The 3-2-1 Rule of backup

Backup from Desktop to NAS

An important feature with a NAS is backup and file storage. In this article, I want to write a bit about backup and the how and why you want to make a backup as an important routine in your life.

We are storing more data

Before I was taking pictures with an analog camera with a photographic film with space for 24 pictures. I didn’t take many pictures at that time. Now I have a smartphone and take lots of pictures and videos. Yesterday I was skiing and filmed 10 minutes of my child first long trip on skis. Some pictures are good and some are not so good, but it’s fun to have them regardless and bring back memories when you look at them in the future.  

We want to have our photos and videos and I have experienced several hard disks failures during the years. Sometimes I have managed to rescue the data on the hard disk before the drive was a complete failure, sometimes I have lost everything on the hard disk. At that time I believe I didn’t lose important data or pictures since I got a backup of it. I used cd or DVD to backup, but it didn’t happen too often and I may lose something in the hard disk crashes. I have several friends and some of them didn’t take backup and have lost it all in hard disk failures.

Automated backup process

I have a colleague that saved lots of old photos on CDs and external hard disks. This was old memories from a time he worked in other parts of the world and meant a lot to him as memories. He couldn’t find the pictures on external hard disks or cd and he didn’t have enough space on the computer. He probably has the pictures some place but for now, it’s lost in some drawer or boxes. He didn’t have a system where it’s automated and he is using manual copy and store it on different external targets without a system.Backup, sync and share. Keep your data safe and synced at all times

For the backup to be a success you need to have a system and automated. The human mind is great, but you do errors and you do forget and maybe you are also a bit messy so things tend to disappear in full drawers and boxes. A backup placed somewhere you later forget is a backup with little value.

Backup is an investment

Backup is not a cost or something that need to be a hassle to do. If you someday lose all your family pictures, you will regret you didn’t invest in your memories for the future. Pictures and home videos are memories you want to recall later. Backups can be automated and when the system is set up you don’t need to think about it.

For companies, you need backups for later use. If you lose your data you may lose important data for your daily work and to recreate all will set you back in both time and money. You are probably also vulnerable to government regulation or you can’t protect yourself from incorrect lawsuits.

This is not a backup

The important part of the backup is to do it correct. If you do backup regularly and you lose your laptop one day, then you discover that your backup wasn’t really a backup. Then it’s too late and you have used the time for something that is wasted. Below is some rules what isn’t a backup.

  • Copy your files from one folder of your hard disk to another one.
  • Copy your files from your laptop to a CD Card in the same laptop.
  • Copy your files from your computer to an external hard disk stored right beside your computer.
  • Copy files from one hard disk to an another hard disk on the same computer.

The 3-2-1 rule of backup

There is several systems, articles, and rules regarding backup. I follow the 3-2-1 rule of backup and I’m happy with this system. The backup rule is:

  • At least three copies
  • In two different formats/devices
  • with one of those copies off-site

Three copies

Why three copies? Hard disks are not expensive anymore, the same is online backup or cloud services. The main files is not a part of the backup.

Two different formats

I see some sites recommend two different formats since every format have its positive and negative sides. I see others recommend two different devices and I think that is a better rule. To use cd or DVD as a backup source you can’t automate the system as easily and nobody uses tape drive anymore. The hard disk is the best storage solution as I see it. Some argue that online storage is a different format and if we accept that then it’s ok.

Off-site backup

One off-site backup is important to secure your backup. Your house can someday be in a fire and then you probably lose everything if you don’t have an off-site backup. Several things may happen to your house and some of them are theft, water leakages, and nature disaster.

World backup day

World backup day - Don't be an april fool

March 31 is the World backup day. This day is the day you shall take backup of all your data and the site is giving much info about why. The idea with one backup day is good, but backup only once a year is not good enough. If you lose your laptop or have a hard disk failure on 30 march, you will lose one year of work. Backup is something you should do every week at least. At least 31 March will give awareness regarding backup.

What I do

I have my computer with all the important files. Most of this is pictures and home videos but some of if are also documents. Now I try to scan and store important paper letters in my Evernote for later use so this will be a more important part in the future. I store all pictures and home videos in Dropbox, but you can use other cloud solutions. Dropbox has also versioning that is great. I use Synology cloud backup on my Diskstation to backup my files every week. My diskstation have raid so one disk failure will not lose all my data on the NAS. In addition, I use Synology Cloud sync to also sync google drive and Dropbox files to my diskstation as extra security. I use an external hard disk where I copy selected folders on my computer with SyncToy from time to time. The external hard disk is encrypted with TrueCrypt since I store it at work. With backup to my diskstation, external hard disk, and Dropbox I have three copies on two formats and Dropbox is one off-site location. The external hard disk is also off-site so I have more 3-2-2.

What I don’t like about this setup is the external hard disk is not automated enough. SyncToy automates the sync process, but not the schedule. Sometimes it can take some time before I sync the folders on my computer and external hard disk. I want to add an extra diskstation and stop using the external drive.


Backup is a not so costly it was in the past and with all the solutions you now have this is easy to do. Backup is an investment you should do and the 3-2-1 backup rule is for me a great rule. If you follow the rule you are prepared for the worst.

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