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The 3-2-1 Backup Rule

Having a regular backup of your critical data is vital, but are you doing it correctly? Your company’s data is one of your most significant assets. Too often, companies or individuals suffer from having their data lost or stolen, corrupted or hacked, infected or even destroyed by fires or other natural disasters. According to Small Business Trends, 58% of businesses do not have a backup plan when it comes to data loss. The fact is, all hard drives eventually fail; what are you doing right now to prepare for that day?

Regularly backing up your data is a great start, but that is just the beginning.

The 3-2-1 Backup Rule

The 3-2-1 Backup Rule is an industry standard guideline that prevents the loss of your valuable data by having it backed up and stored properly. The rule is: have at least 3 copies of your data, store 2 backup copies on different storage types, and keep 1 of those copies offsite. Here is an infographic to help illustrate this rule.

3-2-1-Backup Rule Infographic

Lets take an in-depth look at each step in the 3-2-1 backup process.

Have at Least Three Copies Of Your Data

60% of companies that experience data loss close their doors within six months. Also, the probability of having your primary data drive fail is 1/100. So, if you are not backing up your data, or if you are doing it incorrectly, the results can be quite disastrous. The 3-2-1 Rule indicates that you should have your original, plus two other copies of your data. Why two copies? Creating one backup of your primary data multiplies the probability of failure by two (1/10,000). However, to have a 1/1,000,000 chance of losing your data to drive failure, create at least three copies of it. You can rest assured knowing that you have multiple backups in place that you can restore to if data failure occurs.

Store the Copies on Two Different Media

Whether from defects, wearing out, or accidental damage; we must remember that data storage systems fail eventually. Two devices of the same type have a much higher risk of failing at the same time than two different storage medias do. Keeping your data on internal hard drives AND removable storage media such as tapes, external drives, or even USB drives; dramatically improves the security of your data. If your backups are on one type of media, common failures can occur and cause you to lose your primary and backup data right around the same time. It’s much safer to store your copies on at least two different storage types.

Keep One Copy Off-Site

Having a physical separation between the copies is critical. If you kept all of your backup storage devices in the same room as your primary data, there would likely be no way to recover it in the event of a fire or other disaster. The 3-2-1 Rule suggests keeping at least one copy of your data in a remote location, such as an offsite storage facility. Typically, the further your copied data is from the production source, the safer it is in the event of a disaster. A cloud backup solution is often an excellent option for many businesses because it provides security as an off-site storage solution, is a different storage media, and can offer recovery speeds that are quite fast.


In summary, we need to remember that prevention of data loss is far greater than trying to recover data from a system that does not have a backup solution in place. Having three copies of your data, on two different storage medias, with one copy off-site; is an excellent pattern to follow.

We know every situation is different. From a one-computer user to complex virtual environments containing thousands of virtual machines, Voonami can provide you with the right backup solution for your business. Let us put your mind at ease, knowing that your data is suitably backed up.

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