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3-2-1 Backup Rule. Is it for me?

What’s the right backup solution?


Many things have been said about the right backup solution, there’s a plethora of online and on-premises backup solutions companies competing for your time, attention, and money. They all claim that they are better than the other and that your data would be safer with them.

The truth is that nowadays most online backup solutions offer the same core components: strong encryption, versioning, storage, industry regulatory compliance, competitive pricing, etc. So if all of them look about the same what criteria do you chose to select the best option? We’ll get to that point later. I believe it’s more important to have the right backup procedure in place than anything else.

Let’s talk about backup for a moment. A backup solution, in its simplest form is just creating a copy of a file for future or as-needed access. Obviously I’m over simplifying it but it all comes down to it, we’ll leave the other details out for now.

The 3-2-1 backup Best Practice: this best practice has been widely accepted for years but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it the best solution for you. What the rule is calling for is that you should have:

  • At least three copies

  • In two different formats

  • One copy should be store off-site

What does the 3-2-1 rule practically mean? Let’s go over the rules.

Keeping at least three copies (the original plus two backups): it may sound a bit paranoid but this rules has its place. You want to make sure that you have two extra copies of important information. Ideally the copies are store on a system other than where the original copy resides on, otherwise you are not protecting yourself against hardware issues.

Two Different formats: this minimizes the likelihood of you storing information on faulty media types. For instance, you can buy a stack of DVD-RW for storage and they all came defective right from the manufacturer. You want to use two different types such as hard disk + DVD, NAS + tape libraries to minimize the likelihood of backup failure due to media problems.

One copy should be store off-site: This is the most important to me. It can be cloud storage or any offsite location. This protects you from hardware and natural disaster.

Ok, That is the rule of thumb for backups, though widely accepted it doesn’t mean that it’s the most suitable solution for you. After all, how many people are going to prepare three different locations to store data, how do you keep the data in synced, how do you automate backing up to two different types of media? I am not suggesting that the rule is flaw but during my many years of experience providing backup solutions for small businesses in NYC and NJ I have learnt that we have develop backup solutions with the customer’s needs in mind.

Let’s run this by real life examples:

  • One copy should be store off-site

During the super storm Sandy many small businesses in New York City and New Jersey were physically damaged by floods, losing everything on their premises. Other businesses were more fortunate and they only lost power, though for a couple of days.

In this case you can see how applicable the “one copy should be store off-site” rule really is. Let me expand this a little more, you want to make sure off-site storage has redundancy across multiple locations in different geographical areas. So in the even that a natural disaster sweeps datacenters somewhere you data is secure, safely replicated, and accessible somewhere else.

  • Two Different Formats:

This is one of those rules that is conceptually good but might not be applicable across the board, especially for small businesses. I agree with it and I can apply it for highly sensitive environments, I see institutions such as banks, government agencies, and large enterprises applying this principle. Small businesses are more flexible, not the information is less important than their larger counterparts but many politics, rules, and regulations don’t apply to them.

  • Have at least three copies:

Again, this is conceptually good but not so applicable for small businesses. I have seen this time and time again where the same information is stored in multiple places without having a real structure and plan, what this causes if left unmanaged is to have un-replicated information everywhere which brings its own challenges and concerns.

Backup solutions must be customized for your special needs, not the other way around, so is the 3-2-1 Rule applicable to you? You have to decide for yourself, even if you don't follow the rule step by step you have will implement a version that will of it. Here at PreciseTek has helped many small businesses in New York City and Northern NJ develop cost effective backup solutions to ensure data availability in the event of hardware or natural disasters. Our solutions are customized to each client, even though we may not follow the rule as stated we end for the same end result: provide data access and availability.

Besides preparing cost effective backup solution for businesses in New York City and New Jersey we also provide IT manages services to small and mid-sized organizations. We provide desktop, network, and information security services to businesses. Our strategic technical vision and interpersonal skills allow us to blend seamlessly in your business operations and provide an outstanding support for your environment.

Contacts us at 1-888-580-4450 to explore backup solutions or to learn more about our services and solutions.

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