Spring 2019 is one for the record books. Unfortunately, the records being set are not the kind anyone wants.

Earlier in the year, experts predicted that flooding throughout the Midwest could easily be the worst since 1993—and that’s saying something. Already, we’ve seen severe storms, tornadoes and epic flooding. The damage has been extensive, and the area affected spans multiple states.

If your home or business has suffered damage, our hearts go out to you.

“This spring has been a season of record-breaking floods across the Midwest, submerging farms, businesses and houses.” – The New York Times

What you can do to better prepare

Everyone in the ISG family is invested in our community, and we hate to see so many scrambling to prepare at the last minute. That concern has prompted us to ask ourselves what we can do to help.

There are pragmatic, real-world things we’re doing—like making our resources available on standby and working with businesses to try to protect their digital assets before the rising flood waters damage their servers. But we know we can do something more, as well. We can offer some of our insight to help everyone prepare for the next time we face damaging weather like this.

The best way we know to prep for emergencies is with a thorough backup plan. In our industry, there’s even a rule: the 3-2-1 rule. We’re going to cover it in this article and give you some pointers for applying it to your business.

Our goal is simple. We want to help as many local businesses as possible get ready for the next time we face the threat of floods, tornadoes or other major storm events.

RELATED: How to build a disaster management plan

3-2-1 backup

3-2-1 backup is all about protecting one of your company’s most valuable assets—your data. Most of your physical assets can be replaced, but your data is unique. If you lose it, you may not be able to get it back.

The 3-2-1 rule is a solid way to ensure your data is safe, no matter what. Here’s what it means. You should have 3 copies of your data, 2 of those copies should be local and stored on different devices, and one should be offsite.

3 copies

Why 3 copies? Because the nature (and value) of a backup strategy is paranoia. The goal is to make sure you never lose all your data at once. Keeping 3 copies of it makes it highly unlikely that you’ll lose it all in one fell swoop.

But really, the magic of the 3-2-1 backup strategy is as much about where your data is stored as how many copies of it you keep.

2 on-site copies

Most likely, one of your two on-site copies is the copy you work with every day. This is the data on your desktop, laptop or shared drive. These are the documents and spreadsheets you turn to when you’re working on your computer.

The second on-site copy should be the local backup of your production data. That way, if something happens to your computer, for example, you’ve got a full backup right there, ready to go.

But there’s a potential problem with this plan. Think about the flooding we’re dealing with right now. What if your entire office is overrun with water? There’s a good chance you’ll lose both of those local copies.

What then?

RELATED: What to cover in your business continuity plan

1 off-site copy

That’s why a third, off-site backup is so important.

Your off-site backup is your failsafe. No matter what happens to your local copies, your off-site should be unaffected. The only downside of this third copy is that off-site backups typically take quite a bit more time to restore than on-site backups.

And that’s why you want both on-site and off-site backups. If the on-site backup is good, you can restore your data from it quickly. But if the on-site backup is destroyed, you still have your data, even if it takes a bit longer to restore it.

You never know

Backup matters because we simply never know when something is going to go sideways on us. Even with predictions earlier this year, there was no way to know for sure whether the floods we’re seeing now would actually happen.

And now that they are happening, the companies that were prepared have one less thing to worry about during this tense, stressful time.

Backup your data. Use the 3-2-1 rule. If you need help, reach out to a backup expert. Just don’t leave yourself exposed to the possibility of total data loss.

KEEP READING: The complete DIY disaster recovery guide for SMBs