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How to Follow a 3 2 1 Backup Rule

by Bridget.Giacinto, on Oct 30, 2015 4:14:00 AM


In a business, preserving your information should be one of your top priorities. Its loss could mean significant downtime and possibly even closure. One place to start is with backup solutions, as these can help recover your entire system during a crisis. Before any problem surfaces, however, there's a very important guideline that you should follow to ensure that your data is secure: the 3 2 1 backup rule.

What does it entail?

Although this precedent may not be included within compliance or business regulations, it has become a standard for backup strategies and will enable your organization to get up and running in the event of a breach or other incidents of downtime. The 3 2 1 backup rule states that you should:

  • Have 3 copies of your data
  • Stored in 2 different types of media
  • With 1 backup kept off-site.

The beauty of this rule is that it's simple to understand and easy to maintain. It is one of the ways to ensure that backups are always restorable and that organizations always have a copy of their resources available during a disaster.

There should be three copies of data, with one stored off-site.There should be three copies of data, with one copy stored off-site.

The benefits of 3 2 1

Besides its simplicity, this rule has numerous other business benefits. For one, the redundancy ensures that even if one copy is destroyed or otherwise unavailable, there are others accessible. This will increase your organization's chances of getting your systems back online and minimizing the effects of a disaster.

Windows IT Pro contributor Maria Levkina noted that the 3 2 1 rule also provides you with versatility to meet these objectives. You can use any type of media that suits your needs, and can choose whichever vendor will best meet your off-site requirements without the fear of being locked in.

Follow the details

"Make sure that your backups are successfully following these guidelines."

Because the 3 2 1 rule explicitly states the steps you should take to secure your data, make sure that your backups are successfully following these guidelines. As InformationWeek contributor Doug Hazelman pointed out, although 3 2 1 is an effective strategy, there have been some high-profile cases that have failed to adhere to the details stated within the rule.

For example, Pixar almost lost "Toy Story 2" due to failed backups and a rogue command. Luckily, someone had saved a third copy to a home computer off-site, mitigating the potential damage. This instance shows just how important the redundancy is within the 3 2 1 rule.

"The 3 2 1 rule sounds easy when you first think about it, but the devil is in the details," Hazelman wrote. "As the producers of 'Toy Story 2' no doubt learned, it can be all fun and games until a backup is missing - then things can get awfully serious."

Want to take your backup strategy to the next level? Download our free Backup Strategy Guide.

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