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3-2-1 Rule for Data Backup: Is it good enough?

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In today’s digital era, data is one of the most valuable assets a business has. Organizations are dealing with increasing volumes of data while storing them either on-premises or in the cloud. Keeping this data protected and backed up is very crucial.

While data backup is vital, one must also understand that having one copy of backup is not good enough. For example, let’s assume that you backup your computer data to an external drive. If your computer crashes, you have the backup copy. However, if a fire breaks out in your home or office, it will destroy both your computer as well as the external drive containing the backup. This is where 3-2-1 rule for data backup comes handy.


Also Read: Is Cyber insurance alone enough to protect your organisation’s data?


What is 3-2-1 rule for data backup?

The term 3-2-1 was coined by US photographer Peter Krogh, who is also widely considered as an expert in Digital Asset Management (DAM). He used this term first while writing a book about DAM titled ‘Digital Asset Management for Photographers’.

The 3-2-1 Rule states the following:

  • There should be 3 copies of data
  • Store 2 backups on different media
  • Store 1 copy off-site

There should be 3 copies of data – Obviously, the more backup copies you have, the less are the chances of losing all of them at once. Thus, the 3-2-1 backup rule states that you need at least three copies of your data i.e. the primary data + two copies of backup.

Store 2 backups on different media – There is a simple logic behind this rule. Two devices of the same type have a much greater risk of failing around the same time than two devices of different types. So, if you keep your primary data on an internal hard drive, store your backup copies on a different media.

Store 1 copy off-site i.e. keep at least one copy of your data in a remote location, such as off-site storage or the cloud. On-site backups are great if you need to get to them quickly, but unfortunately, having a backup near the device that it’s backing up means that both of those copies are susceptible to data loss. Thus, remote back up is useful and remote should be as far away as possible i.e. in another city, state or country.

But wait, there’s also a 3-2-1-1 rule

Unfortunately, to some degree, all of your online backups are vulnerable to ransomware attacks. That’s why IDC recommends a new take on the traditional backup rule i.e. 3-2-1-1, with the extra ‘1’ representing immutable storage. In computing, immutable is defined as an object with a fixed structure and properties whose values cannot be changed. Immutability is the key to successful ransomware protection because your data is converted to a write-once, read many times format that can’t be altered.

Wrapping up: Back-ups are like investments

Consider the data back-up files as your investment. As they say don’t put all your eggs in one basket, you would want to diversify them as much as possible to limit your exposure. The 3-2-1 is a good rule to ensure such diversification.

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