What is the 3-2-1 Backup Rule?

Established by the US photographer Peter Krogh in the early 2000’s, this backup rule is still the golden standard for backup systems today. The rule stipulates that there should be at least 3 copies of data, 2 different backup formats, and 1 backup that’s stored offsite.

While that is the golden standard, many have pointed out flaws to this system and have developed other ways to ensure data is stored more reliably. It’s gotten to the point that this backup rule is only a portion of the entire protection plan that MSPs and other businesses create. In many cases, businesses often use a BCDR – or Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery Plan – which offers more reliable backups that prioritizes recovery time.

So Why Use This Strategy?

Even though BCDR is more reliable, the 3-2-1 rule still has value to many businesses. For one, it’s a lot easier to implement this backup strategy if a business has never backed up data at all. Beyond that, this rule has started to become crucial in situations where businesses turn to MSP to ensure their IT infrastructure runs smoothly.

An MSP is responsible to prepare for downtimes or disaster events. As such, this rule can be applied to protect against single disasters like fires or floods. In those instances, having backup data stored offsite will come in handy.

That said, there is little use of this rule beyond these niche scenarios.

Are There Variations to This Rule?

In response to the 3-2-1 backup strategy not providing adequate coverage beyond those examples above, there have been multiple variations. Of note is the 3-2-1-1-0 and 4-3-2. These still have their issues – most notably cost and time to manage, however they still have their uses.

In the case of 3-2-1-1-0, it’s using the same foundation as 3-2-1, however it goes a step further with an additional “Air Gapped” or offline backup and a check process to ensure all backups have no errors. For 4-3-2 this strategy suggests this strategy for companies that are managed by MSPs. The rule is to have 4 copies that are stored in 3 locations (Onsite at the company, onsite at the MSP and one in the cloud), with two of these being offsite.

About MSP Corp

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