Backup Basics

Backing up your computer is a basic step that everyone should take to protect their important information. Unexpected events put your data at risk. Power surges and hardware failure can result in your hard drive becoming inaccessible, along with the files on them. User error can cause files to be deleted or overwritten by mistake. Connecting to the internet and sharing files between computers can expose you to of malware which can cause havoc. Think about what is stored on your computer and what it would mean if you couldn’t access it anymore. Would you be able to get your important business documents back? How about your family photos?

The 3-2-1 Rule

A simple approach to considering the robustness of your backup strategy is the 3-2-1 rule. It states that you should have three copies of your data, on two different types of storage, and one copy should be kept in an offsite location.

Three Copies

Having three copies of your important information provides a high level of protection in most circumstances. The first copy is the one you have on your device which you work with. Many people will use an external hard drive or some type of cloud storage as their backup, or second copy. While this may be acceptable in some cases, if something were to happen to your device and your backup, you would lose your information for good. Thus, a third copy, a backup of your backup, is recommended.

Two Different Types of Storage

Common places that data and backups are stored are internal or external hard drives, USB sticks, servers on your network, and cloud storage services. Storing your data using different storage technologies provides resilience as different storage media are less likely to fail or become inaccessible at the same time or under the same circumstances. For example, if your laptop is stolen, your external hard drive may still be safe at home with your data on it. As another example, it is unlikely that your computer’s internal hard drive and your cloud storage solution both fail at the same time.

One Copy Kept Offsite

If you are unfortunate enough to experience a catastrophe, such as a flood, fire, natural disaster, or a theft, and your backups are all in the same location, you may find yourself without access to your files. Ideally, one of your backups should be kept in a different physical location. This third copy should also be disconnected from the other copies so it can’t be corrupted if there is a problem with the other copies. This may mean taking a backup home from your workplace regularly. In a home setting, you might leave a backup with a family member or friend. Modern cloud storage solutions make it easy to automatically keep a backup online.

Automation & Monitoring

A backup system needs to be run regularly, and it needs to run successfully. Systems that require manual actions can leave you exposed to data loss. If someone forgets to swap the backup media or run your backup, you could find yourself without a copy of recent data. It is also important to check that backups run without any errors. It could be very frustrating to regularly back up your data only to find that when you really need it, you haven’t had a good backup for six months. Backup solutions should remove any human factor and be monitored to ensure they are working. It is also a good idea to restore data from your backups from time to time to check that you can get your data back if you need to.


Use a cloud storage solution that automatically syncs your important files to an online location. This provides two copies of your data. Secondly, subscribe to a separate online backup service that will automatically backup the first cloud storage solution. This is the third copy of your data which is offsite and disconnected. If anything happens to the other two copies, this copy should be safe


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