3-2-1 Backup: 5 Tips to keep your data safe

A lego man being blown off his chair by the atomic bomb on his computer screenImage: Kenny Louie

With the increasing role of data in our lives, it has become increasingly important to plan for the possibility that it all might go wrong one day. And if you think about it, it’s not only an event that might happen, it probably will.

With 1 in 10 computers infected by a virus each month, 113 phones lost or stolen every minute, and 29% of data disasters caused by accident, preparation is the key to averting costly data loss, yet still 30% of people have never backed up up their files.

On March 31st 2016 it is World Backup Day, raising awareness of the importance of backing up your data, and in support we would like to offer our tips for keeping your data safe when the inevitable event occurs:

Prepare for the worst

Having a regular automated backup regime in place is the key to being prepared for your data disaster. There are many types of different backup medium, from tape drives, external hard drives, USB sticks, and cloud based storage.

There are two different metrics in backup, those are:

  • Recovery Point Objectives (RPO) - the length of time between backups, this reflects how recent your data will be when an event occurs 
  • Recovery Time Objectives (RTO) - the amount of time it takes to get your data recovered after an event.

Your backup schedule should find a happy medium between these two objectives.

Implement a 3-2-1 backup

The accepted best practice rule for backup is called the 3-2-1 backup rule, when backing data up you should:

  • Have at least 3 copies of the data
  • Store backups in at least 2 different formats
  • Store one of those copies offsite

This simple rule will give you the most flexibility to cope with a range of different recovery scenarios, the idea being that multiple redundancy, formats and locations should ensure the survival of at least one copy of your data.

Tailor your backup to your data

To have good RPO, as well as not waste computing power and storage making constant backups, you should take advantage of the fact that not all data needs to be treated equally. Some data (hot data) changes regularly, and is in use more than other data (cold data) that is updated less regularly.

You would need a lot of computing power and storage to be able to store a full backup of everything every day, and whilst depending on how much data you have, this may be possible, as your data grows it may become less practical.

So prioritise your data to make daily or rolling backups of your hot data, and only weekly or monthly backups of your cold data. Incremental backups can also help reduce your computing and storage requirements, whilst still enabling multiple recovery points.

Practice recovery scenarios

You may already have a good backup regime, but have you ever tested and worked out some procedures for recovering data to make sure it all works as it should?

As part of World Backup Day, I would encourage you to do some test recoveries with all the required people involved to make sure everyone knows what to do when disaster occurs.

Consider a more centralised approach

Storing all your organisations digital data in one location will make it much easier to implement a robust backup and recovery regime. This also comes with other benefits such as reduced duplication of files, simplification of operations, and the ability to access your files from anywhere on any device.

Moving to a more centralised or cloud based system is a big task, but will ultimately result in better more accessible services, more control over costs, and better protection for your data.

For more information and to develop an action plan for moving to your school into the cloud, have a look at RethinkCloud, our cloud readiness tool, and help us celebrate World Backup Day on 31st March by following our tips, and sharing this article.

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