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The 3-2-1 Backup Rule – Why Your Data Will Always Survive

  • September 7, 2023
  • 9 min read
IT engineer and virtualization professional. Kevin focuses on VMware technologies and has vast expertise in cloud solutions, virtualization, storage, networking, and IT infrastructure administration

Data loss can happen to anyone. Don’t risk it! Explore the 3-2-1 Backup Rule for ultimate protection.


Remember Blade Runner 2049, when people lost all their valuable data in The Blackout? Thanks to the 3-2-1 backup rule developed by Veeam, a disaster like that will never come true. I decided to write an article discussing this strategy in detail to make sure that guys new to IT will keep their data safe.

Why Does the World Need a Rule Like That?

Why one does backups? To have a copy of data at hand if something goes wrong. It is absolutely true that today’s hardware and software are fragile. Data, in their turn, weight too much for companies and people at large. Thus far, in order to protect your information, it is necessary to live with the mindset that sooner or later something may go wrong. Natural disaster? Probably. Vengeful colleague? Maybe. Revolution, robbery, and simple mindless damage? Anything can happen, and you need to make sure that whatever misdeed or just bad luck comes into motion, your data are safe. Just brace yourself for that, namely, do backups! Backups are good, but they may be useless without redundancy. This being said, a good backup strategy is a sure way to protect your data from any malfunction, erroneous activity, or disaster coming your way. Here, the 3-2-1 rule comes into play.

«R» Stands for Redundancy

Here’s the 3-2-1 backup strategy in a nutshell.

3-2-1 backup strategy

3 copies of data

Since the 3-2-1 rule is all about redundancy, you need to have at least three backup copies of your data. Note that whenever I say “3 copies” here, I mean three copies of data excluding the original data! Create a primary copy first, and the rest need to be the duplicates of this one. Following such a simple step will greatly increase information resiliency. You should also consider keeping these three copies on different devices. For instance, it can be drives of separate NAS boxes. Why does anybody need to store data like that? To make information whatever-proof! Keeping data on different disks inside one server or NAS box is risky because these devices are running under the same conditions and workloads. If one of them goes down, another dies soon too. Furthermore, storing data in one box is not smart because if that thing gets ruined, all 3 copies are gone too. Redundancy? Yes. Resiliency? I don’t think so.

2 different media

3 copies are to be stored on 2 different media. The thing is, while keeping data on the same storage media, you may lose them due to the same hardware issues. In other words, you may lose two copies in the same accident. That’s why you should always combine media. Along with keeping a copy on a server, you can use some DAS (i.e., USB drive, SD-card, etc.) or NAS (if you have some money). The later can be considered statistically independent too since it is connected over the network and may survive if something bad happens to a part of your infrastructure.

1 copy offsite

1 copy must be sent as far as it is possible from your office. It can be a server in your remote location or public cloud storage. You can use tapes. Whatever solution is, it is vital to keep data on distance from each other: it is the only way to ensure their safety if your main site suffers. If I were you, I would use the public cloud. You can easily extend your local storage there. Speaking of cloud, here’s my “research” on this matter: If Backblaze B2 has any problems with speed in your region, try Wasabi! By the way, the latter can protect your data from malicious deletion or editing (say, by a vengeful employee). Both solutions are very affordable and have only hot tier offered for the price lower than Azure Archive Blob. Furthermore, you can use the public cloud as a second media, allowing you to save some money on NAS and disposable DAS. Wait, how are you going to tier your storage to cloud? With some gateway! Here are some good players: Telstra Cloud Gateway (AWS, Azure, IBM SoftLayer, and vCloud Air), StoneFly Smart Cloud Gateway (AWS and any other S3-compatible cloud), StarWind VTL (AWS, Azure, Wasabi, Backblaze B2). Want to keep your data in multiple clouds? Here’s my article discussing how it can be done with Veeam Backup & Replication and some third-party software:

In the end

The grave mistake in data protection is miscalculating a probability. Of course, an earthquake that would destroy all your backup copies may hardly happen. But, the cost data loss is too high, which is why it is very smart to be ready even for an alien invasion. The 3-2-1 backup rule is your way to keep data safe even during this one!

This material has been prepared in collaboration with Anton Vovchuk, Solutions Engineer at StarWind.


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