Computer Backups – The 3-2-1 Backup Solution

I have to admit that research has shown that over 50% of people either know someone, or have themselves recently lost data. Most of these people are individuals, but if you consider how many businesses have hardware that fails, gets lost or stolen each year as well, the total number of people that needed their backups each year is staggering. Which is where this article has started from

My Hard Drive Failed with NO WARNING!

Computer errorI have to say waking up on a Monday morning to find that my computer has a black screen with the message “No boot device found” was not a pleasant one. But in my case I practiced what I preach and I have a good backup in place. I lost no data, emails or files. However, seeing I was long overdue for an upgrade I decided to start from scratch. So after two days of installing software, remembering passwords, setting up shares, etc I am back in shape. But then it made me think of all those people that don’t have a backup. It is devastating to lose everything.

So I decided to research again on the net and determine the backup strategy that is ideal for the small business. And the strategy we recommend and deploy at SOHOCS is still the best. So what is it?

3-2-1 Backup Strategy

A 3-2-1 strategy means having at least 3 total copies of your data, 2 of which are local but on different mediums (read: devices), and at least 1 copy offsite (or in fire safe at least). We’ll use “Wedding Kiss.jpg” as an example for this scenario. Wedding Kiss.jpg is in your Pictures folder on your computer and it is a picture taken at your wedding when the Bride and Groom kiss. That’s one copy of the data. You also have an external hard drive that you use for backing up your computer, if you’re on a Mac, you might be using it as a Time Machine drive (and SOHOCS loves Time Machine). As part of its backup process, that external hard drive will back up Wedding Kiss.jpg. That’s a second copy, on a different device or medium. In addition that external hard drive, you also have an online backup solution. The online backup continuously scans your computer and uploads your data offsite to a datacentre or offsite storage. Wedding Kiss.jpg is included in this upload, and that becomes the third copy of your data.

Why 2 onsite and 1 offsite?

troubleshootingAn onsite backup is a simple way of having quick access to your saved files should anything happen to your computer. If your laptop or desktop’s hard drive crashes as was the case for me, and you have an up to date external hard drive available, you can quickly get 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 up to date, the exposure for data loss is fairly minimal.
Having an onsite backup is a great start, but having an offsite backup 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. I try not to be too “doom and gloom” on the website but floods, fires, and theft can and do occur. Most often, if the two devices you have as your local copies are close together, they’ll both be affected if the unfortunate should happen. A continuously updated copy of your data that’s not in the same physical location as the other two is paramount in protecting your files.

Is 3-2-1 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. And if the process is automated then the peace of mind knowing that your information and files are safe is worth the investment.

Backing Up Is Like Investing!

The 3-2-1 plan is a great start in getting your files backed up. You have invested a lot of capital, time and effort in your business/home files and 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 SOHOCS recommends starting with a 3-2-1 approach.

Don’t get caught with no backup, as your business may rely on it in the near future, just like mine did.

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