The 3-2-1 Backup Strategy

We all have data that we would really be upset if we lost. Photos, videos, tax returns, training manuals... the list goes on. The point is, this is stuff that's important to us, for one reason or another. Some rely on this data to run their business, while others rely on it to remember the "good ol' days" and share those memories with loved ones.

Because this data is important to us, it's important that we take care to safeguard it and protect it from loss, damage, corruption and theft. It's so important to me, that I could spend a full day talking about how to properly backup data in lots of different scenarios. In the interest of your potential boredom, however, I will cover just one simple concept here that can hopefully encourage you to re-think the way you are backing up (or not backing up) your data right now. I call it the "3-2-1 Backup Strategy".

While the details can get slightly more complicated, the overall theory is simple: you want to have THREE copies of your data on TWO different types of media with at least ONE copy being off-site.

3 - Three Copies of Your Data

It's not enough to simply have a copy of your live data on a hard drive next to your computer. What if both drives fail? Unlikely, but very possible (believe it or not, I've seen it happen before!). What if your home or office is broken in to or suffers from a fire? These are real scenarios that happen to real people every day. Hard drives are cheap, and they're definitely much cheaper than sending your drive off to a recovery company to try and recover your lost data.

2 - Two Different Types of Media

Technology changes. I used to backup most of my data on DVDs. The problem now is that I don't usually have a DVD drive that is easily accessible. Let's rewind the clock a little more. Can you imagine trying to recover data from an Iomega JAZZ or ZIP drive? In reality, most people don't even remember those devices. Backing up your data on various forms of data will help to reduce the chances that your backups are being used on technology that won't be around much longer.

Valid types of media may include some of the following:

  • external hard drive: my favorite portable backup drive right now is the Western Digital 2 TB Passport drive)
  • NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices: Drobo and Promise Pegasus are two great NAS options to consider
  • DVD: not the quickest or most practical form of media for backup, but still an option in some cases
  • USB thumb drive: not completely practical for most situations, but still valid for short-term copies)

1 - One Copy Should be Off-site

Hopefully this one is a no-brainer. Imagine that your one and only backup was on an external hard drive sitting next to your computer. Then, imagine that your home caught on fire, and both computer and external hard drive were destroyed. Or that someone broke into your home and took both devices. Hopefully this will never happen to you, but it's possible. Backing up to the cloud with one of your backups (or even just keeping a copy at a friend's house) could help reduce that risk and ensure that your data is recoverable without adding more stress to your life.

Here are several online services that can be used to help achieve this:

  • Dropbox: While technically not an online backup solution, this cloud-based storage system can help to ensure that your data is recoverable
  • cloudBACKUP: We offer our own cloud-based backup solution, powered by EMC (a big name in the cloud-storage business). 

Regardless of how you design your own backup strategy, it's most important that you have a backup strategy. If you don't, and aren't interested in doing so, you may want to start convincing yourself that it's ok to lose your precious data. It's not a matter of "if", but "when" disaster strikes.

If you need help devising a backup plan, contact us. We can help.

Posted on April 7, 2016 and filed under How To, Opinion.