Understanding the 3-2-1 Rule in Disaster Recovery

Understanding the 3-2-1 Rule in Disaster Recovery

Understanding the 3-2-1 Rule in Disaster Recovery

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Every IT administrator understands the importance of a backup, but most don’t know how destructive a failed or corrupted backup file can be. It’s not enough to create a backup and hope that it works when you need it. Finding out your reserves are corrupted or incomplete is a devastating blow to business continuity. The 3-2-1 rule protects data from a misplaced, stolen, corrupted or deleted backup so that you’ll have it when you need it the most — during disaster recovery.

Create At Least Three Copies of Data

It’s not enough to have just one copy of your data. Whether you create backups once a day or once a week, there is a high probability that at least one of those backups will get corrupted or fail during data transfer. Some backup applications perform a check on stored files before reporting it complete, but that’s still no guarantee of the reliability of your files. You could check manually after each backup, but this solution is tedious and time-consuming.

The 3-2-1 rule states that you should have at least three copies of your data. You can save all three copies to various media, but you must store it in two different locations. Three copies will ensure that at least one is a viable backup. There is still a slight risk that all three could get corrupted, but the chance is so small that it’s considered a negligible risk. Usually, when administrators find that multiple backups corrupted, it’s because they stored them on faulty media and didn’t diversify the storage media.

At Least Two Copies Must Be On Two Different Media

You could transfer three copies of your data to one hard drive, but what happens when that hard drive crashes? You’ve just lost every one of your backups. That is why the 3-2-1 rule requires placing at least two copies on two different media.

This section of the rule is where it can be expensive for small business, but you have several options. Most administrators use NAS (network attached storage) to store one of the copies. A NAS is convenient because, should you need to transfer a backup to production, you already have a copy that’s easily accessible and already connected to the network.

Your second copy can be on any removable media. Another option is using cloud storage. You could transfer a backup to another hard drive, but you should still have a secondary media device available. The choice in media makes a difference, and you should choose it with a strategy for your disaster recovery. DVDs are typical for small offices that do not store much data, but the most common option is cloud storage.

Cloud storage has an advantage over most other media options. First, it’s a cheaper option than buying hundreds of DVDs to cover your storage needs. Second, it’s much more affordable than buying traditional hardware. Most cloud storage providers base their charges on the amount of storage you need. You can scale up or down depending on your budget and storage capacity requirements. The third advantage is that storing your files on the internet allow you to restore backups from any location.

One Backup Must Be Stored Off-Site

You may have three backups, two of them stored on different media, but what happens when your office suffers from fire or theft? All of your reserves are destroyed or lost, and you can no longer recover your data after a catastrophe. That is why the last rule is to keep an off-site copy of your data at all times.

Cloud storage offers dual advantages for the 3-2-1 rule. It covers the requirement for secondary media, and it satisfies the requirement to keep a copy off-site. It’s an all-in-one solution for businesses that need a solid disaster recovery plan to protect their data.

If you ever study older enterprise corporations, some of them still use old tape backups but this solution is moving to the cloud. Small businesses can satisfy the 3-2-1 with DVD backups. The owner can bring these backups to his home, but this isn’t a viable option for long as the company grows and accumulates more data.

If you don’t use cloud storage, you need to find a solution that allows a trusted person take home a backup. Some third-party companies provide a way to store backups at their facility, which is an option if no person in the company can provide storage. Any of these solutions will protect backups from natural disasters.

Disaster Recovery and Security

Having only backups is not enough to create a full disaster recovery plan. It takes months to develop a comprehensive strategic plan that protects from disaster. These plans are a part of your cybersecurity, and you should have them fully integrated into your security management practices across all parts of your infrastructure.

After you determine your backup plan, don’t forget to add the right security protocols to copies and the media that you use for storage. Attackers look specifically for backups because these files have the most data and resources in them. Think of a full database backup. It has all of your customer data, personal data for employees, and information that is extremely valuable to an attacker.

Attackers no longer steal data to use for their identity-theft campaigns. They take data to sell to others who will use this information to obtain credit cards, loans, or fraudulent accounts. Hacking is now a business, and your data is the target. Using the right security measures to protect your data backups will ensure that your business is not the reason for thousands of consumers to lose their data to identity thieves.

Depending on the size of your business, it can take you a few weeks or a few months to get the right backup solution ready and implemented. Cloud storage can reduce a lot of the cost overhead for storage solutions. It’s much more affordable than buying terabytes of storage space. It scales automatically instead of paying high upfront costs for storage capacity.

About the author:

Justin Soenke is a trend-based serial entrepreneur and thought leader in the areas of cyber-security, web design, SEO, social media, eCommerce and managed IT. Justin has overseen the creation and success of over a dozen companies in the technology, security and media sectors, and is the contributing source for his SB Design Blog, SB Tech Blog and SB SEO Blog among regular contributions to many outside blogs and websites, all for our clients.

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