Virtualization Technology News and Information
Data Protection 101: The 3-2-1 Backup Rule


By Rahul Hirani, SVP of Product Management, NinjaOne

Cybersecurity has become a boardroom discussion, and for good reason. According to IBM's 2022 Cost of Data Breach Report, in the past year alone, ransomware attacks grew 41%, and data breaches cost U.S. companies a staggering $9.44 million on average. It's clear protecting company and customer data is an ongoing effort, but it's important to remember it's one that must be managed from all sides. There are steps all companies can (and should) take to protect themselves from a breach happening in the first place, such as employee training, keeping up with software updates, and reducing instances of shadow IT,  but the reality is there is no fool-proof method that can guarantee complete protection. 

To prepare for the unexpected, companies - no matter how good their defenses are - need to have a plan in place in case data is compromised. The 3-2-1 backup strategy, for example, is one of the most popular approaches organizations rely on and is even recommended by the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT). While it's a great strategy for preventing data loss or corruption, it's one that needs to be implemented before a problem arises. Let's jump into the benefits and how to get started.

Why the 3-2-1 backup rule is king

Before we jump into how, let's quickly address the why. At a high level, the 3-2-1 backup rule involves expanding the number of data backups and diversifying where that data is stored. Key benefits include:

  • prevention of a single data disaster because data is kept in multiple locations at all times;
  • not being dependent on just one backup source. If that backup is damaged, destroyed, hacked, etc., you still have one other copy; and
  • improved data protection that guarantees your data will be available whenever you need it.

At the end of the day, data is one of an organization's most valuable assets, and protecting it can't be left to chance.

Tips and tricks to get started

In practice, the 3-2-1 strategy means that you should have three copies of data; the original data plus two copies. Two backups should be stored in different types of media, such as one being on an external hard drive and the other in the cloud. Lastly, at least one copy of data should be stored in a location away from the office, like a private cloud. The result of following this rule is that if a backup fails, the other backups are still in place to protect your data.

The concept is fairly simple, but implementing a 3-2-1 backup strategy isn't something that can happen overnight. Once you are ready to start, here are some tips to help ensure the process goes smoothly:

  • Make sure your copies aren't on the same storage medium. For increased data protection and diversification, always load your two backup copies onto separate storage mediums.
  • Minimize the cost of cloud and cloud storage. Identify which information is most critical and push that to the cloud first so not all data ends up needing to be stored on an expensive cloud.
  • Implement automatic file backups, which optimize the storage of your backups and ensure critical files are kept secure, while preventing the human error factor.

Protecting data is a non-negotiable

Data serves as the lifeblood of many companies today as it drives business-critical operations and provides insights to better inform major decisions. If a company's data goes offline for any reason, whether via malicious actor, natural disaster, or human error, it can turn into an urgent issue quickly as business cannot continue as usual. With this in mind, the protection of critical data needs to be a top priority, right alongside the collection and use of data itself.

As technology advances and cyber risks continue to grow, it is increasingly essential to have dependable backup solutions implemented. The 3-2-1 backup rule helps protect essential data and ensures a sound backup plan is in place. In today's world, there is no excuse for unrecoverable data loss - don't be caught unprepared if the unexpected happens.




Rahul Hirani is SVP Product Management at NinjaOne, where he is leading development of the company’s unified IT management platform and building a world-class product team. Prior to NinjaOne, Rahul served as a product leader at companies including Cisco Systems, Duo, and others.

Published Thursday, December 15, 2022 9:57 AM by David Marshall
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