Backup Your Gmail Account to Prevent Data Loss

If you are a solo or small firm attorney, Gmail is a great way to save money and ensure that your e-mail is available anywhere.

Gmail is great because it is constantly improving. For example, they just added a 2-step verification system to increase security. The downside is that if your e-mail is only stored in the cloud you are vulnerable to data loss.

Setup an IMAP account to backup your data on the ground.

If the cloud goes down, so does your e-mail

This past weekend 150,000 Gmail users discovered their accounts were empty—chats, e-mail, contacts, etc. Fortunately, Google backs up the data on tapes, and has restored all the data to the account.

If you are an attorney, however, going 3-4 days without access to any e-mail can be devastating. For the most part, you generally know the status of each case you work on, but if you left a bunch of things to respond at the end of the day—those could be gone in a puff of smoke. Lawyering is stressful enough without losing your e-mail—be prepared for potential data loss.

Create a backup—it is easy to do

Google allows Gmail users to set up IMAP accounts—which means you can use an e-mail application like Mail, Outlook, etc., and it will synchronize that account and your cloud account. If the cloud goes down, all your e-mail is still saved in your e-mail application.

Even if you prefer Gmail’s web interface over Mail or another e-mail application, you can still setup the application, and leave it running in the background to make sure it is synching and downloading all your e-mail.

There are other backup options, but they either require paying for backup service, or relying on another application to download your e-mail. I am not a huge fan of relying on an free application on the internet to backup my work e-mail.

In other words, setting up IMAP on an application is probably the cheapest and easiest way to create a backup. It is also the best way to avoid a potential catastrophe.





  1. Avatar Kevin Chern says:

    I think another key thing to do with any web-based service is to find out exactly how that service backs up data. When you save things “to the cloud,” it does not mean that your data is simply stored to some magical, intangible space on the web…There are physical data centers and servers somewhere holding your data. If you are concerned about the security of your data, ask the service provider exactly how they back up data and how they deal with emergencies. Google has a great free email service, but as with any free product, they often tweak their services and terms of use without much warning to or input from the current users. In addition, they are in the business of sharing information and increasing access to information…When it comes to sensitive matters, such as case files and private client communications, it might be a good idea to use a service that is in the business of keeping your information secure and focusing on your specific business needs.

    • Avatar Randall R. says:

      Agreed. Google does back up data, but it took them 3 or 4 days to restore the data this time. That’s 3-4 days too many for most attorneys, which is why an IMAP setup is critical if you use Gmail.

      • Sam Glover Sam G. says:

        IMAP won’t help if Google loses your e-mails. Think of IMAP as two-way e-mail sync. The lost e-mails will be removed from your local e-mail client as soon as you open it. Further, IMAP does not actually download message content by default; it just gets the headers. So you don’t actually have a copy of your e-mails, just the subject line, sender(s), and receiver(s).

        The best way to reliably back up e-mails is to download them. You can do this using POP, or you can use a service like Backupify.

        • Avatar Randall R. says:

          Interesting. My IMAP account has copies of all my e-mails—the entire message (and thousands of them). Plus, I access and use Gmail through the web interface, not through my IMAP account. If Gmail goes down, I can still access my IMAP account and take if offline to prevent it from wiping everything.

          • Sam Glover Sam G. says:

            Yes, but if you opened your mail software while connected, it would sync up, meaning it would delete anything missing from the server.

            • Avatar Randall R. says:

              Right. But if you only use your IMAP account as a backup, and usually access Gmail through the web interface, you would know there is a problem. Once you know there is a problem, before opening your mail software you can disable your internet connection, open the program and take it offline before reconnecting to the internet—so none of your messages will be erased.

              Piece of cake. Slight sarcasm.

              • Sam Glover Sam G. says:

                Assuming you also have your mail software set up to download complete messages, not just the headers, keep it up to date, and do all the things you just mentioned in case of emergency, then yes.

  2. Avatar VT says:

    Here’s a simple way to “backup” your email. Use an alternative email provider like Hotmail or Yahoo!. Set up your Gmail to forward every single message to one of these services. If Gmail goes down, switch to the other and pick up where it left off. Now, what are the chances of Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! all down at the same time? If this happens, your email can probably wait. Text, or go old school and call somebody.

    This method is obviously not 100% foolproof, but it doesn’t need to be.

  3. Avatar CVH says:

    This is the easiest one click way to do the backup of without bothering about any technical stuff

Leave a Reply