Looking for Gmail backup solutions? Worried about the increasing incidents of data breaches and security threats?
This article tells you everything you need to know about how to backup and restore your Gmail.
If you are an IT administrator use our actionable tips, step-by-step guides, and best practices to make sure your data is safe.
Introduction to Gmail Backup
Gmail has become the defacto email backbone for millions of individuals as well as organizations. Considering the need to protect data, questions around Gmail backup is popular among individuals as well as IT administrators who are scrambling to create a disaster recovery system in place.
Let’s look at some key numbers that point to the importance of Gmail backup.
- Gmail had over 1 billion monthly active users in early 2016 and the number of businesses using G Suite in January 2017 was 3 Million
- This number saw a drastic increased in April 2018, with Gmail now having more than1.4 billion users all over the world and G Suite with 4 Million users
With so many people using Gmail for both their personal and business use, it becomes necessary to take measures that will keep your data safe and secure.
5 Compelling Reasons to Backup Your Gmail
Google has built up a reputation for delivering always on, cloud applications for millions of users worldwide. They work with so much predictability and reliability that some of us might be lulled into a false sense of complacency.
Backing up your Gmail data is not an optional chore.
Here are five great reasons to back up your Gmail proactively.
1. Avoid data loss during Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A)
M&As are crucial times for the companies. They are complex and time-consuming affairs with several moving parts. One of the complexities in an M&A is IT integration.
Because IT integration is inherently complex, the possibility of data loss is also very high. According to Ansarada, data loss is one of the major reasons why mergers and acquisitions fail. Some of these M&A deals have been delayed to up to 12 days, causing significant financial loss.
IT integration during M&As could take several years to complete and the expected synergies of a merger or acquisition are dependent on how efficiently IT systems are integrated. Any misstep in IT integration could result in data loss potentially derailing the merger or acquisition.
2. Hold and retain data for legal compliance & litigation purposes
Having a data backup and retention policy in place is a key requirement for organizations when dealing with ligations. Organizations are legally bound to put a hold on the data related to the litigation as well as retain historical data or transaction logs for a specified period of time.
Regulations such as the Federal Rules for Civil Procedure and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act make it mandatory for companies to retain documents including electronically stored information (ESI) such as emails.
Depending on the industry, this retention period could vary from 2-35 years. Failure to retain documents and data could result in adverse consequences and penalties.
3. Protect yourself from insider threats and external attackers
Hacking attacks like phishing have become more frequent than ever. According to Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG), during the fourth quarter of 2017, there has been a significant increase in phishing attacks that targetted SaaS/webmail providers as well as cloud storage and file-sharing sites.
The following graph from PhishLabs shows that in the United States, the percentage of phishing sites hosted in the third quarter of 2017 was double the percentage observed in the second quarter. The graph also points to the alarming rate at which phishing attacks have increased over the years.
A careless click on an attachment that looks trustworthy could expose all of your company’s sensitive information, allowing the hacker even to delete critical company data. If you are a small business or a startup, this could mean the end of your business.
Ransomware attacks like Cryptolocker could encrypt all of the company’s data stored in the drive. Without backup, accessing data could become a nightmare.
Here is a real-life example of a Cryptolocker email demanding a ransom.
Having a Gmail backup, therefore, could save a lot of time, money and reputation.
That’s not all.
A disgruntled employee could delete data pertaining to the employer’s intellectual property or an external attacker could hold the organization at ransom through a phishing attack and threaten to delete company data.
If you think such attacks are only aimed at large organizations and businesses, you are wrong!
Attackers are working tirelessly to get hold of your passwords, access to your bank accounts, credit card information and any other personal information you have stored in your Google Drive.
Having a Gmail backup is the least you could do to save yourselves from disastrous data losses.
4. Don’t let accidental deletions stop you on your tracks
Believe it or not, Google occasionally suffers from outages that adversely affect users who solely depend on the cloud-based service for their business and personal use.
Need proof? Here you go.
On 12 September 2017, Google suffered a massive data center outage that impacted millions of it’s Gmail users.
Google’s terms and conditions for Gmail users clearly mentions that they DO NOT take responsibility for the loss of any data in the event of an outage. All you will get from them is an apology for the inconvenience caused.
