Simple IT System for Radio

Amherst Island Radio is a small 100% volunteer-run radio station.  We’ve been running for 12 years and our IT system is really weak.  We would like to overhaul it to increase reliability and protect it against failure and data loss.  Here is a description of our current system:
Part A.  A pair of identical broadcasting studios.  Each with a PC running Windows 7 with 3 Harddrives: C: the system drive running Sam Broadcaster Pro and holding the SAM database, D: the local music library, and F: a bunch of other junk (including the PAL scripts and clockwheel scripts that SAM uses). These machines are networked, and D: and F: are kept synchronized between the two machines to the best of our ability *MANUALLY*.
Part B.  A utility computer running Windows 7 that records the broadcast for CRTC compliance and also streams out the broadcast over the internet.  This machine is networked as well.  This same computer also manages the movements of files across the network (for replaying recordings of live shows) and moving files up/down from our web server.
You can tell how weak this system really is.  When one drive or one logic board fails anywhere, it’s a HUGE pain, and we could have data loss and downtime.  Note that one broadcasting computer can swap out the other broadcasting computer so we can continue broadcasting if there’s a failure; however, the utility computer has no fail-safe whatsoever.  Note also that nothing is actually backed up for posterity, no disk images are made for anything.
Conclusion: weak system design with many points of failure.
I need your help.  Can you recommend a “simple” setup that can increase the robustness of our IT system?  We really would like to be around another 12 years.
Thank you in advance for your wisdom.
  -Eric
PS: we are currently looking for a volunteer to be our SAM Broadcaster Programmer.  If you know anyone in the Kingston/Eastern Ontario area that might want to help out, please send them our way.  We are always looking for new volunteers to join our Team.
I have running CJUJ 103.3 FM in Bathurst, NB for 4 years. I am trained audio engineer, for 30 years training in mastering at Abbey Road studios, WindMill Lane Masterlabs in Dublin, Ontario institute of Audio recording technology and have travelled extensively both for audio,television etc. I set up our entire radio station, from transmitter,software etc.
We all use Macintosh systems. RadioLogik is our software, it is extremely reliable, efficient, works amazing and is incredibly in expensive.
To me Windows based systems,PC etc. is just not something I would even consider, not for what I need. We use a small Mini mac for the on air system and never fails us, I have an Imac for production, I can easily edit 4 k video for CTV,CBC and many other projects and can bounce over to our radio system via "log me in" in a second. We use dropbox for our back up storage and our volunteer producers use this platform to upload and store their pre recorded shows.
Pick up a 1 Terabyte hard drive to back up your data, also back up on drop box as well, and get a couple of Macs, youll never go back to PC. 
RadioLogik is unreal for the cost, for a couple of hundred dollars it is the best platform out there that I have seen for Radio, especially for community radio, live or using scheduler which is automated and runs our entire 24 hour a day broadcasting.
Email me if your interested in more of our set up.
Hope this helps
 I also wanted to mention that I'm sure many of the stations use PC.
I'm sure a newer PC could easily run your system as well so I do not want to discredit any other systems. But for efficiency and stability, Macintosh seems to work great for us.

A few suggestions.

First for the back-end stuff.

I'd separate your audio logging for CRTC compliance system
from doing other things as well.  Logging all your audio for
the CRTC is part of your license requirement.  A number of
campus / community stations have been found to be
non-compliant due to failure of keeping proper audio logs
and have suffered consequences.  This  is not something to
mess around with.  Computers are not all  that expensive.
Put the audio logging on to a computer where that's its only
job so there are fewer things that could potentially cause
issues with that.

Next to offer a better chance of being 100% compliant on
this issue, I actually recommend running 2 separate audio
logging computers, each one connected to its own radio
receiver, each connected to its own UPS.  This way if 1
audio logging system fails for some reason or another,
you'll hopefully have a backup running and still be in
compliance.  In my opinion this is a critical part of your
infrastructure, something you don't want to mess around
with.

For audio logging, these days if I were building a new audio
logging system I'd build it on Linux.  Apps like Rotter are
quick and easy to set up for logging audio and are open
source.  On the other hand I have used Windows based audio
logging systems that work fine too.  The system I built
years ago for CJAM is still rock-solid on OS/2 Warp.  The
reality is that many operating systems can reliably record
audio.

For the other background tasks - have a third computer.
This one can run your stream, web stuff, etc.  If it is
going to be targeted by hackers this is the one most likely
to be hit (especially if your audio logging computers are
only able to connect to things on the local internal
network).  If you have an IT person familiar with it, Linux
would be a good choice for this system.  Of course it is
also possible to do these types of tasks in Windows, ArcaOS,
MacOS, or pick your favourite system.

