How to Leverage the 3-2-1 Backup Rule and Modern Tape Technology in Backup Applications

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March 31, 2021

By Rich Gadomski, Head of Tape Evangelism, FUJIFILM Recording Media U.S.A., Inc.

In case you were not aware of it, March 31st is World Backup Day. To be sure, a quick visit to the official website confirms that this day is just a reminder for consumers to backup their PCs and cell phones. According to the website, only 25% of consumers are protecting their precious memories. Surely the helpful recommendations for routine backup doesn’t apply to the storage professionals that keep our enterprise data safe and our websites up and running.  Or does it?

When Disaster Strikes a Data Center

On Wednesday, March 10th, 2021, a fire broke out at the OVHCloud data center in Strasbourg, France. The fire quickly spread out of control and completely destroyed compute, network and storage infrastructure. According to some accounts, as many as 3.6 million websites including government agencies, financial institutions and gaming sites went dark. Others complained that years’ worth of data was permanently lost.

We know that the statistics regarding cost of downtime and the number of companies that don’t ever recover from catastrophic data loss are alarming. The often-cited University of Texas study shows that 94% of companies do not survive, 43% never reopen and 51% close within two years. That’s why the cardinal sin in data protection is not being able to recover data.

OVH reminds us that, however unlikely, data center disasters like an all-consuming fire can still happen. Although these days a more sinister threat continues to loom and tends to grab the headlines and our attention, namely: ransomware.

Follow the 3-2-1 Rule

For many years now, storage professionals have been following the 3-2-1 backup rule. That is to say, 3 copies of data, stored on 2 different media types, with 1 offsite location to store backups. This golden rule would have certainly helped some of the OVH clients. But with the emergence of ransomware, we now better appreciate a copy of backups stored offsite, and offline with a true “air gap”. Hackers simply can’t attack data that is disconnected from the network. Under the original 3-2-1 rule, all the devices might still be online and connected to the network

Best practices these days would be a slight modification to a 3-2-1-1 rule, namely 3 copies of data, 2 different media to store backups, 1 offsite location to store backups online, and 1 offsite location to store backups offline.

Going a step further, some vendors further modify the rule to say: 3-2-1-1-0. The 0 represents the notion of 0 errors with good advice to scan backup media before restoring to make sure that the backups were not infected and the data is recoverable.

While the 3-2-1 rule and even the evolved 3-2-1-1-0 rule appear simple enough, why wasn’t it more widely adopted among OVH customers or by so many ransomware victims? The answer to these types of questions often comes down to budget constraints. It’s costly enough just dealing with primary storage and its rapid growth.

Leverage Modern Data Tape for Backup Applications

But by taking a more strategic approach to data protection by incorporating modern data tape technology, we can achieve best practices in data protection without breaking the bank. Because of tape’s lowest TCO and lowest  power consumption, coupled with ease of portability, tape can continue to play a role in a basic backup strategy with the benefit of affordable offline and offsite storage.

In this video, storage industry expert George Crump explains how a backup strategy can be optimized with tape technology:

So on this World Backup Day, let’s all take the opportunity to examine our backup strategies to effectively meet the challenges of data protection and budget constraints with today’s modern tape technology.


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