays out at the same volume level and acoustic quality. Gone are the days of hanging on the volume control and EQ’s waiting for the track that sounds a bit duff. As all of the software listed can batch process thousands of files at a time, I am able to go through the whole process in a very short time each week.
The first step to ensure data security.
As soon as I have the music prepared for use at gigs I transfer all these files onto my portable gig drive in their relevant sub-folders using SyncbackPro. This is the drive I use to update my working PC’s, the ones used to do the actual gigging. The portable drive is never left attached to any PC for any length of time and sees very little active time. Hopefully by doing this, it will continue to be a reliable transportation medium for some time to come.
I immediately back up this drive to my main PC C drive in a folder called KEEP. This is a mirror copy of the portable drive and can be used to set up another portable drive if my current one ever gives up on me. This KEEP folder is regularly backed up to another external hard drive permanently connected to my PC. I know everybody that matters would say never leave your back up next to your main PC in case of theft or fire, you would lose it all, but remember I have the transportation drive.
Just to be absolutely certain I never lose everything, I don’t stop there. This might sound a bit like overkill, but at least I am 100% confident I will never lose my music collection. I back up onto the cloud using two separate services.
I have used Evernote for many years to store contracts and thousands of other files on their servers. Every file is backed up, in their sub-folders, by using the Evernote import folders feature. Anything added to an import folder is automatically uploaded to the Evernote server. All my music is stored on their servers so I can access it anywhere I get an internet connection. I have found their service to be totally reliable. Evernote continually evolves with new features being made available regularly, many of which I have no use for, making it a fantastic business tool. Initial uploads of a music databse would need to be scheduled over a longer period of time as they have a 10Gb per month data limit. I don’t find this to be an issue as I use Evernote for many other areas of my business. They take data security very seriously and store all data on multiple servers to ensure no downtime.
Livedrive I HAVE NOW STOPPED USING THIS SERVICE DUE TO THEIR POLICY OF MAXIMISING THEIR PROFITS AND POOR CUSTOMER SUPPORT
Carbonite is a cloud based back up service. I have, in the past, used a number of different free and low cost services but each has had it’s own problems; ranging from poor customer service to profit maximisation once you are looped in. Carbonite, for me, is the best solution I have ever used.
It comes at an annual cost of under £100 for the full version but I see this as an excellent investment in my business. It works in the background regularly comparing the files on your hard drive to those on the server. If something has been added, Carbonite will automatically upload it. If you have deleted any files from your hard drive then Carbonite will keep the deleted files for 30 days so you can recover them.
This is my, if everything else goes wrong, fail safe backup accessible anywhere.
So, my music is backed up securely in many ways to ensure total data security. I have one complete database stored in the following ways:
Transportation external hard drive
Main PC C drive
External hard drive connected to my main PC
Carbonite Cloud Storage
No system is ever 100% foolproof, but I reckon my system is as close to it as it can be. I can be pretty much certain that I will never lose my music collection.
The post I read about the kit being stolen showed the complete disregard this particular DJ had for his livelihood, perhaps not by design but certainly at least through oversight. Not only was every copy of his music collection stolen, but also some pretty serious kit went missing. My initial thoughts on this was why leave it in a car? It only takes a few minutes to empty the car and your music and kit would be safe. In my business I use a LWB Hi panel van. This is way more secure than a car with windows waiting to be smashed by an opportunistic thief, but I still empty my van at the end of every gig session. The kit is locked in a secure place during non gig periods.
Just as a quick addition to this post, I will be covering vehicle security in depth in a later post. Whilst writing this post my van was broken into with ease! Thankfully, my gear had been unloaded but my golf clubs were taken. At the time of writing the latest info is that the clubs have been recovered but I still have to identify them.
Data security is one thing, physical asset security is also a very serious matter.
If you have any advice, or anything to add, please comment below.