Google is a big part of many people’s digital lives. Services like Blogger, Google Photos, the note-taking app Keep (my thoughts on Keep are here) and the Fit app — not to mention the Chrome browser — receive a lot of data every day, in the form of family photos, blog posts, notes, workout data, and more.
That data is safe in the cloud (i.e. Google’s servers), but did you know that you can download a copy of this information to your own computer? With just a few clicks you can retrieve and then store a local copy of your Google data. Here’s how (and why) to get started.
Why should you backup Google data?
So-called “cloud computing,” which is the system that allows you to save information on a network of remote servers hosted on the internet, offers convenient, near-ubiquitous access to our most important digital information. There’s peace of mind in knowing that data is stored and cared for by people who specialize in such things. But according to Jack Schofield, it’s not enough.
Jack has written what are now known as Schofield’s Three Laws of Computing. His Second Law states that data does not really exist unless you have at least two copies of it. In short, never assume that your data is 100% safe. Making two backups doubles your chances of a successful recovery if and when a catastrophe strikes. Are your photos safe at photos.google.com? Of course. Can I guarantee that they are 100% safe? No.
Now that we’ve got a good picture of why you should backup your Google data, let’s look at how.
How to back up your Google data
Before you begin, you’ll have to make two decisions. First, identify specifically what data you’d like to save, and second, where you plan to store it.
Pick your target data by visiting https://www.google.com/settings/takeout. You might have to sign in to your Google account first. From there, you’ll see a list of all the Google services currently associated with your account.
Depending on what services you use, it can be a pretty long list. On the left-hand side of the list, you’ll see each service’s name. To the right you’ll see a small disclosure triangle and a green toggle switch. Click the disclosure triangle to view details on exactly what aspect of that service can be downloaded.
For example, when I click the triangle next to “Google Photos,” I get the following options:
- Include all photo albums (selected by default)
- Select photo albums
Clicking the latter lets me pick and choose the albums I want to download. All photos and videos are downloaded in their original format.
Finally, the toggle switch is green if a service’s data has been selected for download, and grey if it has not. Once you’re made your selections, scroll to the bottom of the list and click “Next.”
This summary screen presents three options:
- File type. Choose between .zip, .tgz and .tbz formats.
- Maximum archive size. If your archive is larger than your selection (for example, 2 GB), it will be broken down into parts that are 2 GB (or less) each.
- A delivery method.
Number three requires special attention. It’s likely that a backup will be very large, so choose your destination carefully. Google lets you receive a download link via email, or it can send your archive to Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive.
If you choose the email link, make sure your computer has room for the download, as does your eventual local destination (connected hard drive, etc.). A great option is a large, connected drive (like this one) that’s regularly backed up by a service like BackBlaze or CrashPlan. That way your data lives in three locations: Google, your local drive, and the backup service of your choice. Take that, Mr. Schofield!
Cloud computing is convenient and yes, a great way to safely store irreplaceable files. But don’t become too reliant on it. A simple routine like this will help ensure all of that precious data will be available for years to come.