3-2-1 BACKUP!

backup vault imageWhile not a very exciting topic, lately, I’ve been thinking about the importance of backing up our data.

Why, you ask?  Well, we had a power outage at my house while our family PC was being used.  Apparently, the power outage happened as the hard disk was in use and the result was that some of the files on the hard disk became corrupted.

Luckily, I had a backup and could restore the files.  But, that made me think more about the importance of backing up our data.

Now, most of you know that I’m not a hardware guy.  I don’t spend my time working on computer hardware.  I spend my time designing web-sites and writing code for web-sites.

But, this is just too important not to take a few minutes to mention it here.

For the last year or so, I’ve been employing a backup strategy I learned from others called 3-2-1 BACKUP!

Here’s what each part means:

  1. Have three copies of EVERY important file (the original counts as one – so you need TWO more)
  2. Have copies on TWO DIFFERENT mediums – so if you have files on a hard drive, that counts as one.  Then you need files saved on something else – perhaps a DVD or CD
  3. Have one copy off-site – this way, if you have a physical disaster (fire, flood, etc.) you have a copy of important files available.

Before I explain each one in more detail, let me add in here a note about the importance of backing up our on-line life as well.  I wrote a post a while ago talking about what I do to backup things like flickr, facebook, google docs, etc.  Read the post here.

OK, here’s a brief run down on each step:


We can count the original file as copy number one.  But, if we want to be safe, you need to more copies.  Let’s assume that you back up your computer to an external hard drive (as I do).  This now counts as copy number two.  But, it only counts as copy number two if you DO NOT delete the original.  If you delete the original, the “backup” now becomes copy number 1.  You need three copies of every file.  So you have the files on your hard drive (number 1) and copies on an external hard drive (number 2).  Now, you need to figure out where you will store copy number 3 (keep reading).


This means you store your backups on two different things.  You backup up to a hard drive (medium #1) and to a DVD (medium #2).  This is important because hard drives can and do fail.  So do CD’s and DVD’s.  By having two different mediums you drastically lessen the risk of any one medium failing.


In my opinion this is one of the most overlooked parts of backup.  There’s a sad, but instructive story about the great movie director Francis Ford Coppola losing years and years of photos and scripts and notes when thieves stole his computer and his backup drive (read the story here).  If he had backed up his data off site, he still would have lost his computer and his backup drive.  But, he would have been able to restore his data from the off site location.

For me, I use a service called carbonite (carbonite.com).  For around $60.00 per year, I can backup an unlimited amount of data off site.  It’s a great service and is incredibly simple to set up.  There’s many other services similar to carbonite.  But, I haven’t used them.

So, there you have it.  3-2-1 Backup.  Maybe someone reading will be saved a ton of trouble by implementing a few ideas here….