The 3-2-2 Backup Explained!

The 3-2-2 Backup Strategy

In a recent survey, 54% of people said they either know someone, or have themselves recently lost data. Most of those surveyed were individuals. If you consider how many businesses have hardware that gets lost or stolen each year as well, the total amount of hardware lost each year is staggering.

Additionally, the study concluded that even with those losses, out of all the companies polled, “two-thirds do not take advantage of even basic security practices, such as encryption, backup and anti-theft technologies.” While TECHtality can help with computer encryption but not anti-theft technologies, we can help with backup, and that’s what I’m going to focus on today.

What is a 3-2-2 Backup Strategy?

A 3-2-1+1 strategy means having at least 4 total copies of your data, 2 of which are local but on different mediums (read: devices), and at least 1 copy offsite and 1 to the cloud. We’ll use “Minutes.doc” as an example for this scenario. Minutes.doc lives on your computer at work, it is a document summarizing minutes of your organization. That’s one copy of the data. You also have 2 external hard drives that you rotate for backing up your computer, if you’re on a Mac, you might be using it Time Machine drives. As part of its backup process, that external hard drives will back up Minutes.doc. That’s three copies, on a different devices or mediums. Your also rotating the external drive daily. In addition to the 2 external hard drives, one of which you take home, you also have an online cloud backup solution. The online backup continuously scans your computer and uploads your data offsite to a datacenter. Minutes.doc is included in this upload, and that becomes the fourth copy of your data.

Why 2 onsite and 2 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.

Ransomware is the reason for the fourth off site copy. Most Ransomware infections delete any and all attached backups, including cloud and any attached external hard drives. This is why we suggest you take a copy home from the rotation.

Having an onsite backup is a great start, but having two offsite backups 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. We have seen multiple clients get Ransomware and they destroy any attached backups while encrypting all files on the machine infected. I try not to be too “doom and gloom” on the website but Viruses, Ransomware, Floods, Fires, and Theft can and do occur. Most often, if the two devices you have as your local copies are attached, they’ll both be affected if the unfortunate should happen. A rotated and a continuously updated copy of your data in the cloud that’s not in the same physical location as the other two is paramount in protecting your files.

Is 3-2-2 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 3-2-2 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 TECHtality recommends starting with a 3-2-2 approach.

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