The Tower of Hanoi Backup Strategy

Andrew Abwoga


Of the common backup schemes, the Tower of Hanoi seems to be the most complex of them all. The scheme is named after a puzzle game where a player must move a tower of disks one at a time. The disks are typically moved from the tower where the disks reside initially to another tower, usually the third tower, in the order of their sizes which form a pyramid shape like the one shown above.

Realistically, every backup media corresponds to a disk in the tower, and every disk movement to a different tower corresponds with a backup to that media. The disk at the top of the stack will typically have much more moves unlike the one at the bottom of the tower. The Tower of Hanoi strategy is quite an effective method of backup to consider in a use case where you have to create the longest possible backup and recovery situation with a limited number of backup media as we shall see.

Backup Media Scenario

From the table above, each column represents a single day. The appearance of letters (A, B, C, and D) across each of the days in the cycle represents a backup media set. Typically, the backup that is done on backup media A on the first day is the same backup media that will be overwritten every other day; that is, on day1, day3, day5, and so on. The same applies to the other media which are scheduled for backup at much longer intervals. For example, backup media B will be used for backup after three days starting from the second day. This is a good way to keep the number of overall backup media low while still maintaining daily, weekly, monthly, semi-annual, and annual backup media and it ensures that there are no overlaps whatsoever.

Tower of Hanoi with Backup Ninja

As in the scenario above, it is easy to think of achieving the Tower of Hanoi strategy using different backup media across different local and cloud storage options utilizing both differential/incremental and full backups across the different media sets. Backup Ninja gives you the flexibility of achieving this strategy with ease. A case in point is when creating schedules using Backup Ninja where you have the flexibility of choosing any kind of schedule that suits your needs as shown in the schedule creation step below.


As much as the Tower of Hanoi can be complex, it is a strategy that you should consider if you are to backup or even archive your data in an economical manner. With Backup Ninja’s flexible scheduling feature, the option to choose between full, partial, or differential database backups; also, a single pane to view the status of all your backup schedules, you are guaranteed to reduce the complexity of having to employ the Tower of Hanoi as your backup strategy.

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