A 3-2-1 strategy means having at least 3 total copies of your data, 2 of which are local but on different mediums (read: devices), and at least 1 copy offsite. We’ll use “puppy.jpg” as an example for this scenario. Puppy.jpg lives on your computer at home, it was a picture that you took of your cat in 2012. That’s one copy of the data. You also have an external hard drive that you use for backing up your computer, if you’re on a Mac, you might be using it as a Time Machine drive. As part of its backup process, that external hard drive will back up puppy.jpg. That’s a second copy, on a different device or medium. In addition that external hard drive, you also have an online backup solution. The online backup continuously scans your computer and uploads your data offsite to a data center. Puppy.jpg is included in this upload, and that becomes the third copy of your data.
Why 2 onsite and 1 offsite?
Whether you are interested in backing up a Mac or a PC, an onsite backup is a simple way of having quick access to your data should anything happen to your computer. If your laptop or desktop’s hard drive crashes, and you have an up to date external hard drive available, you can quickly get the majority of your data back, or use the external on another computer while yours gets fixed or replaced. If you remember to keep that external hard drive fairly up to date, the exposure for data loss is fairly minimal, as you might only be exposed to losing the files that were on your laptop that had not yet been copied to the external hard drive. Most external hard drives even come with their own software to make sure that they are kept readily updated.
Having an onsite backup is a great start, but having an offsite backup is a key component in having a complete backup strategy. Onsite backups are great if you need to get to them quickly, but unfortunately, having a backup near the device that it’s backing up (for example, having a desktop PC and an external hard drive on the same desk), means that both of those copies are susceptible to data loss. I try not to be too “doom and gloom” on the website but floods, fires, and theft can and do occur. Most often, if the two devices you have as your local copies are close together, they’ll both be affected if the unfortunate should happen. A continuously updated copy of your data that’s not in the same physical location as the other two is paramount in protecting your files.
Is 3-2-1 Perfect?
There is no such thing as a perfect backup system, but the 3-2-1 approach is a great start for the majority of people and businesses. Even the United States Government recommends this approach. In a 2012 paper for US-CERT (United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team), Carnegie Mellon recommended the 3-2-1 method in their publication titled: Data Backup Options.
Backing Up Is Like Investing!
The 3-2-1 plan is a great start in getting your files backed up. If you view your files as your investment capital, you want to diversify them as much as possible to limit your exposure should the unthinkable happen. Liquidity also matters, having a local backup and an offsite backup gives you more options for backup recovery. That’s why Silver Computer Consultant recommends starting with a 3-2-1 approach. For more information about different backup methods and which might work well for you.
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