3-2-1 Backup Rule: Essential Data Backup

Over the years, many organisations have followed a 3-2-1 backup rule to help them achieve efficient data protection.

What is the 3-2-1 rule?

The 3-2-1 backup rule was first established by US photographer Peter Krogh while writing a book about digital asset management in the early 2000s. However, it also has strong associations with other types of technology subjects and is still very much relevant in more recent times.

We break the 3-2-1 rule down into three parts:

3 copies of data

The three copies of data are three redundant copies of your data spread across different underlying storages.

2 different media types

By different media, we mean different format types like copying to a hard drive, tape, or the cloud. One copy will remain on your computer.

At least 1 copy is off-site.

Last is keeping one copy off-site. Typically to another building, shipping tapes off to a storage facility or a service offered by a third-party such as Covenco.

Using the above as a base rule outline, it can then be transformed to work with modern critical data needs … and let’s not forget the best attributes of the rule which are:

  • It does not have any specific technology or hardware requirement.
  • It can address nearly any failure scenario.


3-2-1 rule evolution … 

At Covenco we have taken the 3-2-1 rule a step further and have always insisted that any backup solution or strategy should meet the 3-2-1-1 backup principle. The additional 1 is offline, which includes immutable and air-gapped backup solutions. This additional step can give you the added data protection needed against ransomware or cyber-attacks.

What is immutable backup?

Immutable backups have got to be the most efficient protection against the likes of ransomware. It ensures your data is always recoverable, as it cannot be deleted, changed, or altered in any way. So even if your legacy backup systems are attacked, you will always be able to recover your immutable, untouched data.

What is air-gapped backup?

Having an air-gapped backup of your data ensures additional recovery options. It is pretty much impossible for ransomware or other malware to infiltrate through as it is completely unreachable. A simple and effective way to achieve this is through a Tape Backup Service – it is a great option for long-term data retention and is still the most cost-effective method, especially with larger data volumes.

Veeam – The additional Zero …

Our partner Veeam has added a further step to the equation, which is zero (3-2-1-1-0). This essentially means there will be zero errors by utilising the Veeam SureBackup recovery verification – a great way to confidently know that you can restore data (Veeam).

How can you achieve the 3-2-1 strategy?

There are many ways in which you can achieve the versatile 3-2-1 Backup rule, including:

  • Backups on disk (DAS, SAN, NAS, and appliances)
  • Backups on tape
  • Backups on removable storage
  • Storage snapshots (caution on separate media from production)
  • Backups in object storage such as in the public cloud with the Scale-out Backup Repository’s capacity tier
  • Backups in cold archive storage in the public cloud with the Scale-out Backup Repository’s archive tier
  • Backups hosted or managed by a service provider, including Veeam Cloud Connect
  • Replication to another host or site with Veeam replication
  • Backup copy jobs to another storage location
  • Why would you need it?

Why would you need it?

Cybercriminals target backup servers once they force their way into a customer’s network. They know that if they can disable or delete the backups, they stand a much better chance of being paid a ransom. In order to prevent this from happening and protect the backup servers we adapt the 3-2-1 backup rule.

Don’t forget cyber security!

As incredibly effective as the 3-2-1 rule is in protecting against malicious attacks, these attacks will continue to evolve over time. Therefore, it’s important to include a robust cyber security strategy as part of your overall data protection plan, to ensure ultimate data safety.

If the 3-2-1 rule is something that you would like to learn more about, speak to a third-party data protection service provider like Covenco. We work across the full Modern Data Management spectrum, including data backup, security, and availability. Fill in the form below and a data protection expert will be in touch shortly.

Covenco has over 20 years of experience helping organisations implement bespoke data protection and management solutions that work for their unique circumstances.

Contact us if you would like to speak to one of our data backup experts.

Complete this form below and someone will be in touch shortly.