📬 How to backup email: avoid losing years of communication and documents

📬 How to backup email: avoid losing years of communication and documents

In the Q/A session of a workshop I did last month, a participant told me about a lawyer-friend who had lost control of their Gmail. This participant wanted to know how to backup their email in case the same happened to them.

Why? Because email is a critical component of most modern businesses. Businesses of all types (not just lawyers) should make sure they have backups of their emails.

Alongside backing up information from your desktop computer, backing up information from common services like Gmail, Trello, or Facebook gives you have a copy of your information held by those services in case of problems.

Email backups are uncommon enough that we have found many people will unexpectedly miss information contained within emails if the emails are lost for any reason.

Exports of email is especially important if you don’t pay for your email service. Typical Terms of Service for such products indicate that the provider has the right to close your email account. When you don’t pay for a service, you have a weaker relationship with the provider.

What's at stake

📬 What do actual backups look like?
The task of setting up a good backup system can look time-consuming and, often, intimidating. But it’s neither. Anyone can do it-everyone should. And it can take as little as 30 minutes.
We've written before about why you need backups.

In addition, your email accounts may store many years of content. This is common. People then rely on their email as an archive of information and documents. Email is often where we search for documents we're looking for. Bank account routing numbers sent by a colleague, shared passwords from a spouse, or even medical appointment data-and such data of real importance may exist only in email.

Don't get locked out

Don't let the only copy of your emails be locked away from you. How does one make sure they have reliable access to their emails? Exported backups.

All major email service providers (think Gmail, Outlook, iCloud Mail) have a feature to export email. Use that feature to export a copy of all your emails.

Don't know where to start? As an example, we have a Step-by-step (Glossary: Step-by-step) instruction for our subscribers who use Gmail.

☕️ Step-by-step: how to export your emails from Gmail
Create an exported copy of your emails, and download them to your computer.

Email should be part of a backup checklist

Email is one of several tools small businesses rely on. Here's a handy templated checklist of other things you should think about backing up. We use a version of this checklist ourselves.

👟 Template to go: simple backup checklist
To be sure all information critical to your business is backed up, we need checklists. But how to get started making a checklist for creating backups? Use a template!

What else should you back up?

Once you get into the habit of doing exports, you should start doing it for more services. List the services you use and rely on to run your business. Aim to export at least once a year. That way, you can only ever lose up to 12 months of business information.



  1. https://www.cyber.gc.ca/en/guidance/tips-backing-your-information-itsap40002
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