A successful 3-2-1 Backup Plan (Three copies of your data: Two stored locally, one stored offsite) includes one copy of your data stored offsite preferably in the cloud. This has led to confusion between cloud storage and cloud backup. Here’s the difference between the two and why you should consider using cloud backup as part of your 3-2-1 Backup solution.

Cloud storage and cloud backup are not the same

Don’t let the word cloud fool you. Cloud storage is not the same as cloud backup. Dropbox, Google Drive, or MediaFire are great inexpensive solutions for cloud storage. They give you the ability to safely store an identical copy of your data. Sounds like a backup solution, but it’s not. A true backup service — Crashplan or Backblaze — keeps multiple changes and deleted versions of your data. This is useful if you accidentally delete a file or if a corrupted file was uploaded. In my case, a corrupted Lightroom catalog was saved. I was able to restore the catalog from an earlier date. A cloud storage service would only have the corrupted file.

The purpose of cloud storage

Cloud storage — especially when free — is a great solution when you need to transfer or access files when you’re away from your main computer. I created a _Quick Transfer folder in my Google Drive account so I can access images on my Surface Pro or smartphone. I have an _Articles folder that is home to the articles I write. This gives me the ability to start an article on my desktop and finish on my iPad or smartphone. When I need to send very large files, I use MediaFire.

The purpose of cloud backup

CrashPlan and Backblaze — both services I’ve used — are great solutions for cloud backup. You download their software and select which files you want to be backed up. Since you have unlimited storage, it’s best to backup your entire system. The first backup will take a long time but after the initial backup, it only updates files that were changed.

Unlike cloud storage, you have the option to select how long to keep your deleted files and how many versions to keep. In the event both your local backup drives fail or are stolen, you can pay a small fee and have a hard drive sent with your entire data to minimize downtime.  Best of all, it’s a set it and forget it, peace-of-mind solution to ensure your data is safe.

My personal 3-2-1 backup solution

I’m a huge fan of Drobo. I started out as a consumer and over the years developed into a Drobo Ambassador. I’m fortunate Drobo has given me an excellent platform to teach the 3-2-1 Backup concept. I feel Drobos are a great solution if you have more than 6TB of data. If you have less than 6TB, you should still follow the 3-2-1 Backup plan but use 6TB external drives.

I currently use CrashPlan for my offsite Cloud Backup. I’ve switched between Backblaze and CrashPlan. Over the years, it has been my personal experience that Backblaze seems to work better on macOS and CrashPlan seems to work better on Windows. I have no scientific data to back up my findings. I suggest you download a free trial of each and try them on your own. Either way, you will need an offsite cloud backup service.

To ensure a successful 3-2-1 Backup Plan, add cloud backup as your offsite option. The time and money invested are worth the peace of mind you will have to know your data is safe. For more information, download a free copy of Building a Bulletproof Backup Plan for Photographers.

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