backup_logoTHERE’S a rule I follow when it comes to digital data (by which I mean anything useful I might have, create, work on or use, such as emails, documents, photos, spreadsheets, videos, even settings): If the data’s only in one place I’m at risk of losing it.

Take the photos on my PC, for example. If that’s the only place they live and the hard drive fails, I would lose the photos. That’s why we’re taught to make backups, an idea that most people are familiar with. Whatever the software that does the backup, and wherever the backup’s stored, it’s basically another copy of the data so I can get it back if something bad happens.

So far, so obvious.

Just recently, though, I’ve been thinking about data I have that’s only “online” or “in the cloud”, i.e. not normally stored on my PC. It includes things like the data in my password manager, my task manager, and my email accounts. Now, even if I’m careful about account security, I still want to protect myself against other things – like me accidentally messing something up, or a problem with the online service. In other words, if the data’s only in one place I’m at risk of losing it.

So here’s another rule that follows from the first one: Just because the data is online somewhere doesn’t mean I don’t need to back it up. So in my quest to make sure I protect all my digital assets, I first of all found the export options in the password manager and task manager. Next I found a free utility to backup Gmail email to the PC and a way to backup email to the PC. For all of these, I just run the export / backup manually every few weeks. Why so infrequent? Well, because the risks are real but smaller than the risk of my PC breaking, for example (hence I back up the PC every day…and then every few weeks I back up the backup…).


One last area for me to think about was documents I’ve created using Google Docs or Google Sheets. These are Google’s equivalent of Microsoft Word or Excel, and those documents live in Google Drive, i.e. online. So, again, even though it’s very, very unlikely that Google Drive itself will break (because Google has thousands of servers and many tiny pixies to keep their system running), I need to back up these files in case I mess them up. If I don’t, and they’re only in one place…well, you get the idea.

Just because the data is online somewhere doesn’t mean I don’t need to back it up

The first thing I tried was Google Drive Back Up and Sync. This can back up PC folders to Drive (if I wanted to do that) and “sync” Drive to the PC (which is what I thought I wanted). But, what I hadn’t realised is, as this article confirms, Google Docs / Sheets are “still online-only”; all it does is put a shortcut to the online files in the PC folder! No good at all. My Docs and Sheets are still only in one place and not backed up at all.


I found a better solution using Google Takeout, which is an export utility that can get any or all of my Google data onto my PC. This WikiHow article pointed me in the right direction and I was soon able to download a zip file, with all my Google Docs converted to MS Word and my Google Sheets converted to Excel. So that’s another routine to add to my infrequent-but-important backup list, and I’m happy.

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