How To's

3-2-1 Backup Best Practices using Cloud Archiving

Published August 9, 2018

Editorial Note: While we’re most notably known for our passion in gear, we also share the same passion in keeping your data safe. So in order to help our users develop a secure workflow for their data, we’ve teamed up with Backblaze on a series of articles discussing the importance of data management. This is the first article in the three-part series on data management and protection. You can see the first of our articles on their blog as well.

Whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional photographer or videographer, employing a 3-2-1 backup strategy for your valuable photos and videos is critical. A good backup strategy can protect you from accidental or incidental data loss and make sure your working or archived files are available when you need them.

Most photographers and videographers are aware of the necessity to backup their data, but, like a lot of things that are good for us, like eating kale and exercising regularly, putting good habits into practice can be challenging. Maybe you’re currently using the cloud as part of your backup or archive strategy, or perhaps you’re still juggling hard disk drives between your workstations, a storage closet, and an offsite location.

If you’re not yet using the cloud, or are still getting familiar with the cloud for data backup and archiving, I’d like to go over some ways in which the cloud can make managing your data easier and provide you with a number of benefits you might not currently enjoy.

Let’s first do a quick review of 3-2-1 backup strategy.

The 3-2-1 Backup Strategy

A 3-2-1 strategy means having at least three total copies of your data, two of which are local but on different media, and at least one copy that is offsite.

A Typical 3-2-1 Scenario

Let’s use Landscape.cr2 as an example file for this scenario. Landscape.cr2 lives on your primary computer. That’s one copy of the data file. You also have an external hard drive or Network-Attached Storage (NAS) that you use for backing up your computer. Your backup program runs on a regular schedule, or whenever a file is added to your system, and backs up landscape.cr2 to your external drive(s). That’s the second copy on a different device or medium. In addition to that external hard drive, you also have an online backup solution that makes another copy of your data. The backup program continuously scans your computer and uploads your data to a data center (aka the cloud). Landscape.cr2 is included in this upload, and that becomes the third copy of your data.

Why Two Onsite Copies and One Offsite Copy?

Whichever kind of computer you are using, an onsite backup is a simple way of having quick access to your data should anything happen to your computer. If your laptop or desktop’s hard drive crashes, and you have been regularly backing up to an external hard drive or NAS, you can quickly get the majority of your data back (or use the external drive on another computer while yours gets fixed or replaced). If you use an automatic backup program, the exposure for data loss is fairly minimal.

Having an onsite backup is a great start, but having an offsite backup is a key component to completing a backup strategy. Onsite backups are easy to set up, but unfortunately having a backup near the device that it’s backing up (for example, having a desktop PC or Mac and an external hard drive on the same desk), means that both of those copies of your data are susceptible to loss in case of fire, theft, water damage, or other unforeseen occurrences.

Photography Backup Solutions

Most often, if the two devices you have as your local copies are close together, they’ll both be affected if the unfortunate should happen. A continuously updated copy of your data that’s not in the same physical location as the other two is paramount in protecting your files. Even the United States Government recommends this approach. In a 2012 paper for US-CERT (United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team), Carnegie Mellon recommended the 3-2-1 method in their publication titled: Data Backup Options.

The Cloud as Part of 3-2-1

Cloud Storage Solutions

The cloud can make fulfilling the 3-2-1 strategy much easier. And, with recent advances in technology and cost competition, the cloud brings other advantages:

Broadband speed and coverage — Broadband bandwidth has increased and is more widely available while the reach of cellular data service has made many remote locations accessible. It’s possible to upload data to the cloud from home, office, and even when traveling to remote locations. For example, the summit of Mt. Everest now has mobile network service.

Competitive costCompetition in cloud storage has made for competitive pricing and a range of services. The cloud is more affordable than ever.

Advantages of Adding the Cloud to 3-2-1

If you’re already using 3-2-1, then you’ve made a great start in keeping your data safe. If you’re not yet using the cloud as part of your backup strategy, then you might consider the following advantages of adding it to your data security plans.

The two offsite copies of your data required by 3-2-1 can be anywhere that’s geographically separated from your primary location. That can be convenient for some, such as for a photographer friend who takes a backup hard disk to leave at his mother’s house during their regular Sunday dinner. It’s not so easy for others, who have to transport or ship disks to other locations to fulfill the diverse location requirement. The cloud handles this without any extra effort.

Cloud data centers are designed to protect data against outages, service interruptions, hardware failures, and natural disasters. Backblaze claims 99.999999999% (11 9s) annual durability for its customers’ data.

Sharing & Collaboration
Having data in the cloud can make sharing much easier. Users can control who has access and to what data. Backblaze Backup and B2 Cloud Storage support sharing links that can be sent to anyone who needs permanent or temporary access to stored data. This is ideal if you’re working with second shooters on a project or relaying final deliverables to a client.

Data Ingest/Seeding
As digital resolutions increase, media files grow larger and larger. Forty-five megapixel images and 8K digital videos can quickly fill up any storage media and put demands on the time and bandwidth required to transfer data. Some cloud services provide seeding services that enable physical transfer of data directly to the cloud. An example is the Backblaze B2 Fireball, which is a 70 TB hard disk array with 1 GB connectivity that enables the customer to load and ship data securely to Backblaze’s data centers.

Challenges of the Cloud

For some, there are real challenges using the cloud for backing up or archiving data, especially when they have a lot of data, as many photographers and videographers do. As services expand and new technologies are adopted, transfer speeds will continue to increase and should help overcome that hurdle.

