3-2-1 Backup Rule

As we all are aware, processes and techniques for managing data are constantly evolving in our industry, following trends and new developments in Information Technology. Backing up essential and/or vital information has gotten easier to do and should be included in everyone’s archiving and data duplication protocols. If you attended our Managing Electronic Records classes, then you’ve heard us mention the Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe (LOCKSS) method. We have also shared this method through a few blog articles: What Records Should Be Considered for Back-up Tapes?  and Identifying and Protecting Essential Records. This method is still recommended as an accepted backup procedure. However, a newish concept has been passed around the Information Technology circles of professionals. This new strategy is referred to as the “3-2-1 Backup Rule.” In 2012, the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) gave its recommendation for the 3-2-1 Backup Rule in a paper titled Data Backup Options. This redundancy-driven concept follows the LOCKSS method, but adds one minor change to help ensure you’re able to access your essential/vital information when you need it.  


The 3-2-1 Backup Rule strategy is simple to remember: keep three complete copies of your information, two of the copies should be on varied media, and one copy should be stored off-site. One copy of the original data will serve as the official or original record, followed by two additional backup copies. Two of the three copies should be on different storage/media formats. For example, in the event of a disaster, if your paper copy has been irreparably damaged you will still be able to easily access a scanned PDF copy from your servers. Conversely, if your original record is in PDF format and your PC is crippled by a virus or malware, you can still access the paper copy from long term storage. Lastly, at least one copy should be stored off-site or somewhere in the cloud. This is the final line of defense in case of a catastrophic physical and technological failure.

If you search the web for more information concerning the 3-2-1 Backup Rule, you’ll more than likely see recommendations from various vendors to apply this strategy for all of your information. This decision however, can become costly and unnecessary if you are maintaining 3 copies of convenience or transitory information, and that’s not even mentioning short-term retention records. That’s why we recommend this particular method only for your vital/essential information. You can still follow the LOCKSS method for non-essential/non-vital information. Having different media or different locations for copies is a good practice to ensure your information is being preserved for the full retention period.

Following the 3-2-1 Backup Rule is a good way to safeguard your important records and any data you deem important, as well as the assurance and security that you’ll be able to access the information needed in the event of an emergency.

4 thoughts on “3-2-1 Backup Rule

  1. Pingback: 5 Best Practices for Performing Data Backup and Recovery - Data Science Blog

  2. Pingback: 5 Best Practices for Performing Data Backup and Recovery - DATA SCIENCE

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  4. Pingback: 5 Best Practices for Performing Data Backup and Recovery - Your Best Tech Blog

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