by Brian Tomasik
First written: 2013 and 29 Feb. 2016; last update: 12 Apr. 2016
This page explains how I back up my most important data on a regular basis, including data from Google, Facebook, and my websites.
An important fraction of my extended mind is composed of information on Google, Facebook, my websites, etc. I expect the risk of losing such data is fairly low, but it might happen if someone hacked the accounts and deleted the data, or if I lost all ability to log in to the accounts, or if I accidentally deleted the accounts, or if the sites had major data-storage failures. Since it's cheap to back up the data, it seems reasonable to do so every ~year.
My websites are the most dense form of important data that I don't want to lose. One copy of them lives on HostGator. Some scattered copies may also exist on Internet Archive, but not all pages are backed up that way. For additional redundancy, I use Dropmysite, which backs up all the websites I maintain every month. It also allows me to download zip copies of each site's WordPress database file (which contains essay text) and WordPress "uploads" folder (which contains images and PDFs). I can then upload these to Google Drive for yet one more form of backup.
Backing up all my data
Every 6-12 months, I do a full backup of all my important data, including emails, Facebook conversations, calendars, etc. Currently I do this by putting the information on a 30 GB flash drive, which is useful because then I can
- store the data away from my laptop, so that if my laptop is stolen, the data won't be gone
- avoid depending on any cloud service that might go down or be hacked, and
- have a backup plan in case I somehow get locked out of my computer or a cloud backup service.
That said, I also upload important data to Google Drive, which provides cloud backup in case the flash drives are destroyed (e.g., in a house fire) or lost.
How to collect data for backup
This section describes how to pull your data from various places.
Google Takeout allows you to download roughly all of your Google content to a collection of zip files.
The Gmail .mbox file may be huge (mine is ~6 GB), and it may not be able to be moved onto a flash drive at that size. To fix this problem, I use this program to split the .mbox file into smaller pieces.
If you have multiple Google accounts (e.g., one for an organization), remember to do Takeout for all of them.
YouTube backups are included in Google Takeout, but if you want to back them up individually, you can download your own videos.
Google Calendar is also included in Google Takeout, but if you want to download it individually, you can go to "Settings" -> "Calendars" -> "Export calendars".
Facebook also has a takeout feature. Click the down arrow in the upper right of any Facebook page -> "Settings" -> "General" -> "Download a copy of your Facebook data."
One benefit of having the download is that it contains all your Facebook messages in a single text file (mine is ~25 MB uncompressed as of Oct. 2014), which allows you to search for specific old content more easily than using Facebook's interface, especially if you don't remember what conversation thread it was in.
Unfortunately, Facebook groups discussions aren't backed up in this process. There are tools for backing up Facebook groups that I hope to explore eventually.
If you have a shared Google Drive folder that you don't own, you can download its contents by clicking the down arrow on the folder path name -> "Download", which will download the whole folder as a zip file. Make sure you have permission to store the data.
You can search for some systematic ways to back up your GitHub content, but if you only have a few repositories, a simple solution is just to clone all of them and then back up those folders.
Stray documents on your desktop
I try to keep all important data on Google Drive in case my laptop crashes, but you can also make sure that any data on your desktop that's not already stored with Google gets included in your backup.
(Optional) Geomagnetic storms and EMPs
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