In the meantime, here are some tips for meeting these challenges:

  • Schedule your data uploads for off hours when the network load is light and the transfers won’t impede other data traffic.
  • Leverage multi-threaded uploads to improve transfer speed.
  • Take advantage of data ingest options to seed data to the cloud. It’s definitely faster and can even be more economical compared to other data transfer options.
  • Be patient. Once you get your initial files uploaded or seeded to the cloud, it becomes much easier to upload incremental updates. In the near-future we will see 5G mobile networks and higher broadband speeds that will make data transfers even faster.

Are you Using the Cloud to Best Advantage?

Backups are great for your active projects, but how do you handle your archives? We recently wrote about the difference between backing up and archiving, and knowing the difference will improve your data management strategy.

Many photographers and videographers are using a backup or even a sync solution for their data when archiving is the approach that better suits their needs. Briefly, a data backup is for recovery from hardware failure or recent data corruption or loss, and an archive is for space management and long-term retention. If you’re using a data backup or sync service to store data that you wish to keep permanently or long-term, you’re trying to fit a round peg into a square hole.

What’s the Best Use for Backup?

  • Working files currently being edited, or in a live project.
  • Documents, correspondence, application settings, and other transient system information.

What’s the Best Use for Archive?

  • Finished projects for which you wish to retain all or just the primary data files used.
  • Photos and videos that you might use again at some time in the future.
  • Media that has value to your business for possible future sales.

Making the Most of the Cloud

If you’re following a 3-2-1 backup strategy that includes the cloud, you’ll be ahead of 90% of your peers. The cloud is becoming more useful and more economical every day. When you add the security of the cloud, collaboration with clients and peers, and proven durability to that list, the cloud is an unbeatable choice for upping your game in data backup and archiving.


Author: Backblaze Staff

Articles that are written by the editorial staff at Articles part of a three-part series focused on data management and protection.

Posted in How To's
  • smrswastikdigitals. com
  • Ziggy

    Yep, we do online backup but it’s painful with an ADSL speed at 100 Kbps. Another user can’t reliably stream a lo res movie eg. So the backup runs in very off peak hours and it can take 3 days to cover one modest photo shoot.

  • Vinnie Manganello

    Can anyone recommend software that will perform an automated incremental sync between two hard drives in Windows 10? Basically I want to backup a ~10TB working drive nightly. I do not want the backup compressed. SuperDuper for mac does this perfectly, but I can’t find software for the PC that will work.

  • Thomas Krueger

    My backup consists in synchronization software from together with a couple of portable Seagate Backup Plus drives.

  • Department S

    Offsite backup is good for the reasons described. But this article ignores a real threat in today’s landscape – ransomware. It’s easy to be hit by this and the protection is an *offline* backup and ideally one that keeps some depth of historic versions. Cloud backup is of limited use if it is vulnerable to malicously encrypted copies of the file overwriting the original good one. It would have to keep copies going back to prior to the infection to provide protection. Incidentally a similar principle applies to accidental corruption of a file – if you don’t realise the damage for some time your backups may contain only the corrupted version. Nevertheless this article has a lot of good advice and will give good protection against most scenarios.

  • Thank you! I’ll check them out 🙂

  • There’s a wide choice of integrations on our website at Many people like Arq, but there’s also GoodSync, CyberDuck, and Duplicati (which is free). There are a number of integrations aimed specifically at people using digital media, as well.
    Roderick Bauer, Backblaze

  • — For recommendations on good cloud backup services, I suggest you take a look at one or more reviews done by publications and see what they recommend. For example:
    — We obtain drives from a number of sources. We had to farm drives during the world-wide hard drive shortage due to factories being out of service in SE Asia. See this post:
    — With Backblaze Cloud Backup, we can send you a USB or hard drive containing your data. The drive fee is refunded when you return the drive to us.
    Roderick Bauer, Backblaze

  • I’m a power user and I use B2 CLI on my servers.
    One of my friend asked me how she should backup her pictures (on mac). I have no idea which GUI app she should use. I was hoping to find an answer here :-p


  • Brian Whiteside

    Your 6TB NAS croaks, they send your 6TB data with free return of the drive. Best offsite backup service available. I highly recommend them.

  • J L Williams

    So I was about to say, oh, you guys really seem to like Backblaze. Then, when I got all the way to the end, I discovered that the piece was WRITTEN by Backblaze. So oka, Backblaze, I have a couple of questions:

    — Who are some good cloud backup services BESIDES you? Choice is good, right?
    — Those photos of impregnable-looking rack mounts are impressive. But I remember when Backblaze’s schtik was its use of cost-effective consumer hard drives; I even remember a cut piece about the CEO’s father going out and buying them at big-box stores to handle an uptick in demand. Are you still doing that?
    — You say transfer speeds are going to get much faster in the future. But if my 6TB NAS croaks NOW, how long is it going to take to restore all my content via my standard cable modem?

    Looking forward to your authoritative answers. Thanks!

  • Good advice. Roderick Bauer, Backblaze

  • Kevin Crosby

    It’s not IF you’re going to have a storage drive crash, it’s WHEN. About 6 years ago I suffered a hardware failure before I had the system I have now in place. I was using a traditional backup software program that unfortunately I had never done a restore from. It was literally a pain in the posterior and took many days of hand ringing and sleepless nights.

    Now I have 3 copies of my data. One on my workstation, the second on a local storage server (freeNAS) and the third on a remote computer/server. I use software Resilio Sync to keep my data synced up between the onsite and offsite machines.

    There are many ways to keep your data safe. Just pick one of the best practice methods and do it.

Follow on Feedly