3-2-1 Backup Rule: The Three Steps of Planning Data Keeping

3-2-1 Backup Rule

Handy Backup is a perfect tool for planning and managing the 3-2-1 backup rule (strategy), one of most efficient techniques of separate keeping for data copies.

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What is 3-2-1 backup rule (strategy)?

3-2-1 backup strategy is one of the best-known methods to copy data backups.

3-2-1 Backup Rule

The principles of 3-2-1 backup are quite simple and perfectly useful in almost any situation:

  • Making at least 3 copies of data, located on physically different storage media;
  • Keeping these copies in no less than 2 different formats;
  • Always store at least 1 of these backups off-site (e.g. on the commercial cloud account).

The simple considerations, applied strictly for any backup task as a part of a "3-2-1 backup plan", may save a day for many system administrators or expert PC users.

Explanation of Terms

To help user deeply understanding the 3-2-1 backup strategy, let us explain the terms of this strategy a bit more deep.

The Three Copies

The Three Copies

Creating three or more data copies on different storage devices reduces the risk of perils typical for any such device. E.g., hardware failure can destroy the hard disk but not a cloud account; the network mishap can stop transferring backup data online but not copying from the local disk, and so on.

The Two Different Formats

The Two Formats

The term "format" is for physically different representations of data, not just for logical layouts. If you are keeping one copy in the form of hard disk data, make at least one other copy on FTP, or on the tape, or place it to the cloud service. The reasons are same; it protect data from storage-specific perils.

The One Offsite Copy

The One Offsite Copy

The last principle of 3-2-1 backup rule is keeping one or more backups off-site, i.e. not in the same room/building than the original. Therefore, if the original and local copies will be physically destroyed (by the theft, the fire, the war, the quake or by any other force), at least one data copy will be saved.

Note: Nowadays, the most convenient offsite storage is a commercial cloud. You can use Amazon S3, a commercial cloud such as Dropbox or Google Drive, or keep your data on an FTP server for 3-2-1 backup.

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Version 8.2.2, built on February 24, 2021
112 MB

Implementing this server backup strategy, you can feel safe about security of your data.
All you need to try 3-2-1 rule for backup right now is download Handy Backup.

Technical Requirements for 3-2-1 Rule

A single requirement is an availability of appropriate storage devices, accounts or vaults to realize this strategy. However, the 3-2-1 backup rule has some requirements to these storage devices:

  • Stable network connections for online storage;
  • Sufficient free space of all storage types to accept regular backups;
  • Physical and logical availability of each storage during scheduled backup operations.

The last requirement seems somewhat obscure but can be easily explained on such example as using a USB drive for 3-2-1 backup strategy. Obviously, this drive must be connected to a PC during scheduled backup, and if this cause can complicate some other job, a good choice is to use a local drive instead.

Use Cases for 3-2-1 as Data Backup Strategy

Typical use cases for the 3-2-1 rule are potentially endless, especially when comparing it with more complicated methods as Grandfather-Father-Son or Hanoi Tower data backup strategy. In other word, you can use it for almost any data type backup, including such things as:

  • Backup photo, pictures, images, movies, audio files and other multimedia content;
  • Saving projects and work files, either just for keeping or for sharing/co-working;
  • Keeping database copies, backup websites and CMS content, saving online shop etc.;
  • Making backups of crucial databases or virtual machine arrays*.

Among all types of backup, the only type that is not so perfectly suitable for a 3-2-1 backup strategy is a procedure of making a disk image. It is not, however, a strict rule, and you can utilize the 3-2-1 data backup strategy for system recovery if you need it. Simply, this is often redundant, not restricted!

Recommended Solution

Version 8.2.2, built on February 24, 2021 . 112 MB
Backup Software from Novosoft LLC. 89 USD per license.

Handy Backup Professional

The Professional edition provides all tools for 3-2-1 backup method, including accessing to S3 clouds such as Amazon S3 for offsite backup. Try it for free for 30 days!

* Databases and virtual machines available in Handy Backup Small Business and Handy Backup Server Network.

How to Implement the 3-2-1 Backup Method for Handy Backup

It is very easy task. Firstly, make a new backup task as described in the User Manual. Let it copy an original dataset on Step 2 to some local storage selected on Step 3. When finishing a first task, make a copy of it in the main window.

Make a copy backup task

Now open the "Properties…" item on a context menu of a task that you copy. Rename it, and then select where to store data separately from the first task. (You can also tune up a schedule for this second task, to reduce data load).

Edited task copy: Select a different location

Finally, make a third copy of a task (from first or second task, it is not important). Rename it again, select a different location (offsite location such as a cloud) as typically doing for 3-2-1 data backup, and re-schedule it. These three identical tasks will automatically implement the 3-2-1 rule of backup.

Download Handy Backup

Version 8.2.2, built on February 24, 2021
112 MB

Try Handy Backup to create a 3-2-1 backup rule by downloading now a free fully functional trial version for 30 days!


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