Backing up your computer files isn’t like buying comprehensive car insurance, e.g., something you hope you never have to use but are sure glad you have when you need it. Of course, you want to protect your personal information, photos, work files, and other important data from hard drive crashes, accidental deletions, drink spills, theft, or malware. While Backblaze can’t help with power outages, computer encryption, or anti-theft technologies (though we can locate a computer), we can help make backing up your files a no-brainer. And (at least to our most recent survey) with only 10% of respondents who own a computer backing up daily, folks need the help!
Some cloud service providers suggest that encouraging people to keep multiple copies of their data reflects a lack of faith in our product. Still, redundant failsafes should always be part of your plan. It’s like investing, diversification is key. The truth is that anything and everything can fail. Hard drives fail. Good employees make bad mistakes. Bad employees make worse mistakes. And whether it was the Amazon Web Services outage that took down a large swath of the internet or the Google Cloud Storage outage that affected platforms like Snapchat, Shopify, and Discord, even the biggest providers can let you down in your time of need. That’s why the 3-2-1 strategy exists.
What’s Changed About the 3-2-1 Backup Strategy?
You may have heard of the 3-2-1 backup strategy. It means having at least three copies of your data, two local (on-site) but on different media (read: devices), and at least one copy off-site.
We’ll use “socialsecurity.jpg” as an example for this scenario. Socialsecurity.jpg lives on your computer at home; let’s say you took a picture of it for your tax accountant years ago for some tax-related stuff (as tax accountants are wont to do). That’s one copy of the data.
You also have an external hard drive to back up your computer; if you’re on a Mac, you might use it as a Time Machine drive (and Backblaze loves Time Machine). That external hard drive will back up socialsecurity.jpg as part of its backup process. That’s a second copy on a different device or medium.
In addition to that external hard drive, you also have an online backup solution (we recommend Backblaze, go figure!). The online backup continuously scans your computer and uploads your data to an off-site data center. Socialsecurity.jpg is included in this upload, becoming the third copy of your data.
Oh! And, your paper social security card is hopefully stored in a fire-proof safe (not your wallet). Does that sound pretty air-tight to you? It is, or at least it used to be.
The rise in ransomware attacks calls for strengthening the basic principles of the 3-2-1 strategy—redundancy, geographic distance, and access—with added protections. Cybercrimes targeting networked machines and capturing all data, including backups, is a growing problem. Data geeks who know about backup and recovery are going “comprehensive” with their backup “insurance.” New versions of the tried-and-true backup strategy have emerged, such as the 3-2-1-1-0 or 4-3-2 backups. Sounds like overkill? It isn’t. The good news is that companies like Backblaze exist to make at least the off-site component less stressful, they do the work and keep up with security best practices for you.
Why Is It Important to Back Up On-site and Off-site?
Whether you are interested in backing up a Mac or a PC, an on-site backup is a simple way to access your data quickly should anything happen to your computer. If your laptop or desktop’s hard drive crashes, and you have an up-to-date external hard drive available, you can quickly get most of your data back or use the external drive on another computer while yours gets fixed or replaced. If you remember to keep that external hard drive fairly up to date, the exposure for data loss is negligible, as you might only lose the uncopied files on your laptop. Most external hard drives even come with software to ensure they’re readily updated.
Having an on-site backup is a great start, but having an off-site backup is a key component in having a complete backup strategy, including cloud storage. The newer backup strategies build on the cloud’s strengths:
- Convenience: Backing up large volumes of data in the cloud is fast.
- Durability and reliability: Cloud storage centers protect against fires, natural disasters, and more.
- Collaboration: Sharing with permissions is intuitive and effortless in the cloud.
With millions working in the cloud, those three copies in the 3-2-1-1-0 backup are separated by media on-site, off-site, and offline. This backup strategy exceeds the original model in its zero error copy. This fidelity to your files’ durability and reliability is possible with the help of a backup protection tool like Object Lock, which makes it impossible to modify or delete data (for a certain amount of time) because of its Write Once, Read Many (WORM) model. If you’re using cloud storage, consider a backup strategy that uses the principles of redundancy, distance, access, and immutability like 3-2-1-1-0. And in the case of Backblaze, retention history (like our Extended Version History feature of Computer Backup) adds additional layers of protection in how long those copies are kept should anything happen to your physical devices.
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 most people and businesses. Even the United States government recommends this approach. In a 2012 paper for US-CERT (United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team), Carnegie Mellon recommended the 3-2-1 method in their publication: Data Backup Options.
Backing Up Is the Best Insurance
The 3-2-1-1-0 plan is great for getting your files backed up. If you view the strategy like an insurance policy, you want one that provides the coverage needed should the unthinkable happen. Service also matters; having a local, off-site, and offline backup gives you more options for backup recovery. And a zero error policy for recoverability is a “no questions asked” claims process. One can dream! We did.
That’s how, and why, Backblaze created the world’s easiest cloud backup.