Looks like protecting your data is solely your responsibility.
5. Manage employee exits like a boss
You cannot expect someone to work for you forever, can you?
Exits are recurring events in any company. Therefore, when employees leave the organization it is important to retain the company related data associated with them.
One way to do this by continuing to keep their email license. However, this means that their license would remain unutilized after their exit. Instead, having a Gmail backup of the employee’s emails will not only allow you to safely store your data but also let the license be reused by another employee in the event of an exit.
Also, there are chances for a dissatisfied employee to delete critical business emails before leaving the organization.
Medicaid Data Breach Case: In March 2017, an employee of the Arkansas Department of Medicaid was fired. The day before her dismissal, she forwarded confidential information to her personal email account. This included information about 26,000 Medicaid recipients spanning name, date of birth, medical procedure costs, diagnoses and other confidential information. The breach, which occurred on March 23, 2017, was not discovered until August 7, 2017.
If she had also deleted confidential data instead of forwarding it to her personal account and there was no backup, the issue would have been catastrophic!
Gmail Backup Solutions
Businesses: Let’s look at all the available options to backup your Gmail data.
If you use G Suite (formerly called Google Apps for Work) to run your business, your options to backup Gmail data are limited. Google does not provide any backup solution for its G Suite users. However other Google apps like Google Vault can be used to safeguard data to a certain extent. You will definitely need a third-party application to implement a full-fledged backup solution.
In this article, we will cover all of these options in-depth.
Individuals: If you use Gmail for your personal use, there are multiple ways in which you can backup and safeguard your Gmail data. Some are straightforward with caveats. Few of them are complex that might require technical help.
We will explain Gmail backup options using Gmail’s inbuilt Forwarding option, Gmail’s inbuilt POP & IMAP setting, Google Takeout and third-party solutions like GmVault.
Backup Options for Businesses
What will you do if one day you come to your office to find that all your important data is lost, stolen or deleted? There is nothing you can do about it; unless you already have a backup for your data. If you are running a business, data loss is probably your worst nightmare.
Moreover, with G Suite all your data will be stored in the cloud making collaboration easier at the same time more vulnerable. This calls for additional protection measures to keep your data safe. G Suite offers an array of applications and other features for its customers that vary based on the subscription plan.
Backup using built-in G Suite features (Basic Plan)
For Basic plan subscribers, sadly, G Suite does not provide an admin-level backup. On the bright side, employees can take backup themselves using Google Takeout.
Backup using Google Vault (Business & Enterprise Plans)
For those subscribed to G Suite business or enterprise plans, you have access to Google Vault to retain your data. Google Vault comes out-of-the-box with G Suite.
You are not alone if you think Google Vault is a Gmail backup solution. Functionally, Google Vault is actually an archiving solution!
Shocking, isn’t it?
Backup and Archive are often perceived to be analogous. In reality, both serve different purposes and are contrasting in many ways.
Google Vault can archive the cloud data of the organization stored in any of the below Google services:
- Google Drive and Team Drive
- Google Groups
Google Vault does not make a second copy of the data. It just keeps the existing data for a specific period of time or indefinitely.
For example, if an employee deletes a data from his account, it will be still accessible to the administrator.
Therefore, Google Vault is mainly an archiving solution specially designed for large businesses that need to search for data primarily for litigation purposes. Its goal is neither to backup or restore data due to data loss and malware attack.
Why should we talk about it here then?
That’s because organizations mistake Google Vault as a backup solution.
What happens when an organization uses Google Vault as a backup solution?
- Struggle to restore any lost data as Google Vault does not have a built-in restore feature.
- Lose access to data because an account was deleted. When an admin deletes a user from G Suite, all the data associated with the user is permanently removed irrespective of your configurations.
- Lose data associated with services like Calendar, Contacts, and Sites. Imagine losing all your meeting invites, access codes, contacts. You can’t afford to miss an important call with your client, can you?
How to use Google Vault?
Do you still want to use Google Vault as a backup solution?
1. If you are the admin, log in using your G Suite credentials using this URL, https://ediscovery.google.com/. Once logged in, you will be taken to the homepage of Google Vault.
