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How many backups do you need? If you think that only your NAS or your external hard drive is needed to keep you data safe — then read on.

There’s a good piece of advice that I’d like to pass on. That is — Don’t rely on a NAS as your only means of backup. In fact, don’t rely on just a single backup no matter the source. It’s best to have a few different backup options for the really important stuff.  

You should have at least 3 backups of your data.

The best way to make sure that your data stays safe and intact is to use what is called the 3-2-1 backup method. This means you have a total of 3 separate copies of your data:

  •  2 of those copies should be local. So what’s on your computer’s hard drive counts as one and a NAS or an external hard drive can be another. 
  • 1 of your copies should be at a different physical location. You can use a cloud or have a NAS drive somewhere else that keeps your information safe.

Having 2 local copies can be really handy if one of your drives fails because you can quickly copy over your data to a new drive.

Having the one copy on the cloud of your choice or at a different location can really save your data if there’s a fire or natural disaster.

NAS Drives Are Not Perfect

Shouldn’t my NAS keep my information safe and intact?

One thing to keep in mind is that your NAS is not perfect. Errors do happen. There’s bit rot, hard drives crash, RAID syncs fail, and software sometimes fails. User error can also result in file loss and sometimes we notice when it’s too late to recover. Either way, it’s important to have other backup options.

Why do I need the 3-2-1 method

Picture this. All your data is on your NAS drive. You’ve setup a software RAID that lets you lose up to two drives without data loss. You’re pretty confident that your hardware can handle any error without issue. Then your house burns down. But what happens if your house catches fire after an earthquake right before it’s hit by a small meteor? Your NAS probably wouldn’t survive.

But that doesn’t mean you should lose all of your data.

The 3-2-1 backup method says that you should have 3 copies of your data. 2 of those copies should be local backups and 1 should be off site I prefer to have my offsite data be kept in a separate part of the country or in a different part of the world. Just in case we’re hit by a natural disaster.

So the three instances of your data can be your computer, your NAS, and a cloud subscription.

This safeguards you from crashed hard drives, NAS failures, and accidental data deletion.

Who could benefit from the 3-2-1 backup method?

Think about everything you have on your computers. Is there anything on there that’s precious or irreplaceable? If so, then the 3-2-1 method is for you. If you are somebody who just uses Gmail and Google Drive then you probably don’t need to have multiple backups. 

As for me, I have a couple of generations of home videos that I would like to keep safe so I use the 3-2-1 method. But what I do is I don’t count the copy that’s on my computer. I already consider it gone because I’ve had hard drives crash with no warning. So I have two external hard drives that I keep locally. The offsite backup I have is hosted on a backblaze b2 account.

With this configuration and recovered from a couple hard drive failures and the death of a beloved NAS drive. So I can tell you that it works!