Why the 3-2-1 backup rule STILL makes sense

In the IT world, some rules are always changing. It’s good to remember, however, that some rules are timeless because they still make A LOT of sense! The 3-2-1 backup rule is a great example.

In the IT world, some rules are always changing.  It’s good to remember, however, that some rules are timeless because they still make A LOT of sense! The 3-2-1 backup rule is a great example.

The 3-2-1 backup rule can help you overcome nearly any failure scenario if you follow it.

The 3-2-1 backup rule implies that you should:

  1. Have at least 3 copies of your data
  2. Keep these backups on 2 different media
  3. Store 1 backup offsite

Despite the 3-2-1 backup rule’s simplicity, many people continue to ignore it and lose their data because they were unprepared for a disaster. Many lessons were learned after disasters such as 9/11 – some companies from the World Trade Center stored their offsite backups in the SAME OFFICE buildings and lost all of their company data in a few short hours.

Following the 3-2-1 backup rule is easy! Here’s how it works:

  1. Have at least 3 copies of your data

By three copies, I mean your original data and two backups. It’s obvious that the more copies of your data you make, the less risk you have of losing everything.

One backup is good, just not good enough. If you have only one additional copy of your data, AT LEAST make sure it’s located in a different physical location from the original (and as far away as possible!)

  1. Keep these backups on 2 different media

Having several backups of your data and keeping them in the same place is NOT logical. Why? Because a common failure will affect all devices. For example, disks from the same RAID are statistically dependent, and often, after one disk failure, you might experience the failure of another disk from the same storage in a short period (often because the devices were bought approximately at the same time and from the same vendor).  

The 3-2-1 backup rule urges you to keep backups on a wide range of different mediums: tapes, USB drives, CDs, external and internal hard drives, etc. 

  1. Store 1 backup offsite

Offsite means as FAR AWAY as possible, in another city, state, country or even continent. Your data is safe then, even if there is a fire or national disaster.

Is there any technology lock-in?

That’s where the 3-2-1 rule really shines, even today. There is incredible versatility in how these availability objectives can be met. For instance, backups on tape are one way to get data off-site and on different media. Or even replicated virtual machines, that’s a way to address different media types (such as a storage system). For the modern era, even putting backups in a service provider cloud is a way address the off-site requirement easily. In any situation, the 3-2-1 rule can be used to meet any availability requirement for the Modern Data Center. How do you follow the 3-2-1 backup rule?

There are lots of ways! For instance, you can just set up a reminder on your calendar and then copy your data manually according to the 3-2-1 rule. This method works fine if I am helping my Mom with her personal laptop.  There are a number of easy-to-use applications, which will automatically create your backups and ALSO follow the 3-2-1 backup rule by storing them in specified offsite locations.

For more information on how to follow the 3-2-1 backup rule in a virtualized environment, visit this page.

Maria Levkina, Veeam Software community manager, is responsible for increasing Veeam’s presence on high-profile social media outlets such as Spiceworks, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, VMware communities, Experts Exchange and more.

Discuss this Blog Entry 2

on Jan 29, 2015

Great article!

on Jun 13, 2016

Sorry, but I just can't imagine doing all that. I'd be too stressed worrying about my backups all the time. The way I see it, the key to this is not to back up everything 3 times, but to stop being so attached to your stuff, and perhaps just don't accumulate so much in the first place. They're just computer files. If I lost all my data, it would be kind of annoying, but it wouldn't be so bad. I'd learn to get used to it and that's a risk I'm willing to take.

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