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Backing Up Cloud Apps

When I first heard that Backupify had developed a backup service for cloud applications like Facebook, I must admit I snickered a little at the thought of someone thinking that Facebook data was worth backing up to anyone but Facebook. When they called again and said they could now backup Google Apps, they got my attention.

Now, you might think that backing up Google Apps was Google's problem. After all, we switched from Word and Exchange to Gmail and Google Docs in no small part because we wouldn't need to back them up. In fact, last year's Gmail outage demonstrated that Google actually did back up Gmail data--to tape even (who would have thunk it). Google did eventually restore all the affected users' data, didn't it?

The problem is that service providers and corporate IT departments think about backup in different ways. If you ask any corporate backup administrators about the restore jobs they run, you'll discover many, if not most, of them aren't restoring data that was lost because something went wrong in the data center. Rather, they are restoring data that users have deleted, overwritten or misplaced.

If your CEO accidentally deletes some email in his or her Exchange mailbox--or, even worse, the Google Docs report you’ve been working on for a month--you can be sure someone will be calling the help desk, insisting that it be restored. Most Exchange admins set up their servers so that nothing is really deleted for 30 to 60 days, just to make dealing with those trouble tickets easier.

Service providers back up their systems strictly so they can recover from problems in their data centers. If a server failure or software update trashes several thousand mailboxes, they can restore from backups. If, however, you've converted to Gmail and the CEO deleted important messages, good luck opening a ticket to restore it.

Since I'm a geeky guy, and I use the Google Outlook connector, I've always considered my Outlook .pst a backup copy of my Gmail account. I knew it was only a partial solution--one that didn’t protect my Google Docs--but it let me sleep at night.

Today I'm a Backupify believer. In about 20 minutes I configured the Backupify service to back up my Google Apps domain, including not just email but contacts, calendar and documents. Backupify periodically logs into my Google Apps accounts and backs up the data to its systems. Once a week the company sends me an email to tell me everything's backed up.

If I delete an important proposal, I can go to the Backupify site and get it restored in a matter of minutes. Restored emails go to a (Backupify Restore) folder--actually a Gmail tag (Backupify Restore). If Gmail is down, which happened to about 2% of its users just last week, you can retrieve emails and documents directly from the Backupify site.

Backupify will also zip up your latest Gmail or Google Docs backup and send it to you. Unfortunately, this process can take up to two days, depending on the number of requests Backupify is processing at any given time. When I tried one as a test, I got my Zip file in a few hours, but I’m sure that it will take the full two days during a Gmail outage.

Disclaimer: Backupify gave me a free account to its service so I could check it out, but no other consideration changed hands.