2. Create a retention by navigating to the retention module.
3. Click on the edit option on “mail”.
4. Set your default retention rule indefinitely (or for specific days).
Google Vault will now retain all your emails indefinitely, even when employees delete it from their inbox and trash.
Backup using third-party tools
If you are looking for an easier and reliable way to backup your data and effortlessly restore it, applications like SysCloud may be a good option to evaluate. SysCloud uses Amazon Web Services (AWS) to offer a fully automated cloud to cloud backup and restore solution for Gmail.
Businesses can backup and restore their Gmail data for unlimited domains and have access to the backup data with just a few clicks using SysCloud’s Backup tool. Admins can define retention rules to retain the backup of users’ email for an unlimited period if needed.
Here is how you can backup using SysCloud
1. Login to SysCloud’s application using this link – apps.syscloud.com
2. Create an account or enter your credentials. You are then taken to the homepage of SysCloud Suite of applications.
3. Start backup by navigating to “Backup” -> “Start Backup”.
4. Start the backup by specifying the data to be backed up. Example, you can select either the entire domain, a set of users or specific organizational units depending on the requirement.
5. Next, select the accounts of the users you want to backup. Example: accounts of specific users, admin, CEO.
6. Click on the “add” button.
7. The selected users on the left will be added to the backup list.
(By default, SysCloud’s backup solution backs up the account data of Gmail, Drive, Sites, Calendar, and Contacts).
8. To have only Gmail backup; click on “Settings” and then “custom configurations”.
9. Select “Google Mail” and then on “Start Backup” button. SysCloud will now begin to back up the selected user’s data.
10. To view the progress, click on the “Archive & Restore” option.
Now you have a second copy of your data safely stored on the cloud and you can retrieve it when necessary.
Restore Options for Your Gmail Backup
Restore Using G Suite Features
The deleted emails stay in the trash only for 30 days after which they will be permanently deleted. In the case of accidental deletions, you may realize it only after a long time, by then you may have lost the emails forever. In such a situation your G Suite administrator can come to your rescue.
To restore data of a particular user
1. Navigate to “users” in the admin console.
2. Select the specific user.
3. Click on the ellipsis on the right-hand side of the username.
4. Click on the option “Restore Data”.
5. Choose the date range and the application to be restored.
Restore Using Google Vault and Migration Tool
Though Google Vault is not intended to be a Gmail backup solution, it can be used to retain, search and export organizational data. In case of data loss, data can be restored (the hard way) using a third-party application.
How to Search for Lost Emails from Google Vault?
To search for emails in Google Vault you should have already created a matter. The matter is created to categorize your data.
To search for data on Google Vault
1. Click on the matter module from the side pane.
2. Click on the matter title.
3. Click on the “search” module from the left pane.
4. Type in either the email address you need, sent date or any terms that you are searching for.
5. Click on the “Search” button.
6. You can now export ALL your search results or if you want individual emails you can print them separately by opening the mail and clicking on “print”.
How to Export and Download your emails from Google Vault?
1. Click on the button “Export results”.
2. Name the file to be exported and specify the desired file format.
3. Click on the “Start export” button.
4. Once the export is complete, download the emails by clicking on the “download” link (file in zip format only).
How to Restore Emails Back to Your Account – The Hard Way
Restoring a critical email or a drive file back to its destination is not possible with built-in features of Vault. However, you can export data from Vault and restore it to its destination with the help of external third-party applications.
Restoring the Exported Emails using G Suite Migration Tool
To restore the emails that you exported and downloaded using Google Vault back to your email account you need to use G Suite migration tool
1. Launch G Suite migration tool.
2. Provide the email address to which you want to restore your emails.
3. G Suite migration tool would then prompt you for access to your email account.
4. Once you provide access choose the option “From PST files” if you have downloaded the emails in PST format.
5. Choose the downloaded file from your desktop.
6. Open the files and choose the type of data to be migrated.
7. Choose “email messages” option, as shown below.
8. Click on “Migrate”.
Boom! You have all your emails back where it should be.