Next, you might want to consider purchasing a multi-drive
NAS for your network.  NASes (Network Attached Storage) are
essentially plug-and-play network file servers, but they can
also do a whole lot more.  NASes are becoming inexpensive,
most of them allow you to connect multiple hard disks into
an array for redundancy.  Many of them are easy to set up
and manage - even if you don't have a dedicated "IT" person.
You could use the NAS for network file storage, it could be
a place for your studio computers to backup their files each
night.  Also should you desire, many of the NASes on the
market have the ability to back themselves up to one of the
many online storage options - offering an offsite backup
capability if you wanted it.

For your studio computers, I know a lot of stations have
setups like you have, but I like to be on the side of
caution.  For a studio computer who's main job is to play
audio, that's the only job I want it to do.  I prefer to
*not* give that computer internet access or have it doing
other things.  So in a sudio I prefer to have 2 computers -
one for the audio, and another for the internet browsing /
note taking / etc.

Of course this can run the budget up, if you chose to stick
with one computer per studio this is understandable.  Of
course you'll want to make sure those computers are both
backed up (see my NAS note above).  Setting up auto-backups
is not all that difficult to do, and usually you can do an
incremental backup (where it only makes copies of new files
or files that have changed).

As far as SAM goes - if you are happy with SAM and your
volunteers like it, then stick with it.  Switching from one
playout system to another can be a huge undertaking for any
station, but even a bigger undertaking with a volunteer-run
station.  On the other hand if you are looking to switch
from SAM to something else, that's a whole different
discussion.

For operating system, if you are sticking with Microsoft
then  I have to admit - right now my preference is still
Windows 7.  I have not been similarly impressed with Windows
8 or 10.  If you are looking for software that can help
manage scheduled backups on a Windows machine, have a look
at Karen's Replicator.  It is easy to use and set up and
works well.

On the other hand, there are many stations that successfully
run broadcast software on Linux, Mac, and even Haiku OS.

For backing up things for posterity, I don't know that I'd
want to back up *everything* for posterity - this would
create a ton of data that in all likelyhood - no one would
ever look at or listen to.  But my own suggestion is to have
the tools in place to be able to grab audio or other content
that you think is worth preserving, and to allow your
volunteers to preserve their own shows if they wish.  As far
as volunteers go - this could be as simple as allowing them
to grab the audio from their show each week and dump it to a
flash drive.  For the station, you could pick up an external
hard disk to dump the desired archive content to, when it
gets full you just buy another.

Other things to consider to help make your IT system more
robust.

-If you currently don't have any, get some UPSes for mission
critical systems.  Especailly your logger.  And don't just
buy the cheapest units on the market either.  The
inexpensive $50 UPS is unlikely to give you any significant
amount of runtime in the event of a power outage, it also
may not give you the protection needed from power bumps,
spikes, etc.

-Consider that the life expectancy of a hard disk is usually
about 4 - 5 years when it is running constantly.  You'll
want to build these types of costs into your budget
(replacement preferably before failure)

-Similarly to hard disks, the batteries in a UPS has a live
expectancy of about  5 years.  You can replace the batteries
for much less then  purchasing a new UPS, but you'll want to
account for this type of expense in a general maintenance
budget

-Also consider costs such as computer monitors, keyboards,
mice, etc.

Anyways, some things to think about

There was a great discussion before about open-source software: http://members.ncra.ca/?yada_wiki=open-source-software-useful-in-radio
If you check out the Tech list of Wiki entries there are a few others that might be good.
Regarding connecting to folks near Kingston,

I would suggest reaching out to CFRC-FM, CKVI-FM, and potentially CJPE-FM.

Also, CJPE-FM over in Prince Edward County is hiring a General Manager if you know anyone in return who might be looking to step into that role. Their job is also posted to our job-board : http://ncra.ca/projects-and-services/cc-radio-job-board

Great stuff!

I want to really echo and emphasize a NAS of some kind. Simplifies data sharing, and with the right one, provides a lot more security. My NAS of choice is the Drobo, for the simple fact that it allows very efficient hot-swapping of drives and easy-to-use redundancy. (Hot swapping is just being able to change a drive without shutting off the machine.) It also allows drives of different sizes, which makes upgrading a lot easier (start with all 1TB drives, replace them one-by-one with 2TB drives as budget/sales allow, continue..).
As much as I grumble about SAM, it's still a good choice. There's not a lot of (offline) documentation for the scripting language, but as a software programmer it still intrigued me, and I've been able to make some pretty useful scripts (and a PHP script to write SAM scripts..).
Still waiting for a good multi-headed music management system, although I'm leaning toward Media Monkey at the moment.
And for logging, I recommend at least two systems. I have three, and all three are running different software (meaning a bug in one kind of software shouldn't manifest in another): Audio Archiver Pro (ancient!), Rotter (adapted a bit), and perhaps my favourite, PlayIt Recorder. (PlayIt Recorder has a decent scheduling system, so I record individual locally-produced live shows with it for replay.)

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