Home backup strategy

Backup strategy is something I am passionate about and something I have dealt with for a lot of my working life. This post comes at it from the angle of a home user, with options to suit the average person who wishes to protect their data.

For most people it is great to have so many photos of friends and family floating around, but stop to think what it would be like if your computer died and you lost it all. It’s worth giving some thought to how you can protect your data.

I wrote a post about backing up your family photos. This post follows on from that and gives a much more bullet proof solution, which you can apply to your whole household.

3-2-1 backup strategy

The concept of the 3-2-1 backup strategy is that you should always have 3 copies of your data, two of which can be in the same place (but on DIFFERENT platforms) and one must be off site.

This can sound a little over the top at first glance, but when you analyse the strategy it makes a lot of sense.

Let’s take a look…

Firstly, what are we trying to protect against?

The answer is loss of data, but this can be a number of factors, but they come in two flavours:

Physical loss of data (fire, flood, theft etc).

To mitigate this factor we must have an OFF SITE copy. This is one of your 3 copies and it can either be kept in the cloud (dropbox, Google Drive, Crashplan etc) or it can be taken away on a hard drive (or whatever medium) and stored elsewhere. This only works if the data is static, and if you add to it you need to be quick to take a new copy off site. For most of us an automated cloud backup solution is better.

Digital loss of data

This can be data corruption, scratches (in terms of DVD’s etc) or other digital factors. Take DVD’s as an example. If you have your data on 2 DVD’s and they get scratched then you have lost your data (yes, you probably haven’t taken enough care, but nevertheless), or at the very least you are reliant on the cloud version which you may or may not have tested. There have been cases where people have gone to their cloud version and for whatever reason it was not up to date due to their Internet connection being slow or other factors. The cloud is a great backup, but shouldn’t be your only one.

That’s why the best scenario is where the other 2 copies that you have locally are on different platforms. This can be Hard Drive and DVD, or even two platforms like Time Machine and a backup to a local NAS drive.

An example of a good backup system

I often get asked for an example of the perfect setup. I don’t think a perfect system exists, as it all depends on your needs and how much data you have, but here is a good starter for six!

Backup Number 1 – Time Machine

I use a Mac, so Time Machine is built into the Operating system. If I plug a Hard Drive into my Mac it asks me if I want to set it up as a backup. It them backs up all my data as I create it to this external drive. You can even get wireless versions that sit on your network. There is an added advantage of being able to access deleted items and changed files.

Backup Number 2 – The NAS

If you have a home NAS (some routers allow you to plug in a hard drive to create shared storage) then you can schedule your Mac or PC to sync your crucial data to this shared storage either at set intervals or before you shut down. If you don’t want to do this then you can simply copy your data to this location as and when you need it (e.g. when you have downloaded new photos from your camera). Sometimes people use this second backup just to store critical stuff like family photos.

Backup Number 3 – Crashplan (The Cloud)

Crashplan can be set to run in the background and backup your data to the Crashplan servers. There is a charge for the product but if you have a friend you can set it up to backup to each others computers and it won’t cost you a penny other than the cost of the hard drive storage.

Another option for this is to simply use Dropbox, but you have to be careful not to exceed your account.


There you have it, a simple 3-2-1 backup strategy that gives you peace of mind that your data is safe in case of disaster.

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