Techsplained: The importance of Backups & the 3, 2, 1 Backup Method.

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Backups are an important part of every business IT stratergy, but do you know what the 3, 2, 1 Backup method is? 

Techsplained, uncomplicating technology and making it easy for you.

In this video and article we talk about the importance of backups. 

What are the primary different types of backups? What is the 3, 2, 1 Backup Method? 

And why are backups so important, especially for your business? 

When it comes to backups, there are more than a few horror stories to scare you as to why you should be using some kind of a backup solution. We hear all the time about businesses who aren’t managed by ourselves being hacked, or being the victim of Ransomware where they loose all their files. We could dedicate a whole web page to examples of people and businesses loosing their files. However if you would like to read a more personal story about why backups are important to me (A.J.) open up the toggle below. 

Personal Backup Story from A.J.

In 2008 I lost my mother to cancer. After we lost her, I made an effort to curate a folder of images and videos of her, digital camera images, film scans, even printed photo and film scans, there were close to 1,000 photos in total. I wanted to preserve every visual memory I had of her. 

I also wanted to make sure I had a backup of all of these images incase the worst happened. So I used my computers built in backup manager to make sure I always had a backup of this folder. And that was it, I never thought anything of it, I used my computer for years following this for a wide range of different purposes, University, Work, Personal, Family, you name it I used it for everything. 

Then about 7 years ago my computer hard drive failed, it just completely stopped working. I was devastated, especially as due to it’s age I would be best buying a new computer. But I didn’t worry about it too much, as I had a backup of all of my most important files, including the photos of my mum. I purchased a new computer, plugged the backup hard drive into it and…. nothing. I tried everything; it just wouldn’t work. 

I had lost all the photos of my mum, including hundreds that had only ever existed in digital form. I went months angry with myself that I had lost all these photos and files. However, one day I got an email from a cloud storage provider reminding me that my free storage allowance was full. I had forgotten about the account completely, I think I had only set it up because of an offer for a large amount of free storage from a promotion. I did not even have a record of the account details in my Password Manager, I had to reset the password, logged in to the account and all my photos and many of my most important files were there.  I downloaded them to my new computer and vowed to myself I would always have more than one backup of my files.  

This is when I learned about the importance of the 3, 2, 1 backup system. 

3, 2, 1 Backup System Explained 

The 3, 2, 1 backup system is a method used by many individuals and companies to be able to back up all of their data. 

The method is a simple way of describing always having 3 Copies of Every File. 


A Local Version 

A local version is a file which is stored on your computer or laptop. 


An External Backup 

This may be a USB stick, external hard drive or network storage. 


A Remote Backup 

This may be to a hard drive or network storage at a remote location. 

In some cases the 3rd form of backup may be some form of cloud file storage system or backup solution which has a larger data center with it’s own storage redundancy. 

By using this method, and the correct software to ensure your files are backed up on a regular basis, you will ensure that you always have regular copies of all of your files. And even if your computer fails, and your external backup drive is corrupted, you can be safe in the knowledge that you have a third copy of the data elsewhere which also may have it’s own redundancy solution or even data roll back features. 

So, if you do not currently use a 3, 2, 1 backup solution, ask yourself if the data you have is 100% safe and secure? 

Methods of Backup Storage 

The best backup method is the one you never need to use. But what are the different methods of storage and backup? And what is the most secure for you or your business? 

Local Storage

As the first form of file storage in the 3, 2, 1 backup solution we should first cover the different types of Local Storage. Local Storage, is anything stored on any of the Drives in your Desktop, Laptop or even a Server, whichever is your primary method of accessing and storing your files. 

Most desktops or laptops will only have 1 or 2 drives maximum, others may have more depending on special use case scenarios. Even in these cases, this will usually be limited to a Operating System and Software Boot Drive and then separate Data Storage Drives. 

However, when it comes to Servers this may be 5, 10, 20 or more drives. In these cases the Server may already have some form of in built redundancy. However, this will depend on if you are running the server in any form of RAID other than RAID Zero. 

If you want to find out more about RAID we have a video dedicated to Different File Storage types. Where we talk about the different forms of RAID configurations. 

But in short, RAID setups offer some form of drive redundancy. Some of these configurations even allow for one or more drives to fail whilst you are using the machine, without loosing content or corrupting data. This allows you to remove those drives, and swap them for replacements, and the data will again be split across the drives. 

However, this redundancy with servers is not considered a backup of the data, and if more drives than the RAID supports fail, or indeed the entire machine fails or is targeted in a ransomware attack, then you would still be stuffed without another form of backup. 

External Backup Storage

External Hard Drives 

Most people who have a backup solution will usually use some form of External Drive solution. This could be just as simple as an External Hard Drive, and even then it could be just as simple as manually copying your files to it on a regular basis. However, this is not the most ideal solution as it relies heavily on manual intervention and your remembering to create this copy of your data on a regular basis. The best way to do this is via a software-based backup solution that will automate your system backups. 

Both Windows and Mac have built in external Hard Drive based backup solutions that will scan your system for new files or file changes on a regular basis and back them up to an external hard drive. 

On Windows this is called Backup File History 

On Mac this is called Time Machine 

It is important that whilst these backup methods may be suitable for individual machine backups, these are not suitable for Server or Network Storage backup & our consultants will be able to recommend a customised solution for your business to provide the best solution for you. 

To use these features on your Desktop or Laptop you need to attach a suitably sized hard drive to your machine and link the drive to that software feature. It is recommended that at minimum you attach a dive approximately double to the size of the internal hard drives of the machine you are using. This will ensure that even if you do fill all of the hard drives you have inside of your machine you will have a backup of all of the files on those drives and also at least one older backup version of them. More likely however you will not have completely filled your internal drives and this could mean that you will have a backup of all of the files on your internal drives and then multiple older versions of those files. 

