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Backing Up Your Google Apps Data: A Belt and Suspenders Will Look Good on You – Part 1 of 2

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Google Apps Backup

Google Apps Backup

(See part 2 for third-party Google Apps data backup tools.)
Having a reliable backup of your data is just as important whether you’re using traditional, boxed (or downloaded) software and storing your data on your computer (or a file server in your office) or using cloud tools and storing your files in the cloud. If you’re using Google Apps for Business you should be backing up your data – e-mail messages, documents, calendar events, contacts, tasks and any other important data you’re storing in your account.

Doesn’t Google Already Backup My Data?

Google goes to great lengths to tell us how the data we store in our Google Apps for Business accounts is backed up on their servers.

While you work, all your critical data is automatically backed up on Google servers. So when accidents happen – if your computer crashes or gets stolen – you can be up and running again in seconds.

And Google explains that they are backing up not just on one server, but multiple servers in multiple locations.

The geographic locations of Google’s datacenters were chosen to give protection against catastrophic events. Multiple levels of redundancy ensure ongoing operation and service availability in even the harshest and most extreme of circumstances. This includes multiple levels of redundancy within a center, generator-powered backup for ongoing operations, and full redundancy across multiple dispersed centers. State of the art controls are used to monitor the centers both locally and remotely, and automated failover systems are present to safeguard systems. Each sub-system is not dependent on a particular physical or logical server, thus enabling continued operation in the event of an incident. Data is replicated amongst Google’s multiplex active servers, thus enabling access to it from another system in the event of computer malfunction and safeguarding against data processing centre –outage.
Google operates a geographically distributed set of data centers that is designed to maintain service continuity in the event of a disaster or other incident in a single region. High-speed connections between the data centers help ensure swift failover. Management of the data centers is also distributed to provide location-independent, around-the-clock coverage, and system administration.

Isn’t One Level of Backup Enough?

While having a backup of your backup might sound like overkill to some, failure of one or more levels of backup is a possibility. For example, in our office, we use external hard drives connected to our network to backup the files we store locally. Recently, we were unable to access one of those hard drives from any of our computers. While running diagnostic software on the first drive, and using the second backup drive to store the restoration log file for that first drive, the second drive also failed. So now the data backed up on both drives became unavailable.
Similarly, there are rare examples of people inadvertently deleting large amounts of their own data or even Google losing customer files and not being able to retrieve or restore them.

Many Options for Backing Up

When discussing having our own backup of Google Apps information, some people will point to the free Google Drive app as a method for storing a local copy of all of the documents in an account. The app creates a “Google Drive” folder on your computer where you can access your documents whether you have an Internet connection or not. (This includes non-Google files you have stored in Google Drive such as Microsoft Word, PDFs, images, etc.). While this does give you a locally accessible (and restorable) copy of those files, it does not cover the other important information stored in your Google Apps account such as e-mail messages, contacts, calendar events, tasks, etc.
Google does give you the ability download an archive of your data by visiting while logged into your account. The archive includes e-mail messages, calendar events, contacts, documents in Google Drive, and stored bookmarks among other information. Some of these archived files (like Calendar) can be directly imported back into your account to restore lost data, but some like Gmail messages cannot be directly imported back into your Gmail account and would require first importing them to an e-mail client like Outlook or Thunderbird and then transferring the messages from Thunderbird back to Gmail to restore them.
Google’s Vault email archiving, retention, compliance, and e-discovery tool, priced at $5/user/month, does allow you to restore messages but does not cover calendar, contacts, documents, or other data in an account.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Carole Levitt, Esq. President and founder of Internet for Lawyers (a CLE seminar company), has over thirty years of combined experience in the legal field as a California attorney, Internet trainer, Law Librarian and Legal Research and Writing Professor. Ms. Levitt has served on the ABA’s Law Practice Management Section’s Publishing Board since 2004 and served on the Section’s Executive Council from 2007—2011.
Mark Rosch Vice-President, Internet for Lawyers, is the developer and manager of Internet for Lawyers’ (IFL) website, Facebook Company page, and online education services. He also is the editor of IFL’s newsletter, The Internet Legal Research Update. Mr. Rosch serves on the ABA’s Law Practice Management Section’s TECHSHOW Planning Board.
Together, these internationally recognized authors and Continuing Legal Education speakers have given hundreds of CLE seminars and have written six books published by The American Bar Association, including “Google Gmail and Calendar in One Hour for Lawyers” (2013).
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