The Danger Of Living In the Cloud: No Backups

Yesterday about 4:30 I tried to check my email, but got nothing more than a string of 502 errors from the server. My mail server is a Google Domain Apps account, which means my MX record points to Google, and they handle the rest. I was about to leave the office, so I figured I would just check later when I got home. I checked from my iPhone a few times on the way, but it was still borked. About two hours after the problem began, it cleared up again, and is still working fine.

During the outage, I started thinking about this situation. I have 916 megabytes of email stored in my Gmail account. That’s a lot, though it is only 12% of my quota. That’s three years of email that I don’t want to lose. And I’m completely at the mercy of “the cloud” with respect to my email. There is no way for me to back that email up and Google makes no guarantees about data retention. They give us 7G+ of space, but they don’t claim to do any backups or that they can get your email back if it goes away. Is this just a cost of living in the cloud? I wouldn’t trade my Gmail account for anything, so I guess I just have to live with the danger, right? Is there anything a Gmail user can do to ensure their email has some sort of protection? I know that I could open another gmail account and have every incoming email forward to that other account, but is that really the only choice? Google does offer a plan that is $50/email address/year, and while it does have a 99.9% uptime guarantee, it doesn’t say anything about backups.

What would be nice is an interface from Gmail to Mozy or Carbonite or some other online backup service. Each Gmail user could then decide if he wanted to contract with one of those third-party services for backups, or just take his chances.

5 thoughts on “The Danger Of Living In the Cloud: No Backups

  1. Are you using an IMAP client of some kind (when you’re not checking Gmail on your iPhone)? Can you not configure your client to download copies of messages to the local hard drive? This is what I’m doing with on my MacBook.

    • I do use IMAP on the phone. When I’m working on my Mac, I use Mailplane, which is just a veneer over the web interface to Gmail. At all other times, I’m just using the web interface. I suppose I could setup something to pull everything down using IMAP, but a real automated (and hands-off) backup system would be preferable.

  2. Aren’t you a mobileme subscriber? Forward your email to your mobileme account then turn on syncing and push mail. Then all your mail will go to your google, your mobile me and your Mac without you doing a thing. You’ll have three backups, then.

  3. If you upgrade to premium, you will get the SLA that you want for your email.

    Google protects data through striping and replication across many systems and data centers. If you feel the need for a physical backup, you can have a copy of all of your email using an IMAP client.

    Note that even Outlook has a 2GB limit on PST files when IMAP is the connection.


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