9. Go back to the destination email to view the migrated emails.
Restore Using Third-Party Tools
Restoring lost or deleted emails using third-party applications is easy and time-saving. Be it a specific email or the entire domain, Gmail restore can be done in just a single or a few clicks.
Here we will show you how to restore your data using SysCloud.
1. Open the SysCloud application.
2. Navigate to “Backup” -> “Archive & Restore”.
3. Click on “Archive & Restore”.
4. You will find all the users who have been backed up being listed.
5. Click on the username that needs to be restored.
6. Next, the page will list all the data of the user, including his emails which have been backed up.
7. SysCloud allows you to either restore all the emails or a particular email of the user.
To restore all the emails:
1. Click on the “restore” option.
2. Choose “All” from the dropbox.
3. Type in the email account to be which it has to be restored.
Pro Tip: You can restore the data back to the user’s account or to another account (preferably the manager’s account in case the employee is leaving the company).
4. Click on “custom label” option if you want to have a new label created that specifies the date on which you restored the mail example: “Restored on <Date>”(optional).
5. Click on “restore”.
All the emails are now restored to the preferred account.
To restore a specific email:
1. Select the email(s) to be restored.
2. Click on the “restore” option.
3. Click on the “selected items”.
4. Type in the email account to be which it has to be restored.
5. Click on “custom label” option if you want to have a new label created that specifies the date on which you restored the mail (optional).
6. Click on “restore”.
The selected emails are now restored to the preferred account.
The admin can check the progress of restore in the restore report.
Why Should You Use Third-Party Tools for Gmail Backup?
Using third-party tools like SysCloud, you can:
- Directly restore the entire Gmail account or specific emails back to the respective inbox without the hassle of exporting and importing.
- Keep a safe copy of organizational data even after the user accounts are deleted; saving on license costs.
- Avoid making mistakes as the backup tools are user-friendly and intuitive.
- Save time in managing backup for large teams.
- Gain added data security because of increased admin control and secure backup data storage locations.
Gmail Backup Best Practices for IT Administrators
- Use a long password containing uppercase and special characters; ideally twelve or more characters long.
- Refrain from documenting your password. If necessary, use a password manager that enables encryption.
- Enable multi-step authentication.
- Setup recovery options in case of password loss through secondary email or a mobile number.
- Enhancing email security by authenticating email with DKIM, authorizing senders with SPF and preventing outgoing spam with DMARC to prevent spoofing.
- Schedule your Gmail backup automatically or manually (possible using applications like SysCloud).
- Manually backup emails whenever required (during peak season, critical project delivery).
- Manage employee exists efficiently. Keep a back up of all the data associated with the employee that is leaving and delete the user to save license cost.
- Always monitor your Gmail backup storage to make sure your backup subscription limits are managed properly.
Backup Options for Personal Use
Personal users can backup Gmail data using Gmail forwarding, POP or IMAP settings.
Backup Emails Using Gmail Forwarding
The simplest way to have a Gmail backup is to automatically forward them to another email account. This way even if you lose your emails in one account, it will be safe in an alternate account.
Google has an inbuilt feature to automatically forward your emails.
Here is an example:
1. Login to your Gmail and go to “settings”. You will find an option called “Forwarding and POP/IMAP”.
2. Then click on the “Add a forwarding address” option and enter your destination email id.
3. A pop-up will appear for confirmation and upon clicking the “proceed” button a confirmation code will be sent to your destination mail.
4. Copy the code from your destination email.
5. Go back to “settings” of your primary email.
6. You will see an option in the forwarding menu asking you to enter the confirmation code.
7. Enter the confirmation code and verify the email address.
8. This only adds your destination email to the primary id.
9. To enable forwarding select the “forward a copy of incoming mail” option.
10. You can add multiple emails to forwarding and customize your options.
11. If you want to forward emails received only from a specific person or the emails that contain a particular word/subject, you can do so by customizing the forwarding option.
Using the POP Setting to Backup Gmail
Post Office Protocol (POP) is an inbuilt feature of Gmail which lets you download your email to an email client (eg. Microsoft Outlook). Once it is enabled, all important emails can be downloaded to an email client as a second copy. This copy will also available to you offline. Deleting an email from your Gmail does not delete the copy downloaded to the email client.
