How to implement the 3-2-1 backup strategy


Introduction

Statista.com reported that in 2021 an estimated 79 zettabytes of data was created, captured, copied, and consumed globally; for reference, one zettabyte is equivalent to a billion terabytes. The amount of data that we create grows every year, as a result: so does the amount of data we lose. Data disasters do happen. This could be anything from a broken SSD, to theft, to natural disasters. This might have you asking, “Is one backup of my data enough to protect against these?” The short answer is no. All three of these damage our data in very different ways, as a result we need a very comprehensive backup strategy to protect against these and many more threats. Having a backup of your data might protect against someone stealing your laptop, however, it might not protect against a disaster like a house fire. 

One comprehensive backup strategy that can be used to protect against many threats is the 3-2-1 backup strategy. This rule states that you should have:

  • 3 copies of your data
  • 2 local copies on different storage types
  • 1 backup off-site

The main aim of this strategy is that in the worst case scenario, you will still have at least one copy of your data that can be restored. In the event of laptop theft, you can restore a local backup of your data to new hardware; in the event of a house fire, you can restore your off-site backup. You may have heard of this strategy if you are interested in data protection, or have spoken to our sales or support team, but you may not know how to implement this. This blog will guide you through configuring a 3-2-1 strategy using Macrium Reflect and Macrium Site Manager.

Macrium Reflect

Macrium Reflect enables you to rapidly backup your data, and has several features that can help when configuring a 3-2-1 backup strategy. 

The first way to implement the 3-2-1 backup strategy is to schedule multiple backups in Macrium Reflect. Multiple backups can be scheduled to use different destinations. It is important to ensure that the relevant destination is accessible from the system at the scheduled start time for the backup. For example, if you are using several USB connected drives as the destinations for the backups, it is important to ensure that the correct drive is connected for each backup.

Alternatively, the ‘Alternative Locations’ feature can be used when scheduling a backup to make backup destination rotation easier. Multiple destinations can be specified, if the first destination in the list is not accessible, the second destination will be used; if the second destination in the list is inaccessible then the third destination will be used, and so on for all the specified destinations.

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You can easily change the order of the specified destinations, to ensure that the destinations are attempted in the correct order. An example of leveraging this feature to create drive rotation would be if you have two external USB drives that are being used as the destination; if one of the USB drives is not accessible, then the other USB drive will be used as a destination. This ensures that the backup will succeed if either of the USB drives is connected to the system. 

If an incremental or differential backup is specified, but the destination does not have an existing backup set, then a full backup will be created instead. The end result of this is that all the destinations that have been specified in the alternative locations will have a backup set. Future incremental and differential backups will be appended to the backup set that exists on the destination that is being used.

When configuring destination drive rotation, it is recommended that ‘Use the unique volume identifier to locate the backup drive’ is configured in the Macrium Reflect Defaults and Settings. When this setting is configured, the destination drive letter that is specified will be matched to the unique volume identifier, this unique identifier will then be used to identify the destination when the backup is performed. This will ensure that Windows drive letter assignment does not interfere with the backup drive that is being used.

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Macrium Reflect includes a scripting feature that can be used to easily synchronize the backup destination with a second location without any interaction from the user. To generate a script, select the ‘Backup’ tab, then select the ‘Definition Files’ tab. Right-click on the backup definition that you want to use to create the script, then select one of the script options: VB-Script file, Powershell file, MS-DOS Batch file. During the creation of the script file, there is an option for ‘Directory Synchronization’.

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Note: this option is not available when creating the MS-DOS script, however, the script can be edited at a later time to include Robocopy.

Once this option has been enabled, you can select a destination to synchronize the backups to. This uses Robocopy to synchronize the destination folder of the backup, with the directory that you have specified. The scripts that you have created can be accessed at any time in the ‘Scripts’ tab. Once you have created a script, it can be scheduled to run automatically via the ‘Scripts’ tab. 

For the directory synchronization to run, the script will need to be scheduled. If the backup definition is scheduled then the directory synchronization will not run following the backup. 

Macrium Site Manager

Macrium Site Manager has several features that can help implement a 3-2-1 backup strategy. Configuring multiple repositories will enable you to have multiple redundant copies of your data on site. The storage options for the repositories are a Network Share, Amazon AWS Storage Gateway, Azure Storage Account, or a repository that is local to each computer. You can read more about configuring a repository in this knowledgebase article.The cloud storage repository options, Amazon AWS Storage Gateway and Azure Storage Accounts, can be used to store the backup off-site. 

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Alternatively, Site Manager also has a feature to perform ‘Remote Synchronization’. This will synchronize a repository with a remote location, enabling easy off-site replication of your data. The options for the remote sync destination are a windows network share, a local path, file transfer protocols (SFTP, FTP, and FTPS) and cloud storage compatible with the Amazon S3 protocol (e.g. Wasabi or Amazon S3). This article contains more information about configuring the remote synchronization. Since the whole repository is synchronized to a second location, remote synchronization is an effective way to create redundant copies of backups for many computers in one operation.

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Using a combination of multiple repositories and, or, remote synchronization, you can easily configure three copies of your data, including one off-site copy. 

Final Thoughts

Having copies of your backups is as important as having a backup at all. To fully cover yourself from data loss, copies of your backups should be created. By leveraging the powerful features included in Macrium Reflect and Macrium Site Manager, it is easy to automatically create copies of your backups without any user interaction.


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