Backups: the 3-2-1 rule and you

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Backups: the 3-2-1 rule and you

Make sure your precious data is safe by adhering to the 3-2-1 rule of backups.

Summer in Australia can get dangerous, with bushfires and floods a real possibility for many. Part of planning what to do when those natural disasters hit is also planning how to protect your valuable data from being consumed by fire or drowning in filthy flood waters. A little bit of time spent preparing can save tears later, particularly when you've got bigger issues like somewhere to live or the safety of friends and family to worry about.

The first step is to get familiar with the 3-2-1 rule of backups. 3 copies of your data, in 2 different formats, with 1 copy off-site. This mantra ensures your data is safe and sound, even if the worst happens. Simply having a copy of your files on an external hard drive on your desk is not an appropriate backup for when the roof caves in and hours of heavy rain pours all over your external hard drive and the computer it was attached to, leaving all your files unrecoverable.

Achieving the 3-2-1 rule isn't as hard as it sounds. Three copies of your data is as simple as the original local copy on your computer, a second copy on an external hard drive or NAS and a third copy on the cloud somewhere. Two different formats just means that you need a copy on an external drive or NAS and on a service such as Dropbox, OneDrive or Google Drive - which meets the off-site backup requirement, completing the 3-2-1 strategy of backups.

Using a NAS for your backups, particularly if you have multiple computers at home is a great way to make sure that computers that move around the house, like laptops, are backed up. If you forget to plug your hard drive in, there's no backup. But because a NAS is always on and always connected to your network, your computer will always have somewhere to back up to. NAS units also implement RAID, giving you an extra layer of protection so your backups aren't lost due to a faulty hard drive. RAID on its own is not a backup however, you still need to implement the 3-2-1 rule, which RAID doesn't contribute to. Synology and QNAP make excellent NAS units that can act as home servers, as well as file storage.

Automating all this is key to having reliable backups. Us humans are stupid and forget stuff. The computer never forgets and always does what it is told. You tell it to backup at 4am every day, it'll back up at 4am every day, unless you, stupid human, didn't set it up properly. There's a plethora of backup software available for Windows which will take your files and store them somewhere safe. The aim is to make sure the backup runs often without hiccups and in the background. The best backups are backups you don't even notice.

If you don't want to spend any money, the backup program built in to Windows 10 will do the job perfectly. Combine that with storing stuff in OneDrive, you've got a cheap and easy backup system. Crashplan is an all-in-one suite that will back up to their cloud service and to an external hard drive. This takes it a bit further than OneDrive on its own as Crashplan will store versions of your data, just in case you delete some files by accident. Crashplan is A$70/yr for a single computer or A$165 for up to 10 computers, which includes unlimited cloud storage.

Windows Backup and Crashplan may not suit everyone, but they've got a low barrier to entry and are better than no backups at all. Whatever backup plan you institute, make sure it meets the 3-2-1 rule, and you'll be fine.

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