“Doesn’t Gmail back up itself?” It’s a common question, based on the general assumption that the entire point of moving to “the cloud” is that you don’t need to worry about backup tools and backup software anymore. In truth, while Gmail obviates many of the traditional reasons to back up your data, it doesn’t cover them all. Moreover, because many users assume that “Gmail backs up itself,” they’re often more vulnerable to data loss than many on-premise users.
First, the good news. The primary cause of data loss in on-premise systems is hardware failure. Good, old-fashioned hard drive crashes. Gmail has effectively solved this problem, as your Gmail data is hosted in world-class Google data centers with multiply redundant storage systems. Google goes so far as to guarantee that paying Google Apps customers’ data can survive the loss of an entire data center. Even if a whole Google data storage facility is destroyed by fire, flood, or freak meteor impact, your Gmail data will be back up and running within 24 hours.
The second leading cause of data loss on-premise — and the leading cause of data loss in the cloud — is user error. You (or your users) accidentally delete data without realizing it, or intentionally delete data that turns out to be needed later. Gmail also does a fair job of limiting the impact of user error by employing a “soft delete” policy within Gmail.
Any time a Gmail message is deleted, Google relegates it the Gmail Trash folder. You can recover Gmail messages from the Trash folder within 30 days of initial deletion. Just open the Gmail Trash folder, locate the “deleted” Gmail message, select the checkbox next to it, and then choose the Move to Inbox option. Voila: your Gmail message is restored.
How Gmail Doesn't Back Up Its Own Data
“Google Support cannot recover permanently deleted messages”
Of course, if you deleted a Gmail message more than 30 days ago, or have emptied the Gmail Trash since you deleted the message, you’re out of luck. Google is pretty clear:
“If a user has deleted a message permanently, by clicking Delete Forever in Spam or Trash or through your domain’s email retention policies, it isn’t possible to recover the message. It is also impossible to recover messages after an administrator deletes a user’s account. Google Support cannot recover permanently deleted messages.”
Put simply: Soft deletions in Gmail eventually become permanent deletions in Gmail; just wait a month. More importantly, when it comes to Gmail, permanently deleted means permanently deleted. Contrary to popular conspiracy theories, Google does not keep your deleted Gmail messages around to exploit later. Once a Gmail message is permanently deleted, Google cannot and will not restore it.
Moreover, there are lots of ways to permanently delete some or all of your Gmail messages beyond the simple act of trashing them and waiting 30 days.
First, you could empty the Gmail Trash.
A third-party app with access to your Gmail account could delete all your Gmail messages, permanently. (Just ask Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.)
Or, worse come to worst, your CEO could decide to take Inbox Zero literally and intentionally wipe out his entire Gmail history. (Just ask Backupify’s own founder and CEO, Rob May.)
Bottom line: Gmail isn’t foolproof. Gmail messages can be lost. The only way to ensure that you can always access your Gmail information is to have a third-party backup of your Gmail account.
Gmail Backup Tools and Software
Google’s in-house tool for creating one-off exports of your data in different Google services, Google takeout is a serviceable means of creating a manual, one-time Gmail backup. Google takeout creates a .zip file of all your Gmail messages in the MBOX data format, which you can then manually re-import to your Gmail account if any data is lost.
Enterprise-grade Gmail business continuity and Gmail disaster recovery plans require automatic, recurring Gmail backup and restore solutions. That’s where Backupify for G Suite comes in.
Backupify for G Suite backs up all your Gmail accounts along with Google Drive, Google Calendar, Google Contacts and Google Sites up to three times per day, and allows one-click recovery of Gmail messages and Google Drive files. These backups occur automatically, without oversight, every day — freeing administrators from the tasks of creating regular manual Google Drive and Gmail backups, and ensuring that all Google Drive and Gmail data is backed up and available for recovery at all times.