The 3-2-1 Backup Rule – How To Protect Your Data (And How I Do It)

An important feature with a NAS is backup and file storage. In this article, you will learn how and why you want to make the 3-2-1 backup rule as your backup routine.

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 over 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. Don’t be one of them!

You Want To Automate The 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 someplace 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.

For the backup to be a success you need to have a automated system. 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, Not A Cost

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.

How Not To Do Backup

The important part of the backup is to do it correctly. 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 are 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 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 another hard disk on the same computer.

The 3-2-1 Backup Rule

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.

You Need Three copies

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

You Need 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.

The Rule also Require A offsite Backup

One off-site backup is important to secure your data. 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 natural disaster.

What Is The World Backup Day?

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.

How I Backup My Data

I have my computer with all the important files. Most of this is pictures and home videos, but some of them are also documents. Now I try to scan and store important paper letters in Google Drive for later use.

I store all pictures and home videos in Google Photo, but you can use other cloud solutions. I also use Google Drive to backup all my important data on my computer. That way I always have a backup to the cloud.

On my Synology Diskstation, I use Synology Cloud sync to sync Google Drive and Dropbox files to my diskstation as extra security. My Diskstation has the hardisks in RAID so I will not lose data if one harddrive fails.

So why do I use both Google Drive and Dropbox? I have an android phone, and all my photos are uploaded to Google Photo automatically. So I’m sort of moving away from Dropbox.

In addition to that, I backup all my important data from my home Diskstation to an older diskstation placed to my father. I use Hyper Backup to do this backup. My old Diskstation has also RAID with one harddisk fault tolerance.

From time to time, but not so often, I do a backup to external harddrive. I have two that I rotate between, and I put the same data on that harddrive that I also put on my old Diskstation. I use Hyper Backup to do the job, and I find this very easy to do. I have my external harddrive on my work, so I do encrypt the data.

So I do the backup to Google Drive and some on Dropbox. All the data on Dropbox and Google Drive will be downloaded every night to my Diskstation. From my diskstation, I will backup to another Diskstation placed at my father’s house. And from time to time I do a manual backup to external hardrive.

So I follow the 3-2-1 rule of backup.


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.

Do you backups and how are you doing it?

13 thoughts on “The 3-2-1 Backup Rule – How To Protect Your Data (And How I Do It)

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  4. To backup your personal data properly is important. This seems like an easy way and will start implementing it right away.

    Thank you

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  6. Hi.

    I sort of do something similar and I think it’s so extremely important. Don’t lose your data guys!

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  8. Consider a second USB hard drive. Leave one connected to the computer and one at work. Create a scheduled task to run SyncToy command line sync daily. Swap the USB hard drives at the start of each week. Rinse and repeat.

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