It’s really easy to lose your data because of a computer virus, or a malicious hacker attack.
That’s why data backups exist – to help you recover your precious information in case of data loss.
But it’s not enough to simply backup your data on the same hardware and call it a day – that’s way too risky.
It’s a lot safer to follow the 3-2-1 backup rule: meaning, create 3 copies of your backup, store them on 2 different medias, and keep one off-site.
In this article, we’re going to teach you what’s 3-2-1 backup rule, as well as how & why you should follow it.
Let’s get started!
What is Data Backup?
Data backup is the process of creating a copy of your data, applications, and databases to avoid potential data loss.
To avoid losing all your information, copies of said information are created and kept in a different location than your primary storage.
Data loss can occur for different reasons: malicious hacker attacks, theft, natural disasters, or simply hardware failure. In 2020 alone, businesses in industries of different kinds experienced over 5000 data breaches where they lost important data.
In the unfortunate case that one of these scenarios comes true, you can retrieve your information by restoring your backup.
What is the 3-2-1 Backup Rule?
The 3-2-1 backup rule, also known as 3-2-1 backup strategy, is a data backup method which involves three steps: making 3 copies of your backup, storing them on two types of media, and keeping one of them offshore.
Let’s take a closer look at how the strategy works:
Step #1. Make 3 Copies of Your Backup
The first step of the 3-2-1 backup method is creating at least three copies of your primary data. By creating multiple backups you reduce the chances of ever losing your data completely.
Even if you lose one of your backups along with your primary data, you’ll still be able to use the other copies to recover your information.
Step #2. Store The Backups on Two Types of Media
It’s crucial that you use two different types of devices to store your backup copies. There’s many different types of devices you can use: hard drives or solid state drives, tape storage, cloud storage, or a dedicated server for backup.
If you diversify your backup storage device types and follow the 3-2-1 backup principle, you’re less likely to lose all your backup copies in an unforeseen circumstance.
Step #3. Keep One of the Backups Off-Site
When choosing the types of devices to store your backup, you should keep at least one backup copy off-site according to the 3-2-1 backup method.
That means that you should not store all your backups on hard drives in your office, or on tape in the same building. By keeping one backup offsite, you ensure that if a fire were to break out in your building and your equipment got damaged, your offshore backup copy will stay intact.
Why Should You Follow the 3-2-1 Backup Strategy?
Now that you have a good understanding of what the 3-2-1 backup strategy is, let’s go over some of the reasons why you should implement it in your organization:
#1. Protection Against Hardware Failure
If you follow the 3-2-1 backup rule, you would keep at least one backup copy off-site. So, if you end up having a hardware failure and lose primary storage together with your backup, you can turn to your offsite backup copy to retrieve your files, applications, and databases.
A common counter-argument is that a hardware failure can occur at the offsite backup storage location too.
However, the most common offsite backup devices are online backups or dedicated backup servers. These types of backups are usually stored in large data centers of the service provider, and they have systems set up in place to avoid data loss in the event of hardware failure.
#2. Protection Against Software Failure
Besides hardware failure, sometimes an error can occur in your system’s software too. Perhaps a malicious attack comes your way, and you end up losing all your data.
Having multiple backup copies stored in different locations will be a lifesaver when you lose important files and projects.
#3. Protection In Case of Natural Disasters
You might be thinking – having a flood or an earthquake destroy your office building is a rare case, and likely won’t happen to you.
However, in the rarest case that it does, you’ll be thanking yourself for taking the time to set up backup copies according to the 3-2-1 scheme.
It never hurts to play it safe and avoid potentially losing your data to a natural disaster.
#4. Ease of Accessibility
Another benefit of using the 3-2-1 backup model is ease of accessibility. If you end up breaking your laptop while you’re on the road, you’ll be able to retrieve your data from your cloud backup storage.
Whether it is a cloud backup solution, or a dedicated server that can be accessed from anywhere, you’ll easily be able to download your backup remotely.
3-2-1 Backup Rule FAQ
#1. What Is a Good Backup Strategy?
The 3-2-1 data backup strategy is highly recommended because you’ll have 3 copies of your data, store them on two different types of storage, and keep one of them offshore. If you follow this strategy, you will never have to worry about losing your data forever.
#2. How Many Backups Should I Have?
It is highly advised to have three copies of your data, and keep at least one of them offshore. If you have multiple copies of your data, you decrease your chances of losing your data completely in the event of a disaster.
#3. How Often Should I Backup My Data?
You should backup your data at least once a week. But depending on how frequently your data is updated, you might want to back it up every 12 or 24 hours.
For example, if your databases receive new information daily, it’s good practice to backup your system more frequently.
#4. What Is the Difference Between a Full Backup and an Incremental Backup?
A full backup means that a copy of your entire system data is created. An incremental or partial backup only creates a copy of the information that has been added or changed since the last full backup.
The difference between a full and an incremental backup is that it takes less time and storage capacity to perform an incremental backup. That’s because you don’t unnecessarily copy information that hasn’t changed since the last time you performed a full backup.
And that’s how simple the 3-2-1 data backup rule is! Let’s summarize it in a few bullet points:
- The 3-2-1 data backup strategy is to create 3 copies of your backup, store them on two different devices, and keep at least one copy off-site.
- Following the 3-2-1 backup rule in your organization will save you lots of time and stress in the case you lose your primary data. It ensures you always have a copy of your backup that you can use to restore your information.
- If you use the 3-2-1 method for backing up your data, you’ll protect your important information and applications from any hardware or software failures, or even natural disasters.
- If you keep your offsite backup in the cloud, it can also come in handy if you ever lose your data while being away from your office.