Image courtesy of  Jon Ross

Image courtesy of Jon Ross

This is one of those quick-hit posts that may save you a lot of headaches. A few years ago, we spent the entire week before Palm Sunday setting the stage, hanging fixtures and programming lights. It was a long week, but we got a lot done and we were ready to go for the Easter week rehearsals. 

On Palm Sunday morning, my lighting tech started having problems with the console. Some cue stacks wouldn’t fire, and some lights weren’t responding. He rebooted and it stopped working altogether. Several more power cycles and re-boots and we were able to set a few quick looks and save them in to our ETC Paradigm for playback from the touch screen (really glad I had 6 recordable scene buttons set up before that day!). That got us through service. It wasn’t great, but there was light. 

After services I grabbed my IT guy and we determined fairly quickly that the hard drive on the console was dead. That would be the hard drive with all the programming for Easter on it. Yeah, that hard drive. 

We ordered up a new computer (the existing one was coming up for replacement anyway) with an SSD and a backup drive and IT got it configured by Monday afternoon. Thankfully, Thomas, my LD had backed up most of his work to his hard drive before leaving the week before. So he didn’t have nearly as much to do in order to be ready for rehearsals. Still, it was a nerve-wracking few days. 

Moral of the story: back it up! If you don’t have at least 3 copies of every media and show file in at least 2 different media, you are at high risk of losing the show. Because if a drive or computer is going to fail, it’s going to fail right before a big weekend like Easter. Don’t fall prey to that. Some simple backups strategies will save your sanity.


There’s really no reason why you shouldn’t have all your show and media files in Dropbox. It’s free for 2 gigs, which is more than enough for most everything important. I personally pay for the pro version every year and have a Terabyte of storage at my disposal. After each programming session, copy all your files to Dropbox and you’ll have several copies of them (especially if you have that Dropbox folder set up to sync to your laptop or desktop computer). 

We had Dropbox on all our tech booth computers, which meant every file from every system was on every machine. Local sync makes that fast and easy. And, with all those local backups, restoring is super-fast, too. 

Clone Drives

Another lesson we learned after the Great Lighting Console Crash of ’11 was that we needed to have fully bootable backups of the system drives of each mission critical computer. For Macs, I use Carbon Copy Cloner. We had another program we used to copy the entire Windows partition of Bootcamped Macs, but I don’t recall what it was. You can probably find it on Google. Norton Ghost is something you can use to clone PC hard drives. 

The main reason I clone drives is that it makes it faster to get up and running. Sure, you could start with a new computer, re-install all your software and configure all your settings. But that takes time, and you might not have it. That may be something you want to do, but if you need to get up and running fast, plug in the clone and get back to work.

Of course, for clones to be useful, they need to be current. We updated our clone drives every month. That way, we were never too far out of sync. When prepping for big weekends, we’d update the clones as soon as programming was done. 

Console Show Files

A show file will get corrupted at the worst times. I always save copies of my show file to a thumb drive when I’m done mixing. Even when I’m volunteering on a weekend at my church, I save the show file to my thumb drive Saturday night. At Coast Hills, we always ran an external computer sync’d to the console, and that show file was auto-sync’d to Dropbox on shutdown, which meant we had about 10 copies of the show file in just a minute after we shut the console down. Never hurts to have a spare. 

Hopefully this will give you the incentive you need to back everything up this week before you roll into Easter week. My hope is that this will save at least one person a lot of grief next week.

Elite Core