Anyone working with digital assets should know the need for proper backups. Data is crucial to running an effective business these days, and without proper backups, you not only stand to lose your money but also your reputation and future growth. Earlier in the days before the widespread use of the internet, people used to make physical copies of their data and use it as a backup.
But with the convenience that cloud storage services provide, people tend to forget that just because something is online does not mean it will remain there indefinitely without ever being compromised. Accidents can happen, servers could get hacked or damaged, and this could lead to data loss. And having backups is still relevant as it has always been. But the question is, how many backups should you be maintaining?
While many digital asset managers tried to devise their backup strategies, Peter Krogh came up with the 321-backup rule. Peter Krogh is a popular photographer and multimedia expert who put forth the 321-backup rule in his book about digital asset management. Since then, the 321-rule has become a go-to backup strategy by many companies.
What is the 321-backup rule?
The 321-backup rule can be broken down as follows:
- Always maintain three copies of your data.
- The first copy is the original or production version of your data.
- The other two backup copies must be stored in different platforms/media so that you always have at least one copy available if the other were to get corrupted somehow.
- One of the copies must be stored in a physical medium and maintained offline.
There are many ways this rule can be achieved, and many companies use a variation of the 321-rule that suits their needs better.
Limitations of the 321-rule
The 321-rule is quite simple to understand and implement.
It suggests you maintain at least three copies in different mediums with one taken offline so that the offline copy can be shielded from any online attacks or service problems. But is it sufficient to fit the complex needs of a growing company?
It does give a minimal number of viable copies to enable recovery. But the second part of the rule can be inefficient in enabling rapid recovery.
Consider the implication of storing the same data on two different platforms. While it provides a safe gap to protect data, it also comes with difficulties during recovery. You must migrate data from one platform to another and perform the necessary testing, analysis, and deployment. You might also have to take care of additional steps required to make it compliant with data regulations. Storing the same data in different platforms could also lead to many redundant processes and increased usage of resources.
As for moving the data to an offline source, cloud services can very well be used instead of relying on local physical storage. But even when you use cloud services, you must ensure that you provide logical gaps that could prevent attacks like ransomware from reaching your cloud data.
What would be the best backup strategy?
While the 321-backup rule may not be the best strategy, it guides you to some important aspects of backups. You must have multiple copies. But how you maintain them must also be efficient so that you can rapidly restore your systems in case of a disaster.
The 321-rule also stresses the need for off-site copies, which must be part of your backup plans. Isolating secondary copies ensures that you have backup data that remains unaffected even if the primary site is completely down.
The one part we could improve on with the 321-rule would be maintaining backups on different media. With several managed IT services and cloud solutions, you can easily set up better ways to make your backup copies and rapidly recover the data in case of failure.
Here are some best practices that would assist your 321 strategy:
- Regular backups
Your backups need to be as close as possible to the actual timestamp of your production data to enable smooth recovery. So ensure you backup regularly so you have valid data acceptable to use.
- Select the data you need to backup
Prioritize and choose the right type of data that you need to backup. This means sensitive data such as customer information, financial databases, registry files, and so on get the priority.
- Make use of automation
Automate your backups for accurate and timely backup processes.
- Test your backups
It is necessary to validate your backed-up data regularly to ensure they are usable for recovery
- Make use of efficient storage and backup strategies
Similar to the 321 rule, there are many more optimization techniques and data backup strategies that you can make use of. Make it an evolving process, so you keep improving on your backup solutions. You may also want to secure your backups with additional layers of security using encryption, authenticated access, and more.
One good way to keep track of all your backup-related tasks is to use relevant managed IT services. Managed IT services allow you to outsource parts or your entire IT operations to an expert third-party service provider. They can guarantee you optimized backup solutions and customized strategies to improve your existing backup solutions.
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