Hard Drives on the Go: Portable Solutions for Traveling Producers

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Say you’re a musician traveling on the road, or a producer—somebody who likes to make music from a laptop-based studio. You camp out at a hotel and program what you need to program, or mix what you need to mix. Eventually, you’ll run into problems.

The files you’re working on will require more space than your laptop allows. Or, you’ll run a lot of samples and virtual instruments, both of which tend to run more smoothly on an external drive. Even if you can fit all your projects on a laptop, you can’t forget about backup—the threat of losing material is just too great and too real.

You, my hypothetical friend, need a storage solution for your laptop. One that is reliable, portable. Something rugged enough for the road, but fast enough for your needs. Pop quiz, hot shot: What do you do?

Well, you’re going to need a hard drive—one you can hold in your hands, and not worry about so much if it drops. Luckily, we at B&H can steer you to some good options.

Glyph

Glyph is a big name in pro audio storage solutions. This company outfits many major studios, extending a better-than-average warranty, and in the unique position of not having to use any specific manufacturer for moving parts: If a better, faster, or sturdier piece of technology comes around, Glyph doesn’t have to pass it up. Other manufacturers sometimes license the use of their componentry from third-party companies, and often these licenses can be exclusive. Not so with Glyph!

In recent years, Glyph has targeted mobile musicians with portable, rugged hard drives through its Blackbox Plus line. Available in multiple configurations, the Blackbox Plus can give you between 500GB and 7.6TB of storage capacity. You’ll also find different configurations for RPM (5400 or 7200), as well as HDD and SSD versions.

Glyph Technologies 1TB Blackbox Plus 7200 rpm USB 3.1 Type-C External Hard Drive

This means there are options to suit your needs, whether those needs entail storing files for backups, or running multi-gig libraries for 100+ track sessions. They might not be the most-wallet friendly option, but with renowned build quality and multiple warranties in the realm of replacement and data recovery, they’re an eminently safe bet.

All these hard drives give you second-generation USB 3 connections, which are compatible with Thunderbolt™ 3, as well as USB 3.1 Gen 1 and USB 2.0. You’ll also note the optimized passive cooling, integrated health monitoring, and a very tough outer exterior built to withstand the rigors of the road. These features make them quite handy for your mobile needs. They’re also bus-powered, which is always a plus (a BlackBox Plus plus!).

If bus-powering isn’t a priority, the Blackbox Pro is another option. These HDDs are 7200 RPM and transfer data at faster speeds than the Blackbox Plus HDD models—220 MB/s instead of 140 MB/s. So, if you need to set up a powered laptop rig with speakers, MIDI controllers, and vast sample libraries, these hard drives are a good fit. They are available in 2TB, 3TB, 6TB, 8TB, and 10TB configurations.

Glyph Technologies 2TB Blackbox Pro 7200 rpm USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C External Hard Drive

LaCie

Glyphs are great, but that greatness comes with a price. It may behoove you to look at other options if budget-crunching is a concern. I mix a lot of post-production, and when a hard drive comes to me from a director or a sound recordist, it’s usually this LaCie Rugged Mini Portable Hard Drive. These devices are almost cliché with the run-and-gun crowd, and with good reason: they can be dropped from heights of up to 4' before you’re at risk of damaging them. These hard drives are bus powered, and they operate at 5400 RPM over USB 3.1 Gen 1 connections. The USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports are backward-compatible with USB 2.0 devices, so nothing to fear here if that’s your speed!

LaCie 4TB Rugged Mini Portable Hard Drive

True, these drives exhibit slower data-transfer speeds than the Glyph, but the price is hard to beat for something this rugged and dependable. These drives come in 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB configurations.

LaCie 1TB Rugged Mini Portable Hard Drive

Other Options

Many other brands are in the mix when it comes to portable hard drives. Western Digital and G-Technology come to mind, each with its own virtues and fallbacks. But you may want to consider another option truly outside of the box—so outside of the box it exists… in the cloud!

WD 4TB My Passport USB 3.0 Secure Portable Hard Drive

For my work—which combines mixing, mastering, post-production, composition, writing, and touring—I need access to a whole host of files at any one time. Not only that, but depending on where I am, I may be working from my desktop at home, my laptop on the road, or my mobile in the back of a tour van. So, I turn to cloud-based data storage much of the time.

G-Technology 1TB G-DRIVE Mobile Micro-USB 3.0 External Hard Drive

I don’t work from cloud-based storage systems, I merely store work there for access from multiple computers. I couldn’t imagine storing a Kontakt library in the cloud—let alone waiting for it to download to my computer in a hotel room, and then re-associating the library. That would be torture. But storing a voice-over session on the cloud for editing makes sense, in my workflow.

Say, for instance, I have an awful lot of tracks to de-noise with RX. Furthermore, I must do this work in different places, owing to my schedule. I can begin the work at home and save my work on the cloud. Then, when I go to another city, I can continue working from my mobile studio in the hotel room, drawing my files from the cloud.

Which cloud-storage platform should you choose? I’d look for something that has a history of stability and security—a platform that won’t gobble your files due to their own negligence. I personally pay for the Dropbox subscription, but you don’t have to. There are plenty of choices.

Conclusion

When looking for a way to keep your files secure on the road, it pays to do some research. Know what your needs are and find solutions that best suit your workflow. You’ve read this article, so that’s a start!

Also, it’s always a good idea to keep redundancy in mind. Hard drives can fail, and anything physical can be lost. It would not be unwise to budget for two drives, frequently cloning one to the other with your favorite backup software. It would be even smarter to pair your tangible, physical storage options with a cloud-based service you trust.

Are you a producer or engineer who frequently takes to the road? What’s your solution for portable storage? Drop us a line in the Comments section to let us know!

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