What Is a 3-2-1 Backup Strategy?

The importance of having a backup for your files is not a new concept; most people would agree that backing up data is crucial. However, not every company implements a robust enterprise backup strategy, causing billions of dollars worth of lost data.

As the number of places a person or company can store data increases, one of the best backup strategies is sometimes forgotten. The often overlooked 3-2-1 backup strategy is a foundational approach that should still be applied today.

Read more: Top Business Continuity Software for 2021

What Is a 3-2-1 Backup Strategy?

Simply put, a 3-2-1 backup strategy will protect your data against the unforeseeable, whether it be a server crash, cyberattack, or natural disaster. A 3-2-1 backup plan puts multiple data preservation concepts into practice. Here’s the framework:

  • Create 3 copies of the data
  • Use 2 different media types
  • Store 1 copy offsite 

3 Copies of the Data

A sound backup system will always preserve at least three copies or versions of data over different periods in time. Having three copies of the data ensures you can recover from accidents that affect multiple versions.

For this example, let’s use a file named sunset.jpeg, which is a picture of a sunset you took on your last summer vacation. It lives on your desktop and represents the first version of your data.

2 Different Media Types

Say you add that picture to an external hard drive — if you or your company uses Mac, you might be using the Time Machine drive. As part of the process, your external hard drive will hold the backup of sunset.jpg.

Now you have a second copy on a different device, or medium, from the first. If something happens to your desktop the picture is permanently deleted there, you can recover it from the Time Machine drive.

1 Offsite Copy

After the scare of losing your sunset picture, you decide you need additional backup, so you consider your third backup: a completely different form of media than your computer or external hard drive. Importantly, you need this data to be accessible in a different way.

So now, in addition to your picture living on your desktop and external drive, you put sunset.jpeg on the cloud. A cloud storage service acts as an online backup method, making it the third copy of your picture. Because this cloud backup exists on a separate network, it won’t be affected if your local network is compromised.

At the enterprise level, creating a tape backup is a more secure way to safeguard sensitive data. Tape backups are more secure than disk and flash backups because they create an air gap — a barrier between the data and the rest of the network, hosted offsite and not accessible online.

Read more: Are Air Gapped Networks Secure?

Why Are Backups Important?

Many of us have experienced the heartache of permanently losing data. Whether it be a corrupted file or a white paper we forgot to save, losing data can be heartbreaking.

On a corporate level, however, these losses are more than just sad. They can be costly, too. As we’ve seen from recent cyberattacks, data breaches hurt your brand and could you to lose your entire business.

Therefore, the third copy of your data must be stored seperately, in a safe place that won’t be affected if your local or cloud storage gets hacked, fails, or experiences a physical disaster like a fire or flood.

Read more: Top Cyber Security Threats to Organizations

Is Having a Backup Strategy Enough?

To be clear: It’s not enough to have a backup strategy in place. There is always the possibility that you or your business will experience a devastating loss of data, even if you adhere to backup strategy best practices.

So how can you recover once you experience a loss? Always have a disaster recovery plan in place. A recovery plan will help DevOps respond in an effective manner and help minimize recovery time and losses.

Here is an example of what you may want to include in your recovery plan:

  • List of all assets
  • Description of critical resources, equipment, and staff required for recovery
  • Recovery time targets
  • Checklist of next steps to follow in the short and long term

Once you’ve recovered from a disaster, you must take steps to prevent a recurring event. Perform an audit to gather information and learn from the event. Reconsider your current backup software and solutions, making sure your backups don’t all live in the same place

A recovery plan will help your business get back to being operational after an emergency. To help safeguard against such events in the first place, be sure to have a 3-2-1 backup strategy in place.

Read next: Are You a Data Hoarder? The Dangers of Data Hoarders in Business

Joanna Redmond
Joanna is a seasoned writer, content strategist, and subject matter expert who helps tech companies add an extra zest to their copy. She also writes short stories and blogs about the highs and lows of her hiking adventures.

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