Most if not all of us own data that we would like to preserve and would be devastated should something happen and we lost it. Chances are you have already lost data at some point in your life or know someone that has. It might be something as mundane as a snap from your last holidays on your phone or something really important such as critical business data residing on your work computer or server. And you are probably taking steps towards preserving your data by uploading to a cloud service like Google Drive or Apple’s iCloud so you can recover it if your device ever gets lost or damaged. But is this enough?

Any IT professional would tell you that it’s a good first step but surely not enough. What’s more, there are scenarios where services like G Drive and iCloud are inadequate and they can also be very expensive the more data you own and upload to them. Those services were not designed with the intent to backup your data but rather to enable easy remote access and collaboration between users. Additionally, you put all your confidence on a single third-party provider and as the recent (Aug. 2020) incident with has proved, this is not a fail-safe strategy. By a single configuration error on the part of the provider, thousands have lost all photos they stored on the online service by Canon and very few were able to recover them through a backup they possessed.

The 3-2-1 backup rule

So what is it then you should do to safeguard your precious data? Follow the simple, tried and easy to remember 3-2-1 backup rule! What this rules states is that you should keep at least 3 copies of your data, two on different storage media, and at least one of those copies should be off-site. The more backup copies of your data you have, the less chance to lose them all there is. The rule is recommended by IT professionals, academics, backup companies and even the US government through its United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT). So, let’s examine how you can implement the 3-2-1 rule to your own data and be efficiently protected from data loss.

The first copy

The first copy of your data is your production data, meaning the original files residing on your device, the ones you access regularly and work with. These are usually located on your personal computer, your work computer or your phone. In more elaborate scenarios those can reside externally, on an external drive, a NAS drive or a server, which is often the case for creative professionals handling large amounts of data, or business users. This is the copy most susceptible to being lost or damaged due to a number of factors.

The second copy

Most modern operating systems offer a built-in method to perform automated backups of your data on external drives. Microsoft offers the Backup function through the settings of Windows 10, Apple’s MacOS has Time Machine and most flavors of Linux have a similar solution. For phones the equivalent is to perform a periodical backup on your computer. For such a backup you can use a simple USB drive, an external HDD, an optical disk or a network drive (NAS), depending on the amount of data you need to backup. That is the second copy of your data and what is important is for the backup to reside on a different device than the one holding your production data in case this gets lost, damaged or otherwise inaccessible. It should also while being easily accessible should something happen to your primary device and you need to recover it.

The third copy

Assuming your second copy is stored on-site, there is always the chance it gets lost or damaged alongside your original copy. Such a case would be for example a burglary, a fire or a flood at the location where you keep said data. Thus the need for a third copy of your data, a backup that is to be stored off-site. This can be your office to store your home computer’s backup, and vice versa, or the cloud. The furthest away your third copy resides the safest you should consider your data but at the same time the harder it will be for you to recover it should the need arise.

Cloud vs hard copy

Should you opt to use a cloud backup provider we strongly recommend you choose Backblaze or iDrive. Those are the ones we use for our own operations and integrate to our clients’ systems. Both are tested and proved to be reliable, offering simplicity and ease of use at a relatively cheap monthly subscription. Both provide a lightweight utility that allows you to keep a continuously updated backup copy of your data with their main difference being that Backblaze allows unlimited storage data for one device while iDrive comes with a finite capacity on which you can backup multiple devices (eg. desktop, laptop and mobile). To recover your data both offer the same options, you can either do it over the internet or they can mail you an HDD containing all your data, the later coming at an extra cost. Finally both offer the option to encrypt your data with a private encryption key.

That said, the cloud is not always the best solution for your third backup copy. The cost of entry might be low but total cost of ownership can grow significantly in the long term, specially as your backup size grows. If data recovery speed is paramount, to avoid downtime for example, you should also factor in the time you would need to perform it over your network connection speed, potential bandwidth limits of your internet service provider or the time the HDD copy of your backup service would take to reach you. Security of your data is another thing you should strongly consider, specially if your data includes sensitive information. Even though cloud providers usually offer encryption, not all encryption is equal and no encryption method guarantees it will never be broken. What’s more, your data, although encrypted, will indeed be available over the internet, prone to be accessed by malicious agents of any kind. All this considered, a NAS drive or even hard disk drives not connected to the internet at a location you control (eg. office, parent’s house etc.) can be a much safer solution even though coming at a greater initial cost.


An onsite backup copy allows for speed and simplicity in the event you need to recover data. You just need to connect your backup device to the device you use to regain access to your data. An off-site backup copy strengthens your data security by protecting you from a single point of failure.

When designing your backup strategy you should aim for an equilibrium between safety, security, practicality, ease of use and cost efficiency. There is no universal solution to fit any scenario and a well balanced data protection plan should best suit your individual needs.

The 3-2-1 backup rule is a good start when designing your strategy but there are also other factors you should take into consideration. For critical data redundancy is necessary so you might want to consider RAID or adding more backup copies, both on-site and off-site. Beware though, RAID should not be considered as a backup solution itself but merely as an extra point of redundancy to a well implemented backup strategy. Also bear in mind that devices tend to fail over time and devices of the same type and age are at much greater risk to fail at the same time than devices of different type, making it preferable to diversify the media that holds your data copies as much as possible.

We tend to think in terms of probability of an incident resulting to data failure occurring but there are many such possible incidents and even though its hard we should try and factor them all in. Natural disasters like earthquakes and floods, fire, vandalism, theft, voltage surges, device failure, malicious ransomware attacks, transfer and data corruption and of course human errors can all lead to data loss. Implementing a safe and sound backup strategy with no single point of failure is imperative.

Hopefully this article can serve you as a good starting point to design and implement your backup strategy. If you still need assistance to do so or believe you would prefer a team of experienced professionals to design a turn-key backup solution for you or your company, we encourage you to contact FlyHigh for a free consultation session. We would be happy to oblige!