POP was initially created to retrieve emails from Gmail server to email clients like outlook and not for creating second copies of emails. Even so, if you want to keep a second copy (also offline) of your emails to protect yourself against data loss, POP will be a good option.
How to enable POP?
1. Navigate to “settings” and select “Forwarding and POP/IMAP” option.
2. Enable POP by choosing the radio button for “Enable POP for all mail” or “Enable POP for mail that arrives from now on” according to your need.
3. To give login permission to email clients, navigate to My Account and select “Apps with account access” option and enable “Allow less secure apps”.
Here is how you do it for Outlook:
4. After enabling POP in Gmail security settings, you can configure your email client (Microsoft Outlook) to download your emails.
5. You can launch Outlook and select add account by clicking on the “Info” option in the File tab.
6. After adding an account, Outlook will take you to the configuration wizard. Enable the checkbox “Let me set up my account manually” to configure POP.
7. Select “POP” from the account type options that appear on the screen.
8. Next, make sure you give the incoming mail server as “pop.gmail.com”, port as “995”, outgoing mail server as “smtp.gmail.com” and port as “465”.
9. Click “next” option.
10. Enter the password for your Gmail account.
11. Now your email client account is set up.
12. Click on the “Send/Receive All Folders’’ option to download all your emails.
13. This will generate a second copy of your emails.
Since POP does not sync your Gmail with your email client, Google introduced a new feature called IMAP.
Using IMAP to Backup Gmail
Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) is an alternate method to access your emails, even offline. Unlike POP, IMAP will synchronize your emails from Gmail with your email clients. Changes made in your Gmail will be reflected in the corresponding email client and vice versa.
How to enable IMAP?
1. Navigate to “Settings” and click on the “Forwarding and POP/IMAP” option.
2. Click on the radio button “Enable IMAP”.
3. Give login permission for email clients by navigating to My Account and clicking on “Apps with account access” and switching on “Allow less secure apps”(Similar to POP).
4. Next, enter your login credentials in your email client to sync the emails.
Once the credentials are entered, you are good to go.
After setting up your account, all your emails get downloaded automatically and is in sync with Gmail, as shown below.
Changes made to your Gmail account will be reflected in your email client, as long as you are connected to the Internet. IMAP becomes a useful backup option mostly in situations where you lose account access when you go offline, forget the password or your account is hacked.
Gmail Backup Using Google Apps – Google Takeout
Now, what if you want to access your emails offline without giving login access to another service? Or what if you just want to download all your emails to a storage device like a pen drive?
You can rely on Google Takeout, an app that lets you export your data to a downloadable file(zip). This gives you more control over your data.
- To access Takeout, you can either use this link https://takeout.google.com/settings/takeout or if you have already logged into your Gmail account, click on “My Account>Personal & Privacy>Control your content>Create Archive”.
How to enable Takeout?
1. Enable the Gmail option on the Takeout screen.
2. If needed, you can also choose what to download from your Gmail.
3. After customizing your options click on “Next” to choose your:
File Type: You can choose your desired file format as your destination file type
Archive Size: You can select the maximum size for your download (if the size is greater than 2GB then it will be stored in multiple files)
Delivery Method: This allows you to choose your delivery method
4. Click on “Create Archive” button.
5. Once you click “Create Archive”, data is organized for the user to download it to a storage device (computer, USB device etc). You will receive an email once the download is complete.
6. Locate the email sent to your Gmail account and click on the “Download archive” button.
7. Clicking on Download archive will redirect you to the sign in page.
8. Next, sign in to verify your account.
9. Verifying your account will automatically download your data to your desired hardware.
After the download, the file will be stored in MBOX format which can be viewed using the desktop email client Thunderbird.
If you are using Microsoft Outlook as your email client, use a converter that converts MBOX files to PST files to view your downloaded document.
Gmail Backup Using Third-party Tools – GmVault
You can also use a third party tool to download and store your emails from Gmail. GmVault is an open source command line tool for having Gmail backup.
The application can be downloaded fromhttp://gmvault.org/. For quick installation, click on http://gmvault.org/install.html#quickstart
Launch the tool by clicking the GmVault icon on your desktop.
How to use GmVault?
