“3-2-1 rule” of backups in the modern world


When looking for the best backup option for your business, you may come across something known as the 3-2-1 rule. This rule outlines three key steps that should be taken to ensure sufficient backup precautions for your business.

What does 3-2-1 stand for?
The rule states that a business should have 3 copies of its data, of which 2 copies should be stored locally through external storage and through other devices, and 1 copy should be stored remotely, for example, on the Cloud.

Why use the 3-2-1 rule?
Although the rule has been around for many years, it has not become dated, and is still considered the perfect approach to backup strategies. Regardless of what happens, there will always be a copy of the data for the business to rely on, which ensures business continuity. The rule makes sure there can be no single point of failure and that even the backup is backed up.

The strategy has the best of both worlds, as an onsite backup can have your business up and running in no time, whereas an offsite backup makes sure that if a major disaster were to happen, such as a fire, flood or even a burglary, and the onsite backups were lost, there would still be a copy.

The proof is in the Mathematics (example)
Statistically why the 3-2-1 rule decreases the chances of you losing valuable data: If you have a 1 in 100 chance of losing data, but you had a second device with the same odds, then your chance of failure and data loss is 1 in 10 000 (1/100 x 1/100). Additionally, if you had a third storage device or platform with the same odds, the chance of losing data drops even more drastically to a 1 in 1 000 000 chance (1/10 000 x 1/100)!

Therefore, if you think you are sufficiently protected from data loss by two copies, you only stand to gain from a third, which significantly improves your chances of restoring all your data. The 3-2-1 rule is not called the golden rule for nothing!

How to implement the rule with today’s technology:
The 3-2-1 rule is simple and the best way to implement it is to keep it that way. To establish your three copies leave the original data on your internal storage and make two external copies on two different mediums, for example a CD or external hard drive. Here is where traditional methods of recording data on tape should not be sneered at, as they are still effective measures of storing data when part of a well rounded backup plan.

The different mediums or devices on which you store your data externally can also be put in two seperate local locations to decrease the risk of an accident getting rid of both copies.

The third copy must then be stored completely off site, meaning a different city or even a different country. This has become increasingly easier to do as there are an ever increasing number of Cloud vendors that offer Public and Private Cloud solutions that can tie in the 3-2-1 rule into your backup plan, and all you need is network access. Virtual machine replication is also another way modern technology has changed the way a business can plan their backup strategy and make identical copies of information to facilitate the rule.

However, if you do not have the resources or budget to get your data on the Cloud, you can use traditional methods of storage and store the third copy on an external device, which is kept in an offsite storage locker.

Another great feature is that businesses can apply this rule to any data stored on physical hardware, virtual machines or on a provider’s infrastructure, it works every time for any type of data.

Don’t settle for second best! The 3-2-1 rule is a tried and tested strategy, so when choosing a plan for your business, ask your provider or vendor about whether the options they are offering are 3-2-1 compliant.


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