The 3-2-1 Rule, occasionally called the Rule of 3 concept, has been around the IT community for years, but was popularized by Peter Krogh, a well-known photographer with dpBestFlow, who noted that there are two groups of people: those who have had a storage failure and those who will have one soon. Since then, lots of others have sung the rule’s praises.
So what is the rule? According to TrendLabs Security Intelligence Blog, if you’re backing up stuff from your label, you should have:
3. At least three copies,
2. in two different formats,
1. with one of those copies off-site.
Sounds pretty easy, right? The definition is clear, but implementation can be harder and takes planning. Let’s explore each aspect of the rule in detail.
Three copies does not mean three copies of a file within a folder (or in different folders) on your computer. If a file or a set of files is important for your label, then you must keep three separate copies of it. It could mean having one copy on your desktop, one copy on an external hard drive, and perhaps a copy in the cloud. At any time, if one copy is lost or compromised in some way, then you should be able to replace it with, or at least have access to, one of the other copies.
Two Different Formats
You can accomplish this in a variety of ways. Perhaps, the easiest would be a cloud storage option (Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.) plus an external hard drive. Perhaps you like to kick it old school and use CDs and DVDs. We REALLY don’t suggest them as a storage device -- the CD/DVD itself can degrade, causing your data to become unreadable. They also scratch easily, as we all know.
Also, keep in mind that your external hard drive is not a device that will last for years to come either. When it reaches its fifth birthday, it needs to be put out to pasture and replaced. If you are interested in the specific ways hard drives can fail, Wikipedia has got you covered.
Off-site means miles away from your business and not on the cloud. An easy fix is a safety deposit box at your bank. It’s relatively cheap running around $10 a month. Of course, there are positives and negatives to storing an external hard drive at your local bank. On the positive side, you can do quick backups of your files once a month. On the negative side, if California falls into the ocean (as it probably will next year), then your local California bank will slide off into the Pacific. In other words, if there’s a natural disaster, you might lose everything at your place of business and your bank is likely to lose that material, too. Close proximity is your best friend and your worst enemy.
Another alternative is to find a trusted friend, label associate, or family member who has their shit together 100% and lives in another state. If your state is prone to certain types of disasters, try another place on the map that is not (good luck) or, at least, is prone to different kinds of disasters. Give that person access to your files via Dropbox or another cloud service and ask them to do monthly backups on a hard drive.
Is the 3-2-1 Rule a perfect system? Nope, but as Yev Pusin, Social Marketing Manager at the online backup provider Backblaze writes: “The 3-2-1 approach is a great start for the majority of 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 titled Data Backup Options.”
One thing we do want to stress is that implementing only some or part of the 3-2-1 Rule is an absolutely certain way to screw up your label’s archives. To have any kind of effectiveness, you need to commit to the full 3-2-1 -- no halfsies allowed. Thankfully, blogger Scott Hanselman has a great list of backup methods that won’t help you in any way, shape, or form:
- Backing up your laptop to an SD Card in the same laptop is #notabackup
- Backing up to a hard drive that is 6 inches away from your computer is #notabackup
- Backing up your Gmail to another Gmail account is #notabackup
- Backing up your book by copying it to another folder is #notabackup
- The photos that are still in your camera memory are #notabackup