For example, I have a 2 Terabyte internal hard drive inside my machine, and a 5 Terabyte external hard drive attached to my machine. This means that I have at least one copy of all of the files on my computer, which is somewhere in the region of 1.2 Terabytes of data, and currently I have 3 months or more worth of file backups for the files I store on my machine. Those backups are split across Hourly Change Backups for the past 24 Hours of my machine being online, Daily Backups for the past Month & Weekly Backups for previous months. 

It is important to remember that this is just a single external drive, even if you use this method and have multiple months worth of backups on your external hard drive. If that one external backup drive fails then you have no backups you can access. 

Network Attached Storage (NAS)

Similar to Local Storage, there is also another external backup option that you could consider, and that is network attached storage, also known as a NAS. This could be as simple as a Single Hard Drive attached to your network, or it could be as complex as a Multiple Hard Drive setup within a NAS enclosure. 

A NAS, similar to a Server, can either be configured in RAID Zero, so that all of the drives installed in it show as a Single Drive for your to use, which has no redundancy. Or for added redundancy you can set up a Network Storage device in a RAID array. When in a RAID array higher than RAID Zero it will mean that even if one Drive fails in your backup enclosure, that you will be safe in the knowledge that there is added redundancy built in to access or recover your files. 

Remote Off Site/Cloud Copy

When it comes to third stage or off-site backup storage solutions there are a few different methods that you could consider. 

Off Site Network Storage 

Off-site storage could just be as simple as an off-site NAS. This NAS could be exactly the same as an on-site NAS so that you can ensure it is an exact mirror of that data. However, it is a lot less simple than using the in-built Software Backup solutions for third stage backups this way. 

For third stage backup solutions such as this, it is not only recommended, but required to use a third-party solution as neither Windows Backup File History OR Time Machine allow you to backup to multiple locations in this capacity. Software such as Acronis allows you to be able to manage backups much in the same way, but to multiple locations at once including an external data source such as a remote NAS or even to a Cloud Storage provider. 

Cloud Storage

Cloud storage is quite unique as it theoretically sits across multiple stages of the 3, 2, 1 backup solution, but also only can ever act as one of them. 

Reputable Cloud Storage Providers such as OneDive, iCloud, Dropbox and others have large data centers with multiple levels of redundancy, more than a Server or NAS located in your business. Depending on the service or cloud storage provider you use they also have a range of other features that you can use, this even includes things such as file history versioning control and recovery. Allowing you to go back in time to see all of the different versions of a file and restore them to version of that file or even create a copy of an older version to edit live. 

As a form of File Storage however, there are two different forms of Cloud Storage and one of these is not considered a form of backup within the context of the 3, 2, 1 Backup method. 

1 – Cloud Storage

The first is simply Cloud Storage. Most people will be most familiar with this as it is just a folder structure, similar to what you may have on your computer hard drive, but it is managed through a cloud storage system. This type of storge will store all of your files in the cloud and most, if not all of these providers, will allow you to synchronize these folders to your computer to access locally and then update changes in the cloud, this could either be all of your cloud files or just the select files or folders you want to keep access to without an internet connection.  

The main problem with this and the 3,2,1 backup solution is that, if you only keep, 200 out of 1,000 files stored locally on your computer and you are also using an external drive backup solution. Your external hard drive or NAS backup will only ever back up those 200 files and not the other 800 files that are in the cloud. 

The Advantage of Cloud Storage however is that if you have more than one computer, it is easy to synchronise all of your files between multiple computers to allow you to seamlessly use multiple computers at once with all the same files. You could even have a second computer elsewhere that is always connected with a copy of your files being updated. Just remember that if you delete a file from your cloud storage, it will delete everywhere where it syncronises.  

In this way you should consider cloud storage much like local storage, the only difference being that depending on the Cloud Storage Provider, they most likely have their own file storage redundancy. 

2 – Cloud Backup

The second form of Cloud Storage is Cloud Backup, where all of your files are stored locally and backed up to the cloud rather than the cloud being the primary storage type, this will allow you to keep a backup of all of your files and also versioning control of those files via a software solution, even if the cloud storage provider does not support versioning control. However to be able to use this and an external backup solution you would have to use a third party software solution to be able to manage this backup process between multiple locations. 

3 – Cloud to Cloud Backup

Here at One2Call however we can also offer a 3rd solution that bridges the gap between these two options and also sits within the 3, 2, 1 Backup Method and this is Cloud to Cloud backup. 

Cloud file storage, unless your provider offers backup, restore or versioning control, does not backup your data, meaning if you accidentally permanently delete a file you may not be able to recover it. 

As we have mentioned, in this capacity,Cloud Storage solution is closer to a cloud based version of local storage.The only difference being that there is much higher data redundancy, and if your computer does die there is a copy of those files in the cloud to restore to a new computer. However, if those files stored in the cloud are deleted or become corrupted there is still no way of recovering them. 

To ensure that you do have a true 3,2,1 backup solution we can also backup your cloud storage for that added peace of mind. 

Do you have three copies of at least your most important files? 

When it comes to ensuring your files are safe if the worst was to happen at One2Call can provide you with the best solution for your business. 

If you want to find out more about our Backup Solutions and how One2Call can help your business with it’s backups and other solutions please fill out the form below and our expert consultants can liaise with you to provide the best backup solution for your business. 

We’ll also be producing more content on this and other tech topics in future, so be sure to subscribe to our socials and subscribe to Techsplained and TechBytes to be the first to know about future content. 


We hope you have found this information useful. Leave us a comment over on our YouTube Channel to let us know what you think or to ask a question. 

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