The 3-2-1 Rule for Database Backups

The 3-2-1 Rule for Database Backups

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Andrew Abwoga
10 November 2020

Suffice to say, recent statistics about backups show that backup strategies are lacking for many businesses. Your backup strategy is key to saving your business from eventual disasters. The 3-2-1 rule for backups is a fairly old strategy for backups though many businesses don’t pay attention or don’t even realize how much it could save businesses in the event of a disaster. In a paper from the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, Carnegie Mellon recommended the 3-2-1 method. In this blog, we talk about what it entails.

What is the 3-2-1 Rule?

The 3-2-1 rule for backups simply entails the following:

  1. That you should have at least three copies of your data.
  2. The copies should be stored on two separate media.
  3. Also, you should keep a backup copy off-site.

Why Use the 3-2-1 Rule?

Having two copies of your data on-site and one off-site makes a lot of sense. The reason being, the two on-site backups are simply having a way for you to have quick access to your data, should anything happen to your operational data. As you try to recuperate from losing access to your operational data, the first copy of your on-site backup should be fairly up to date to the extent that your data loss is fairly minimal. On the other hand, you should have an off-site backup that should save you from other severe eventualities such as fire, flood, or natural calamities. Whichever the case, a cloud backup solution should immediately come to mind when you think about your off-site backups. 

Considering a cloud backup solution like Backup Ninja will save you the hustle of choosing the locality of the backups. With it, you can diversify your backup strategy by selecting multiple off-site backup locations on any cloud provider preferable to your business and that is for both your databases and any other kind of file you wish to backup.

Just having a single backup for your data is not enough to protect you in the event of a disaster. The essence of following this rule cannot be understated as far as the security of your data is concerned, regulatory requirements, not to mention the potential for data loss, for your business.

Other Backup Strategies

It’s important to keep in mind that the 3-2-1 rule is just a best practice, it’s not cast in stone. There are many other strategies that do the trick. Such strategies might consider other redundancies like multiple off-site backups or lack of off-site backups at all. Based on the nature of your business, you should consider a strategy that suits your needs. A key thing to consider when choosing backup strategies is the level of risk that your business may be subject to if you have such strategies in place versus if you don’t. 


Adopting the 3-2-1 rule is a great start towards getting your data backed up. Regardless of how much your data is important to your business, you should consider diversifying the ways in which you backup your data. Storing all your eggs in one basket just doesn’t cut it.