How to protect your data with the 3-2-1 strategy

How To Protect Your Data

Every once in a while we all find ourselves in a situation where our data is irrecoverably lost. Be it hardware malfunction, nasty ransomware, or failure to repeatedly press Ctrl+S while working on that crucial project —  the damage can be unacceptably costly and disruptive to business continuity. Needless to say, the best way to ensure data integrity in the event of some calamity is to take preventive measures in the form of data backup. There are many backup designs that will help you do that, and yet the best one out there is arguably the 3-2-1 strategy.

3-2-1 backup strategy

Here’s the essence of the 3-2-1 backup strategy in a nutshell:

  1. You should have at least three copies of your data (original data and two backups);
  2. You should store the data on at least two different storage devices (an internal HDD/SSD/RAID/NAS, etc., and perhaps some cloud storage);
  3. At least one backup should be stored offsite.

As you can tell, the rules are pretty self-explanatory, but let us dive a bit deeper into the matter and give you some advice as to how to best implement this strategy.

The three copies

Statistically, most people just have one extra copy of their most sensitive and important data (the original data and one backup). This approach, however, exposes you to extra risk, as the probability of losing data on two mediums is at least 25%. Furthermore, if both storage devices are located on the same premises, a fire or over-voltage could fry every gadget on-site, meaning that you’re losing your data entirely. That’s why having three copies is important. Having one backup on-site and the other in, say, Amazon S3 will do the trick. Alternatively, you can go for the S3 + Google Cloud combo if you want to go full cloud.

The two mediums

Having two backups on two different storage devices sufficiently protects you from most disaster scenarios. It is recommended to employ at least two different types of mediums to lessen the probability of data corruption. It goes without saying that storing two backups on two identical hard drives purchased at the same time considerably increases the likelihood of misfortune. Let’s suppose your computer uses an internal hard drive for storing the original case; in this case it’s advised to buy any other sort of drive/storage device to store the on-site backup. The probability of both the hard drive and the additional on-site storage failing at the same time is negligibly low. Now that you have two backups done properly, let’s discuss the third backup.

The off-site backup

What are the odds of simultaneous failure of your computer’s hard drive, the aforementioned local backup device, and Amazon S3 server? Or the odds of failure of S3 servers in Ohio and Google Cloud servers in Frankfurt? Exactly: slim to none. That’s why it is essential to store at least one backup off-site, preferably on a reputable cloud storage. Some users go as far as having all backups in the cloud — split between two cloud vendors. That might be result in higher expenditure in comparison with the classic 3-2-1 approach, yet it is easier and safer to delegate all backup-related tasks to the proven industry experts. Thankfully, the market is full with backup solutions that enable you to effortlessly perform backup to a number of cloud storage services simultaneously or perform a hybrid backup to a local and then cloud storage — the choice is up to you!

Is 3-2-1 strategy perfect?

The 3-2-1 strategy is not perfect, no strategy is. Yet the likelihood of losing the data with this approach is truly infinitesimal. The experts have pondered many strategies over the years, and this one has proven itself to be the go-to choice. Whether you opt for the two-cloud solution or the local + cloud scheme, the data integrity will be permanently ensured and you’ll have one less headache to deal with.

By Alexander Negrash

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