Music & Media File Acquisition, Storage & Backup
There are several ways to store music or media files. They can be stored
internally on a music or media server. Or they can be stored on an
external USB drive or a NAS. Or they can be stored on a separate dedicated computer,
call it a File Server if you like.
The first alternative, stored internally on a music or media serve, is pretty straightforward
and simple. The only thing to remember is that you need a backup of your
files! Of course you need a backup plan no matter what approach you
A second alternative is to use outboard USB drives. This is also very
simple and straightforward and is therefore recommended for many
The use of a NAS is a popular one and there are two
approaches that can be utilized. Many people have a NAS in RAID
(Redundant Array of Independent Disks). RAID provides redundancy.
However RAID is not a backup. So you still need a backup plan!
There is an alternate way to use external NAS storage and that is,
rather than using a single NAS in RAID, two identical NAS boxes are
employed as JBOD (Just a Bunch of Discs). That way if/when a drive goes
bad, instead of waiting for the RAID array to rebuild, you simply make a
copy of the corresponding disk in the other NAS and insert that newly
copied drive as a replacement for the one that has gone bad. This is a
much quicker way of getting up and running in the event of a drive
The latter approach
is what will be discussed below:
There are many music lovers who have both a music server and a large CD
collection that they wish to import and store as files on either a hard
disk or an SSD array. Here is an alternative approach to setting up
their system in terms of optimized work flow with machines dedicated to
specific functions which might make sense for some installations.
File Acquisition Computer
First there is a dedicated computer that is used solely for ripping
CD's, downloading alternative higher quality cover art, editing cover
art, and editing metadata. In addition it is used for downloading high
resolution files. If it is for a large collection then there can be one
or more large capacity internal hard drives in it arrayed as JBOD (Just a
Bunch Of Disks). Having separate disks without RAID keeps things very
File Storage/File Server Computer
Then for serving music files there is a 2nd dedicated computer called a
File Server. The purpose of the File Server is to store and serve the
files to the Music Server. In addition it provides backup, be it manual
or automated. This second computer has an identical type and
number of hard drives—and the matching hard drives in both computers
are labeled the same for ease of identification.
Identical Drive Labeling
For instance if you have 2 identical Windows computers, one for File
Acquisition and one as a Filer Server, the boot drive would be an SSD
labeled C: and the CD/DVD/Blu-ray Drive will be labeled D:. There might
also be a second CD/DVD/Blu-ray drive labeled as E:. Then the next drive
which would used for file storage would be labeled for instance M: in
both computers. (M: could stand for Music or Media). Then subsequent
drives could be labeled N:, Q:, S:, T:, etc. (Some might wish to skip O:
to keep things clear.)
Separate Dedicated Computers
Ideally these two separate computers—File
Acquisition and File Server—are only used for their intended
functions which can help keep the File Server in its most pristine
condition. And they are separate
from the Music Server which is dedicated only to serving music to the
DAC. This approach helps keep the Music Server in its most pristine
Separate 2-channel Music Server
In this system design there is a separate Music Server whose sole
function is to provide the user interface and output the music to the
outboard DAC (Digital to Analog Converter).
Separate Media Server
For for an audio/video Media Server—which will serve up movies, opera,
dance or concert videos—there are several different alternatives:
For surround sound with video, the HDMI output can drive a surround
sound processor. And if available a second HDMI output can drive the
video processor/video display. Otherwise both audio and video will be
derived from one HDMI output.
For 2-channel sound with video, an AES-EBU or SP-DIF can drive an
outboard DAC and an HDMI output can drive the video processor/video
Note: It is possible to have one Music/Media Server which will do
2-channel music with or without video as well as surround sound with or
Then at a minimum there is another set of hard disks which are kept
off-site as another backup. The Offsite Backups can be USB hard drives or in some
other form. The important thing here is to have them be the same size.
So for instance, if the M: Drive is 6TB in the File Acquisition computer then the corresponding M: Drive in the File
Server is also 6TB, and the off-site corresponding Backup Drive is also
6TB which is labeld "M".
Rotating Offsite Backup
Going one step further, it would be recommended to have a 4th
corresponding "M" drive as an additional backup. This backup would be kept
offsite and then rotated out with the onsite backup in order to keep the
offsite backup current. While this last suggestion isn't absolutely necessary, it can provide
real peace of mind with regard to file protection.
This last approach protects the files and is geared towards a more
knowledgeable user who has a larger collection. Although others may
choose to either do everything (ripping, downloading, editing, serving) in their music server or use the
outboard USB or NAS RAID
approach for file storage and redundancy. Regardless of which approach is chosen though, just remember
to always have multiple backups!