A Primer on Backups: Rule of 3-2-1

Backing up data is, to many of us, like flossing or exercising. We know it’s a good idea, but still don’t do it as frequently as we should. If you have ever felt the sting of lost data from the crash of a hard drive that wasn’t backed up, you will be highly interested in trying to do it right. This blog post is intended to paint a clear picture of the proper way to go about it.

Rule of 3-2-1

  • There should be three copies of any data you really care about. If it’s critical data, loss of which would cause you to lose business, or cause you to be non-compliant with some mandates, you should have (1) your active copy that you’re using, (2) on-site backup copy, and (3) off-site backup copy.
  • You should use two types of media for your backups. You can use CDs, DVDs, hard drives, thumb drives, off-site cloud storage– I don’t care. Just so not all your eggs are in the same basket. For example, what if both your on-site and off-site backups are on tape, and your tape drive goes down? So give yourself options for the restore process.
  • At least one copy should be stored off-site. And not just that, but this should be automated as much as possible. The less human interaction, the better. Everyone says, “I’ll just do it myself. But business owners are spinning numerous plates. You will forget. Automated backup to the cloud will work when you are there, when you’re on vacation, when you’re dealing with a crisis. You can use something like Carbonite or Mozy, or Amazon’s Glacier for slow, archival storage, but there are too many choices to go into here. For an excellent discussion between Steve Gibson and Leo LaPorte of many cloud storage options, go here: www.grc.com/sn/sn-349.htm.


Restoring and Testing

In addition to memorizing and following the Rule of 3-2-1, here’s something few people do but everyone should. After you have put a backup system in place, you should periodically spot-check by getting a backed-up file. The goal is to make sure the backup is actually occurring and that you are familiar with the retrieval process. Cloud backup is a wonderful thing. A common question that I hear get is, “Can I trust online storage?” In all the years I’ve been helping people with backups, there has never been an instance where I haven’t been able to restore data from an online service.

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