What is the optimal recommended backup storage strategy? What does the 3-2-1 backup strategy indicate? How to make this data backup strategy? After reading this post from MiniTool, you know much information about this data principle.

A computer may be damaged or crash if a sudden system outage, hardware failure, virus attack, wrong operation, etc. crops up. Once PC accidents appear, your critical data like financial documents, photos, music files, and videos, will be lost. It is devastating, making you very frustrated.

For home computers and small businesses, performing an optimal backup strategy is the best practice. This can prevent your PC from encountering such a nightmare.

3-2-1 Backup Strategy Best Practices for Data Protection

To avoid data loss, having a habit of backup is necessary. If you haven’t done this thing, now it is time. So, what is the optimal recommended backup storage strategy? For small businesses, the 3-2-1 backup strategy is a great method in the IT world since it is simple and effective. Right now, follow some principles below to customize your own strategy to satisfy your needs.

To be specific, the 3-2-1 backup rule implies you should do:

  • 3 copies of your data
  • 2 local copies on 2 different media
  • 1 offsite backup

Now, let’s look through how the 3-2-1 data principle works.

Make Sure You Have at Least 3 Copies of the Data

You may have heard that the more copies you have, the less risk of data loss you meet. You can choose to create as many copies as you can. Usually, the minimum number of copies you own is three. That is to say, you have two backups and the original data. Once one backup goes wrong, an additional backup can be used to restore your computer to the previous state.

Store Copies on Different Storage Media

Obviously, it is not logical to keep backups of your data on the same computer. We are sure that many of you have heard the “all eggs” theory. If you put all eggs in the same basket, you may lose all eggs once something happens.

In the same way, if you put all the computer copies in one place where the original data exists, you are facing the risk of losing your precious data.

Therefore, keep at least two copies on a second device which can be a burnable CD/DVD, network attached drives, an external hard drive, private servers, or cloud service.

Keep One Copy Offsite

You should know, some threats like a flood, fire, earthquake, etc. can happen. To avoid PC data loss, making offsite backups is a good option. Remember to put one copy as far away as possible.

Commonly, cloud backup is selected by many people. Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, etc. are common cloud services.

How to Sync Dropbox to File Explorer in Win11/10 to Backup Data
How to Sync Dropbox to File Explorer in Win11/10 to Backup Data

This post shows you how to sync Dropbox to File Explorer on your Windows 11/10 PC for data backup. Let’s see some instructions.

Read More

In short, this is the 3-2-1 backup strategy. So, how to back up your data by following this rule? From the following part, you can find many details.

Run MiniTool ShadowMaker to Back up PC (Local Computer Backup)

To keep your data safe, you can choose data backup software to perform a local computer backup, especially backing up a PC to an external hard drive. To achieve this purpose, you can run the professional and free Windows backup software – MiniTool ShadowMaker. This tool offers two backup strategy best practices – image backup and cloning.

With it, you can easily back up your files, the system, partitions, and disks. During the backup process, this tool helps compress the source drive data into an image file – this is called image backup. You can save the image files to an external hard drive, a large USB flash drive, a network, etc.

Importantly, it supports multiple backups including scheduled backups, differential backups, and incremental backups, which can keep your data in a flexible way. Besides, its Clone Disk can help you clone a hard drive to another disk.

To run the local computer backup according to the second part of the 3-2-1 approach, download and install MiniTool ShadowMaker on your PC now.

MiniTool ShadowMaker TrialClick to Download100%Clean & Safe

How to Create Imaging Backups

Step 1: Launch MiniTool ShadowMaker and tap on Keep Trial to continue.

Step 2: By default, this backup freeware will back up the system drives required for Windows to run. In a system image file, the settings, programs, and some other hidden files are all compressed in an image. In the case of system issues, this backup is helpful to restore the computer to an earlier date.

If you want to back up your important files, go to SOURCE > Folders and Files, choose what you need to back up, and click OK.

Step 3: Select a destination path to save the image file. As to computer backup devices, a USB flash drive, DVD/CD, external hard drive, internal hard drive, and so forth are often chosen by home computer users.

As to the local backup, it is a good backup strategy that follows the 3-2-1 data principle. Here we choose an external drive.

choose an external drive

Step 4: Tap on Back Up Now to start the PC backup.

MiniTool ShadowMaker file backup

From the above figure, you can see a button called Options that allows you to make some advanced settings.  After clicking it, you can find two powerful features called Schedule Settings and Backup Scheme. The former allows you to configure a time point to automatically back up your PC, for example, every day, every week, every month, or on an event.

MiniTool ShadowMaker automatic backup

The latter offers 3 backup schemes – Incremental, Differential, and Full to enable disk space by setting to keep the latest backup image file versions.

