Backing up your Android’s mail: An important chore

gmail-storage-lgAdmit it.  You are guilty.  Personal and professional emails that you send and receive from associates, friends, and family buzz between your Android device and the Google servers with ease, and you rarely, if ever, think about what would happen, if someday, that relation ship were to fail.

All that data is stored in “the cloud” on Google servers in what some consider the most state-of-the-art, redundant and reliable network of data centers located all over the globe.  Your personal data is syncing with out a hitch.  After all, if you can’t rely on what is arguably the largest, most talent rich of cloud providers in the world, who can you rely on?


A quick Google search — yes, I understand the irony — reveals that there are plenty of people, who, like you and many other Android users, thought that their data was safe with Google – only to find that their sense of security was false.  With just a little planning, research and sweat, you can avoid a similar fate and further protect your data.  In order to minimize the chance of data loss, I have my Google-based email synced and backed up on two redundant off-site locations (other than Google’s own network).  Firmly place your tin foil hat on your head and take a short journey with me…

I own a small hosting and web design/consulting business and rent server resources from a data center.  On that server, I have installed getmail along with a few custom configuration files based on those described by Googler Matt Cuttsblog posting. The files tell getmail where to pull my email from; in this case, from the Gmail servers, using a secure IMAP connection.  Each config file also tells getmail which folders to retrieve from (eg. “Inbox”, “[Google Mail]/All Mail”, “[Google Mail]/Sent Mail”, etc.);, to only get “unseen” messages; and in which format to store the messages, if not Maildir, then the native Gmail format, Mbox. Getmail runs every hour from a cron job and stores all new messages in the format of my choice: Maildir on my server.  The mail is then encrypted and backed up nightly with all my other data on an off-site server using Duplicity.

I know, I know… not everyone has a shiny tin foil hat like mine that reads “Caution: Geek Below!”  That does not excuse you from protecting your data.  There are many more less intense, more GUI based options to protect yourself.  Here are just a few:

While not an exhaustive list of options, these give you a taste of the many ways that you can help keep your Android phone and the tightly integrated Google services that you rely on working together with the peace of mind that should the impossible happen (think Titanic) you have enough life boats to carry your email data to shore.

So, what is your excuse for not backing up now?

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