Why you should back up cloud data

When ‘cloud’ servers started popping up, I have to admit, I didn’t know what was going on. I understood the premise, but I couldn’t quite understand how these servers would handle the massive amount of data people consumed and saved. But now ‘the cloud’ is a popular option for hosting your information.

But should I be worried Google loses all my Gmail? They’re Google! I’m sure they have 400 backups.

Well, you’d think. But there are so many cloud servers out there these days. And yes, chances are these companies have a solid back up in place. But that’s not necessarily what you need to protect yourself from. There are other threats that should warn you to back up your cloud data. One of those threats is…you.

Here is some great info on how and why you should back up cloud data no matter who hosts it ( Outlook, Gmail, etc.) from How-To Geek:

Why should you back up cloud data?

  • Accidents and Bugs with Syncing: You may accidentally delete or overwrite your data, or a bug with a service could result in your data being erased. For example, you could accidentally delete your bookmarks on one of your Chrome browsers. Or an error with Google Chrome’s bookmark-syncing protocol could result in them being deleted. Either way, you would lose all your bookmarks — unless you created a local backup copy of your bookmarks. If you’ve been building up a collection of bookmarks for years, this could be a big problem.
  • Service Crashes: A service itself may experience a problem and lose your data. Luckily, this hasn’t been particularly common. The most high-profile case of a cloud service losing all its customers data occurred when Microsoft’s Sidekick servers lost many customers’ contacts, photos, to-do lists, calendar entries, and other data in 2009. Microsoft, who acquired the Sidekick service along with Danger, who went on to make Microsoft’s terrible Kin phones, did not have any backups of this data. Sidekick owners who trusted Danger (and then Microsoft) to store their photos and other personal data realized how dangerous relying solely on a cloud service could be.
  • Attacks: If you’re ever unlucky enough to be the target of attacks, your data may be lost. Matt Honan, who lost much of his data when attackers targeted his accounts by exploiting weaknesses in account recovery mechanisms, lost many personal photos and home videos when the Find My Mac service was used to remotely wipe his Mac’s hard drive. His other data was recovered thanks to help from engineers at Google and Twitter, but who knows how helpful they would have been if it wasn’t such a high-profile attack. Without any local backups, he was completely at the mercy of these companies.
  • Deletion Due to Inactivity: Some services delete your data after you haven’t logged in in a while. For example, Microsoft’s Hotmail (now Outlook.com) service deletes all your emails if you haven’t logged in in about eight and a half months. If you’ve switched to another service but still have an old Hotmail account with important email, you may lose it all. If you had those important emails backed up locally, you wouldn’t have to worry about this. Yahoo and Gmail appear to have similar policies, although they may not be enforced as often — stories of Hotmail accounts being wiped have been much more common over the years.
  • Switching Services: If you would like to switch from one cloud service to another, you may want to create a local backup and import it into the new service first — assuming both services support that. This helps protect you if a service you use ever shuts down — you can just take your data with you.

How do you back up cloud data?

We’re not trying to worry you unnecessarily, but you should now understand why it’s a good idea to have local backups of your most important data. If you have years and years of emails in your Gmail account, many of which may be important in the future — whether for business or personal reasons — you shouldn’t trust Google alone to keep your data safe. Having a local backup is still a smart idea.

  • Google Services: Google allows you to download your data from many Google services — from Drive and Contacts to YouTube and Google+ — from the Google Takeout page. Note that this doesn’t yet include data from all services, such as Google Calendar and Gmail.
  • Gmail: Google doesn’t provide a simple way to download your Gmail emails. You can access them over IMAP and back them up in an email client like Thunderbird, or use a dedicated Gmail backup application to create a local copy of your Gmail emails.
  • Google Calendar: You can download your calendars from the Google Calendar website. Open the Settings screen, click Calendars, and click the Export calendars link under My Calendars to download your calendars.
  • Evernote: Nothing prevents you from accidentally deleting your Evernote notes, and once you have, that change will be synced everywhere. Keep your notes safe by following our guide to creating a local backup of your Evernote notebooks.
  • LastPass: LastPass allows you to export your passwords and notes as an encrypted file. You can then use the LastPass Pocket application to decode them, even if LastPass goes completely offline — you wouldn’t want to lose your passwords and be locked out of your accounts.
  • Facebook Photos: Facebook allows you to download local copies of your photos. People have been locked out of their Facebook accounts in the past, so it’s a good idea to have your own copies of important photos.

We can’t possibly list every service here, but these examples should help you locate your most important data and back it up — just in case.

Some services my not allow you to export your data. You ideally shouldn’t use web apps that don’t let you control your own data — you want to be able to export your data just in case the service shuts down or something better comes along.

Sure, the cloud is great, but that doesn’t mean we should neglect local backups for the most important things. If a service has a bug and loses important emails or photos, you may never be able to get them back again. If nothing else, having local backups of your most important data can give you some peace of mind.

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About the author

Josh Benson


  • ‘The Cloud,’ Sounds downright cuddly. The next great crime will be the theft of the most personal and sensitive information stored in ‘The Cloud.’ I wonder how many 401-k or brokerage accounts are being/will be looted by someone a continent or two away?

    • Very true. All technology can be hacked. They have 2-step encryption for just about everything these days, but the ‘Cloud Gods’ better have NSA-style protection because they will be constantly under attack. Best to have all data backed up a few places.

      But Bob, you gotta love the Cloud for your contacts! Turn on a device, Voila! It’s there. (:

Josh Benson


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