Reliable Digital Music Storage

I am a little broke just now I just purchased a new power amplifier.  As so often when ever I make a hardware investment I read online reviews which mention music selections and simultaneously I end up added 50-100 CDs to my collection. It all adds up.


I mirror my music archive on (3) NSAs, (2) PCs and (2) USB hard drives. Plus I have the original CDs which I pray I never have to rip and organize again. I use the program “Beyond Compare” to reliably mirror all the archives. That gives me (8) archives in case anything dies. Today mechanical things died.

 Today one of my WD passport external hard drives started acting up. It is “kind of” working, I can’t trust it any more. I read that all external USB hard drives have an expected life of less than ten years which in terms of long term reliability for my needs sucks.  I like the price of mechanical hard drives; $64 for 2TB.  It can require several hours to copy 1.2Tb of files to an external hard drive. Anytime the Oppo is on the external USB hard drive is spinning, be it working or otherwise, the hour meter of death is running.

 In theory for the cost of a SSD external 2TB USB drive ($250- $350) I can buy five or six mechanical hard drives; just replace them every 2-3 years. Why bother, why take the risk?  I can see replacing my external physical hard drives with external SSD just for the reliability issues. SSD is much faster R/W for bursts however no better than a mechanical hard drive for sustained R/W so I would not expect any actual performance improvement.

 I was on Amazon hunting a 2TB external SSD USb drive and the G technology came highly recommended for $319, the SanDisk is only $300 but is targeted to the mobile market so it is only USB C with an adapter, I don’t trust adapters, they are one more thing to reduce reliability.   Samsung has a T5 model for $319 which may be more reliable than the WD I have now but it isn’t particularly dust, shock or water proof.

 I ended up with the WD My Passport Go SSD for $330 it is dust, shock and water proof, I like the way the USB cable attaches. And Amazon has them in stock unlike the SanDisk.  When I can afford a second 2TB external SSB I’ll get another, I may try something else.

I use plain old spinning hard drives in external enclosures. I use SyncBack (a free program) to do an incremental sync (only copying files that have been added since the last copy) from one drive to another every night. I also backup everything to a cloud backup. If you have a fire, burglary, etc. having all your backups in your house isn’t going to do you any good, no matter how many you have.
I got another 4 CDs today, Sunday is a slow day.  All the incremental sync to all the destinations can be a big job.  I've tried to set up an off site archive but no one else is interested in helping me.  I avoid the Cloud since I value my privacy and a 30TB restore could take forever.

It's good that you've been thinking about your data as something that is valuable to you and needs to be properly backed up.  Most people, unfortunately, don't have that foresight.

I can also appreciate that you have this information mirrored on what appears to be 7 different locations.

That said, I'm not exactly sure what you're referring to by "mirroring".  Does that mean that you're using a copy mechanism (like rsync) to make an exact copy of the data?

If so, there are mechanisms that could improve your data integrity with fewer devices.

1)  Mirroring isn't an optimal strategy for minimizing data loss.  Best would be incremental backups, as this can be rolled back to what it looked like in prior dates.  So this provides protection against corruption, viruses, and accidental deletion.  If using true mirroring, then any of those get sent straight to your backup destinations, and therefore they can't help you get out of it.  Most modern OS's have good solutions for this (like Time Machine for Mac and Windows Backup for Windows), and it only requires one connected hard drive (or hard drive array).

2)  You need an off-site storage mechanism to be able to recover from something like a house fire or theft.  You can have multiple backups but if they're all located at the same spot, then they are all vulnerable to this.  I know you're concerned about privacy with cloud-based solutions (and rightfully so), but some offer the ability to use your own encryption keys to encrypt the data located on the cloud storage.  That provides good protection against prying eyes.  I use Backblaze B2 cloud storage (and have several terabytes backed up there) and use my own encryption keys and backup tools, but there are other options as well.  Keep in mind that many cloud backup sites can also seed the information with you sending them a hard drive full of the information, which makes it easier to start a multi-terabyte backup.  

3)  If you're absolutely against the cloud backup (which I feel represents the most reliable protection against fires, severe weather, etc), then have backup devices that you rotate to an offsite location.  I have two backup drives that alternate being located in my drive array and my office at work.  So if I have a house fire, I can recover most of my data with the offsite hard drive, and can get the rest from the cloud backup.  You mention an "off site archive", so you might already be doing this.(Backblaze would also send me a drive array if needed, but I think that it's a $500 upcharge -- but that is a low price to pay considering how much that data is worth to me.)

Ultimately, I think that you can reduce the number of locations where you store that data and just be smarter about how it's stored, what software you're using to do it, and where it is stored.  The simpler (and more automated) you can make it, the better.  And don't discount cloud-based solutions, as they offer a number of advantages, the least of which is now having to purchase new drives.


By mirror I mean that I use "Beyond Compare" to keep every location with identical files.  So yes I do incremental backups almost every day.

I can lend a friend one of my NASs and by doing that I would have an offsite backup, of when I gifted the NAS.  I am working on that.