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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 choose.

A second alternative is to use outboard USB drives. This is also very simple and straightforward and is therefore recommended for many systems.

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 failure.

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 simple.

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 drivesand 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 computersFile Acquisition and File Serverare 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 state.

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 Serverwhich will serve up movies, opera, dance or concert videosthere 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 display.

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 without video.

Offsite Backup

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.

In Conclusion

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!

   
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