1. Open the GmVault application.
2. You can start backup giving the command ‘gmvault sync (your email id)’
for example, gmvault sync email@example.com
3. Press enter after giving the command.
4. The tool then automatically creates a folder in your computer where your backups will be stored.
5. Press enter and you will now be redirected to Google login page.
6. Sign in using your credentials.
7. Next, GmVault will ask your permission to access your Gmail account.
8. After giving permission it will generate a key, as shown below.
9. Copy the authentication key from your Gmail and paste it on GmVault.
10. Press enter.
11. After pressing enter, GmVault will backup all your emails and chat transcripts to the above-mentioned folder.
If you have enabled automatic backup with GmVault your Gmail backup will also be up to date. If you need help in using GmVault type the command: “gmvault – help” or by click on the following link, http://gmvault.org/in_depth.html.
Restore Options For Personal Use
Restore Using Out-of-the-box Gmail Features
Retrieve from trash
In case of accidental deletion, you can easily restore the deleted mail from your trash.
1. Navigate to “trash”.
2. Select the mail.
3. Choose “move to inbox”.
But emails from trash will be permanently deleted after 30 days. If you forget to restore it from trash and you don’t have additional backup options you will lose your emails forever.
Restore Using Google Apps – G Suite Migration Tool
If you have exported your emails and stored it as a backup, you can use G Suite Migration tool to restore your data.
To find out how to use G Suite Migration Tool refer to the Restore section for Business users above.
Restore Using Third-Party Tools
If you have exported your Gmail data to your email client or storage device, you can also use Thunderbird to restore your lost emails back to your account.
Thunderbird is an email client that lets you move already backed up emails back to your account.
Those emails backed up in Mbox format can be restored using the following steps:
1. Install Thunderbird desktop client from, https://www.thunderbird.net/en-US/channel/ and launch the application.
2. You will now see a pop-up page.
3. Add your email account to which you want to restore the data, as shown below.
4. Click on the IMAP radio button and “Done”.
5. Click on the hamburger menu shown below.
6. Select the “Add-ons” option.
7. Next, click on ‘’See all” on the upper right corner on the next screen that appears.
8. Type in “Import Export tool”, in the search tab in the next screen.
9. Next, click on “Add to Thunderbird” and allow it to install ImportExportTools add-on.
After this, restart Thunderbird to get the add-on installed.
10. Click on “Restart Now” button on the tab that pops-up on top of the page.
11. After restarting it will lead you to the first page of Thunderbird as shown below.
12. Right click on “local folders” in the left panel and select “Import-export tools”->“Import mbox files”.
13. Once you click on “Import mbox files” the following pop-up appears.
14. Choose the first radio button, “Import directly one or more mbox files” and click “ok” to select your Mbox file from the destination.
15. From the next page, choose the Mbox file you want to restore.
16. The selected file(s) is directly added to the Thunderbird local folder, as shown below.
Now to restore all the emails to your account from Thunderbird:
17. Select all the imported emails from Thunderbird.
18. Then right-click on the selected email->move to-> (select your destination email address)-> select “inbox” or any other label” as shown below.
19. Now you have successfully restored all your emails to the preferred Gmail account.
To restore email backup using GmVault, follow these steps:
1. Use the command “gmvault restore (your email address)”
Example: gmvault restore firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Press enter to start the restore process.
3. You have Now successfully restored all your emails back to your Gmail inbox as shown below.
Gmail offers tremendous value to both G Suite users in enterprises as well as for consumers who use the free Gmail service. With over 1.2 billion users, a lot of our data is riding on the Gmail infrastructure.
Gmail has become an inevitable part of our daily lives both at work and at home. While Gmail has democratized enterprise-grade email infrastructure, increased reliance on Gmail by companies and individuals poses a significant risk in terms of accidental deletions and other types of data loss. Hence, Gmail backup has become a necessity.
However, Google has not paid enough attention to provide simple and effective backup solutions for Gmail. One of the reasons could be the immense confidence that Google has in delivering a stable cloud infrastructure to run Gmail.
That leaves us with no option but to rely on a third-party service provider to backup our Gmail data. After all, no one knows when we need a backup!