3-2-1 Backup Rule

Forward Thinking and Planning

One of the biggest decisions a small business or home user is likely to face is to go with local storage or online cloud storage for backups. Ask any professional who provides backup solutions for advice on the matter, and the answer is going to be both.

Storing copies of your files both locally and in the cloud lets main the advantages of both solutions while removing all the disadvantages.

What is the 3-2-1 Backup Rule?

The 3-2-1 backup rule is the most important backup rule to follow. It states you should always keep three copies of your files. Two local copies should be local and on different devices, and one off-site.

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Three Copies of Your Files

Keeping at least three copies of your data may seem like too many, at first glance. A client or company often has a backup when they request my help with data recovery. However, that one backup was insufficient or still led to a data loss. Having one backup isn’t enough. You chances for a catastrophe increase if your data is only stored on the same premises, same computer, or same type of media. Location is key. While, the more copies of your backup that you have, the less chance you have to lose all of them at once. The key is having them in more than one place. It all begins that you need at least three copies of your data – the primary data, two backups of this data, and one remote copy.

Two Local Copies on Different Devices or Storage Media

Every storage device will fail sooner or later.  Computers (desktop, laptop, or server), a storage medium (hard drive, SSD, flash memory), or network appliances like a NAS all fail over time from defects, malicious software, or simply wearing out. Two devices of the same type or same media type have a much greater risk of failing together, or at the same time. You can decrease your chances of data loss with different device types and/or different storage mediums.

For an example of the 3-2-1 backup rule if your primary data is on the internal hard drive of your laptop, then your backup copies should be on a server or Network Attached Storage Device.  A Network Attached Storage (NAS), is my preference for home, home office, and small business users. A NAS directly attached to your network and is used for the storage of your important data in redundant (mirrored) format. A NAS is more resilient as it is not vulnerable to most viruses or malicious software that targets Windows computers.

Keep One Off-site Backup

At least one backup copy should be kept off-site. Storing all copies of data locally or in a building or office is a no-go. Following the 3-2-1 backup will help you avoid data losses from natural disasters, fire, and theft. One copy should be off-site in a remote location, such as offsite storage or cloud storage. To get the most of keeping your data off-site it should be in another state. Keeping your data geographically separated is best.

The Rule in Use for Real-World Solutions

Planning, and setting up the rule is usually one of the first parts of solution design and planning. The rule isn’t perfect, and I am not even sure there is a perfect backup system, but the 3-2-1 increases the likely hood that your data will be there when you need it.

Keeping multiple copies stipulated by the 3-2-1 backup rule protects you from losing your primary data since you have a local backup copy. Second, it grants you the advantages of having it local and readily available fast. Third, two local copies eliminate a single point of failure. Using different storage mediums or devices decrease your chances of something going wrong with two like devices. Finally, the off-site backup should be your last resort if something happens to the primary data and local backup.

The best solutions are implemented with good reporting and frequently monitored. The 3-2-1 backup rule is only part of a plan, but should always be included.