There are few companies that have earned as much public trust as Google. For the most part, this trust is well-placed; Google has had minimal downtime and virtually no major security issues in the two-plus decades of its existence.
However, there’s no such thing as a foolproof system, and if you care about your emails, you’ll need to invest in a Gmail backup.
In this guide, I’ll show you 4 easy options for how to backup Gmail.
Table of Contents
- 5 Reasons to Backup Gmail
- Option 1: Download Your Gmail Messages
- Option 2: Synchronize Gmail to a Local Email Client
- Option 3: Forward Your Emails to Another Email Address
- Option 4: Use a Third-Party Gmail Archiver
- Key Tips for Success When Backing Up Gmail
5 Reasons to Backup Gmail
Why do you need to be concerned about backing up Gmail? After all, the emails associated with your Gmail account are already backed up in multiple places by Google; information is distributed and backed up in multiple data centers around the world as part of the cloud.
There are several threats that could compromise your ability to access and use your Gmail account as normal, including:
1. Cloud incidents.
Even though Google has a relatively clean record in terms of cybersecurity and consumer protection, there’s still a chance that they may suffer from a cloud incident in the future. A hacker could exploit a weakness in Google’s security, or prolonged downtime could render services practically inaccessible.
2. Internet and service outages.
You could also suffer personally from internet and service outages. Gmail is cloud-based, so if you’re unable to access the internet, you may be unable to access your account, at least temporarily.
3. Hacks and compromises.
More commonly, it’s possible for a G Suite account to be hacked or compromised. Someone could break into your account, using credentials from another compromised account, or they could simply guess your password if it’s sufficiently weak or predictable. If granted access, a malicious third party could lock you out of your account, or delete all your emails.
4. Accidental deletion.
It’s not always a hacker responsible for mass deletion; sometimes, users accidentally delete an important email (or several), and are unable to recover it. A backup makes this a non-issue.
5. Account shutdown/loss.
There’s also a chance that your account could be shut down, or that you could otherwise lose access to your account. There are rare situations where Google intentionally locks users out of their own accounts (usually in response to a security issue), and your account administrator may lock you out as well, intentionally or unintentionally.
Creating periodic backups of your Gmail account will protect you from all these scenarios, providing you with continued access to your account even when it’s inaccessible by conventional means.
There are several individual strategies you can use to backup your Gmail account, each with unique strengths and weaknesses. We’ll cover each of them in turn.
Option 1: Download Your Gmail Messages
An easy option is to simply download your Gmail messages in a .zip file; this way, you’ll be able to take a snapshot of your current account and access those messages anytime you want.
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You’ll be able to access these stored files even if your internet access is compromised, but you’ll need to employ additional security measures so people can’t access your account via these downloaded files; for example, you should encrypt your .zip file with a password to protect it.
To do this:
- Log into your Google account. You can login here.
- Head to the Data and Personalization area.
- Scroll down and click “Download, delete, or make a plan for your data.”
- Click Download your data.
- Choose Mail (and any other categories you want to download. You can also choose to include all of your mail, or only select messages with certain labels to download.
- Decide how to download messages. For most users, .zip is the ideal format.
Note that you can also enable “offline mode” in Gmail by heading to the Settings menu, clicking the Offline tab, then checking “Enable offline mail” and clicking Save Changes.
Option 2: Synchronize Gmail to a Local Email Client
You can actually synchronize your Gmail account with almost any email client, including Outlook, Mailbird, and Thunderbird. Essentially, this means all your emails will be downloaded to this client, in addition to your core Gmail account.
Even if you don’t plan on using the email client to manage your messages on a regular basis, this is a useful move for backing up your messages. If something happens to your main account, you should at least be able to access a recent version of your account.
Option 3: Forward Your Emails to Another Email Address
If you’re interested in having another email account serve as a backup to your Gmail account, you could set up automatic forwarding to another address. In the Gmail Settings menu, head to Forwarding and POP/IMP, and you’ll be able to add a forwarding address. Whatever email address you add here will automatically receive a copy of all the emails that hit your inbox from this time forward.
If you want to set up an even more sophisticated system, you can establish automatic filters that forward only some of your emails to other email addresses. For example, you can create rules so that only emails from a certain sender, or those matching certain criteria, are forwarded. It’s useful if you want a backup for only certain types of messages.
Option 4: Use a Third-Party Gmail Archiver
If you want a long-term, automatic solution, you could also make use of a third-party Gmail archiver. One popular option is Gmvault, which is free and allows you to backup all your current Gmail messages, applying them to a new account if you ever lose your old one. There are also a variety of subscription services to consider, including Backupify and Mail Archiver X.
If you decide to pay for a Gmail backup subscription, make sure you do your due diligence. Consult user reviews and experiment with a free trial before deciding on a final product.
Key Tips for Success When Backing Up Gmail
If you want to get the most out of your Gmail backup strategy, there are a few important tips you’ll need to follow, including:
- Backup regularly. Some of the strategies listed above are most useful as a one-time backup option, but for users concerned with security and accessibility, this isn’t enough. You’ll want to make backups of your account regularly, whether you automatically back up your information at regular intervals, or whether you manually create backups occasionally.
- Backup in multiple different ways. For maximum security, it pays to back up your messages in different ways. For example, you can download a local copy of your messages while also taking advantage of a cloud backup service. This way, you’re protected against the unlikely event of a cascade of different failures.
- Automate whatever you can. Most people have trouble remembering to backup their Gmail account. Those who have no issue still must go through the time and effort to create backups. The correct way to address this issue is by automating everything you can; automation means you won’t have to consciously think about your effort, and you’ll never have to worry about forgetting something. For example, you can use Google Sheets as a database and automatically update all the records about backup data there.
- Research tools carefully. Before purchasing any tool designed to help you backup your Gmail account, do your research. Not all tools offer the same level of security, the same features, or the same reliability when it comes to backups.
- Improve your security. While you’re improving the integrity of your account, spend some time upgrading your email security. Make sure you enable multi-factor authentication on your account, and choose a unique, strong password for it. Also use strong passwords for all your backup solutions, and consider using additional security measures when sending particularly sensitive emails.
Now that you know how to backup Gmail, if you use Gmail on a daily basis, you should spend time analyzing your habits so you can become a more effective emailer. That’s why EmailAnalytics exists.
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Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.