Safe Computing for DJ’s

As we DJ’s have moved from records to tapes to CDs to computers, we have increased convenience dramatically, but also shrunk the point-of-catastrophic-failure to a single computer.  To be able to guarantee continuity during a milonga (and while preparing) we now need absolute backup; we need a backup which can take over in a minute.

DJing is a “real-time” computer application (like Air Traffic control).  If a DJ’s computer crashes, the dance is stopped.  As a DJ,  I never want to be the person who destroyed a milonga.

On the job, I bring 2 identical computers, both set up exactly the same (Lenovo S205 but any computer would do).  In the event my operating computer should crash, I can start the other one and be back in operation in a minute.  I also carry spare cables.  If I don’t fully trust the sound system in the hall, I also bring backup speakers (left in the car).  I have never had a computer crash on a gig, but one time I arrived to DJ at a church hall, where the group kept the sound equipment in a closet, and they would set it up for the dance . . . and the person with the key to the closet failed to show up.  Yikes!  A well-equipped DJ will be prepared to provide music regardless of any equipment failures.

The next level of backup is at home, preparing for a gig.  Computer crashes at home allow time
to restart, rebuild, and reset everything – but only if I have prepared for it.  The worst kind of failures (and which are all too common) are hard drive fatal crashes.  Of course, I keep periodic backups of data and music, but it takes a lot of time and work to replace the hard drive, reload all the software, configure it, and load all the data from my backup.  Having 2 computers means I can just switch over, for the short run.  I also keep a matching hard drive which has been cloned from my main computer; if the internal drive fails, I take it out and replace it with my cloned spare, with all programs, data, music, etc.  Then I update the music and data from my recent backups (the cloned drive gets re-cloned only once a year, or if I acquire new software).

There are also additional strategies for reducing the risk of hardware failure, and for minimizing the consequences: 

  • My DJ computers have no personal information on them; my personal information is on a different computer, which never leaves my home.
  • All my computers have solid state drives (SSD) – none of those spinning drives which are more likely to crash, and could be damaged by dropping.
  • I never open embedded links or attachments – unless they are from a trusted source AND I expected to receive them (when your friends get hacked, their contacts are exploited to hack everyone they know).  Ransomware can only be inserted if you click a link; hackers are trained to invent seductive stories to get you to click a link.  Don’t click on links which were sent to you.
  • My backups are initiated manually at a moment when I trust the integrity of my data, and trust that my computer is free of viruses.  Automatic backups risk backing up viruses and corrupted data, leaving the backup worthless.