Best Free Incremental Backup Software for Windows 11/10 for Data
Best Free Incremental Backup Software for Windows 11/10 for Data

MiniTool ShadowMaker is one of the best free incremental backup software to create incremental backups for important files in Windows 11/10.

Read More

So far, we have told you one of the best practices – image backup. Right now, the second way is to do disk cloning.

Clone Disk for Backup

This refers to a process of copying all the contents of one computer hard disk to another hard drive. It is one pattern of manifestation as for local computer backup. MiniTool ShadowMaker offers the Clone Disk feature for this thing.

MiniTool ShadowMaker TrialClick to Download100%Clean & Safe

Step 1: Launch MiniTool ShadowMaker Trial Edition.

Step 2: Go to the Tools tab and choose the feature Clone Disk to the next step.

MiniTool ShadowMaker clone disk

Step 3: You are required to opt for the source disk and the destination disk. Usually, we suggest cloning the system disk to an external hard drive which should be large enough to contain all data of the system disk. Then, click Start to continue.

choose a target disk for cloning

Step 4: The cloning process starts. Wait some time. After that, shut down your computer to remove the target disk since the Windows operating system may mark it offline if both the original hard drive and target disk are connected to the PC and put in a safe location.

How to Ghost a Hard Drive in Windows 7/8/10/11? See a Guide!
How to Ghost a Hard Drive in Windows 7/8/10/11? See a Guide!

How to ghost a hard drive or make a ghost image of Windows 11/10/8/7? Refer to this post to find ghost drive software for PC backup.

Read More

“MiniTool ShadowMaker is helpful to back up a PC to an external drive, which strictly follows the 3-2-1 backup strategy for small businesses or home computers – creating the second copy locally.”Click to Tweet

In addition, you can run another disk like MiniTool Partition Wizard to clone a hard drive. With its two features – Copy Disk and Migrate OS to SSD/HD, you can clone system disk or data disk or migrate OS with ease. Just read this post – How to Clone a Hard Drive to SSD in Windows 11/10/8/7 to learn some details.

Create the Third Copy Offsite

As to the 3-2-1 backup plan, one requirement is to create the third copy and put it offsite. Here offsite means as far away as possible. Usually, you choose an online backup service since it is the easiest method to keep your data offsite.

Onsite vs Offsite Backup Reviews, Strategies, and Best Practice
Onsite vs Offsite Backup Reviews, Strategies, and Best Practice

What are offsite and onsite backup? Why should backup media be stored offsite or onsite? How to create an onsite or offsite backup? Click here!

Read More

Generally, cloud backup services include Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Amazon Drive, Dropbox, etc. Now, get one to do an online backup which is suitable for small businesses. If you are a OneDrive user, you can refer to our previous post – Windows 11 OneDrive Back up/Sync Files to Cloud with Limits.

OneDrive manage folder backup

What Is Dropbox Backup? How to Use It? Is There An Alternative?
What Is Dropbox Backup? How to Use It? Is There An Alternative?

What Is Dropbox Backup? How to use it? How to restore filed form it? Is there an alternative? This post provides details for you.

Read More

In addition, you have a choice to back up your data to a remote computer over your internet, which is similar in principle to cloud backup. But the computer should be in a secure location, such as a friend’s home or relative’s house.

MiniTool ShadowMaker allows you to perform this job by inputting the corresponding path, user name, and password during the backup process. To know many details on the setup, refer to this help document – How to Back up Files on Win11/10/8/7 Using MiniTool ShadowMaker and scroll down to the Shared section.

back up PC to network in MiniTool ShadowMaker


What is the optimal recommended backup storage strategy? After reading this post, you know the 3-2-1 backup strategy is the best data protection backup strategy for home computers & small businesses.

If you are looking for a backup strategy to safeguard against data loss and reduce downtime, just follow this data backup strategy. Free download and install MiniTool ShadowMaker to create a local computer backup and get one cloud service to implement this 3-2-1 approach.

If you have some questions while using our software, feel free to contact us to leave your ideas in the following zone. Also, any suggestions are welcome.

Backup Strategy FAQ

What are the three types of backups?

There are three backup types to protect your files, including full, incremental, and differential backups. To know details, see this post - 3 Common Types of Backup: Full, Incremental & Differential Backup.

What should be contained within a backup strategy?

A backup strategy should contain at least 3 copies of your data; two copies are on 2 different storage types and one copy is offsite. This is the 3-2-1 backup rule.

What are some important things to consider when developing your backup strategy?

7 critical factors should be considered if you develop a backup strategy, including cost, backup method, backup location, backup flexibility, backup schedule, security, and reliability.

  • linkedin
  • reddit