3-2-1 Backup- The Safest Bet Against Ransomware

We all know that one day, when we least expect it… our computer hard drive can crash, we might lose our computer to a fire, theft, or one of those forgetful moments in a cab, hotel, or airport. And the first thought to go through our mind is, “Is my backup current?” For some of us, who have never experienced a computer crash it might be, “Do I have a backup?”

Here’s a strategy that can save your day, save you hours of time and often, lots of money. It’s called the 3-2-1 Backup Strategy and it is widely accepted as one of the best. It goes like this.


3 copies of your data.

2 copies on different media – such as a tape backup and a DVD or CD-ROM

1 copy offsite in the cloud- Services such as I-Drive or Carbonite


This way you will always have a copy that is safe and available. If you have some files that old, like old tax returns, copies of photos, or old work stuff, having different media formats will ensure you can still access those files. Ever find a floppy disk with your childhood diary and try to figure out how to save them?


And finally having an offsite copy in the cloud will offer you a safe and forward compatible copy. There are many online services that will back up your data in either of two ways. One is a real time back up which means pretty much as you type it the cloud will save it. The other is a daily or scheduled backup which will give you a single copy per day.


Real time back up used to be the best way to go but since Ransomware appeared several years ago it sometimes requires a different approach.  Ransomware programs sneak onto your computer in email attachments, or are downloaded without your knowledge from a website you visit and silently encrypt all your critical files. Depending on how many files you have it can take from several hours to days and then all of the sudden you are presented a screen that says unless you pay several hundred dollars to the hacker your files will be permanently erased.


Often, even if you do pay, you do not get your files back. If you have real time back up turned on your cloud backup service can back up the encrypted files and overwrite your good files. Most cloud backup services will keep several copies or “Versions” of your files, usually 10 to 12 versions. So if it takes the ransomware 3 days to encrypt your files your backup service will still have good copies of earlier versions they can download to you and save the day. Check with your backup service to find out how many versions they keep and what the best strategy is for you.


Finally, make sure that all your backups are in a secure place. It does no good to have current backups next to your computer if it is stolen or burned in a fire and the backups are gone also. Consider a labeling strategy that tells you what they are but if a stranger came across them they won’t know this is your most valuable data all backed up into a single place. These simple steps can save you much frustration, embarrassment, time, and money right when you need it.


By Dan Hirning