How to automatically backup your digital life with Dropbox, Backupify, Google and more

Our lives are increasingly digital. Just think about it: our personal and business communication, photos, documents – they’re all being stored in digital format. And that information isn’t just stored on your hard drive anymore: you might have your email running on Google’s servers thanks to their Gmail service, your photos saved on your smartphone, and your documents on your computer’s hard drive.

This digital world is also unstable. Hackers, cyber thieves, and environmental factors (like dropping your phone in the toilet) all threaten to destroy our digital content at any given time. That is why it is critical to make sure that, in addition to securing your devices and content, you are also backing them up. Just ask anyone who has had their Gmail account hacked and deleted if they wish they had backed it up.

But backups are annoying. It’s hard to remember to do them, and they take time. So the best backup program is one that you set and forget, that works automatically in the background. Here are some ways you can set up automatic backups for your critical data:

Back up your files with Dropbox

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Dropbox is not meant to be a backup solution, but it can work quite well as one. If you’re using Dropbox, your files are being automatically synced in the cloud, so you’ve got at least two copies of your files: one on your computer, and one on the web. Even better, set up another computer to also sync with your files, and you’ve got three sets.

Back up your social networks and Google data with Backupify

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It’s pretty much impossible to back up Gmail. Yet it can be done with a service called Backupify that automatically backs up all your Gmail, Google Docs, Google Sites, Google Contacts, etc. If you are using Google Apps, you can set it to back up multiple users in your Google Apps account.

With Backupify, you can also back up your social networking data (Facebook and Twitter activity). It’s a paid service, but if you think about how much it would cost to lose all that data, it seems like a small price to pay.

Back up your WordPress Website with…a whole bunch of options

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There are about a dozen decent WordPress backup plugins and services to choose from. Some are for free, some cost. But many can be set to automatically back up your WordPress site’s files (theme files and uploads), and database, automatically on a regular basis. Make sure you’re not only backing up your site to the same server where your site sits. If that server has issues, you could lose your site and your backups. Therefore, it’s important to send your backups to an off-server location, like Dropbox, Amazon Web Services, or to another server via FTP.

To see a good roundup of available WordPress backup solutions, and their features, check out this post on WPMU.org which includes a handy PDF feature comparison chart.

Backup your smartphone with Google Sync and Dropbox

You can generally back up your smartphone by plugging it into your computer and running a syncing program, like iTunes. However, this method is not automated, so let’s look at some ways you can automate your backups.

I don’t know about you, but the most important content on my smartphone is my email, calendar, contacts and photos/videos.

My email, calendar and contacts are all run through Google and are syncing two ways – new data created on my phone, like a new event in my calendar or a new contact, are synced back to Google. New events etc. added on a desktop are pushed to my phone. My Google email is constantly being synced. Note: I understand that syncing Google data works more smoothly and completely on Android devices. But you can set it up to a certain extent on your iPhone too.

As for photos and videos – Dropbox recently added an AWESOME, life-saving feature via their mobile apps for Android and iPhone – you can configure your settings so that photos and videos stored on your phone are automatically synced to a folder in your Dropbox account called Camera Uploads. You currently can’t choose where these files are stored, and they must go to a folder Dropbox creates for you called Camera Uploads. But it’s a small price to pay for automatic backup of your precious pics, which are now also being synced with any computers linked to your Dropbox account too, giving you multiple backups.

When you enable this feature, Dropbox adds another 500 MB to your account, gratis.

Here’s how to set up your photo/video Drobpox syncing. Note: these instructions are based on an Android device, but are probably similar for the iPhone:

  1. Install the Dropbox app – to find it, search for Dropbox in Google Play or iTunes.
  2. Go to your app’s Settings. On Android devices, click the button to the left of the Home button, and choose Settings.
  3. Under Settings, click on Turn on Camera Upload. You will then be able to choose whether photos are uploaded only when the phone is connected via Wifi, or also via Data plans. Once you’ve chosen your settings, the Camera Upload settings will look like this:
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Now the Dropbox app will automatically sync your photos and videos to your Dropbox account.

Using the above apps will provide you with automatic backup coverage for your email, calendar, Google docs, contacts, files, photos and videos, also known as Digital Peace of Mind.

Responses (6)

Israel P

July 9, 2012 11:13 am

Do you have any suggestions on how to back up the weekly blog that I run on Blogger?

    Miriam Schwab

    July 9, 2012 1:55 pm

    No sorry. Blogger’s not really our thang.

Debi Z.

July 17, 2012 12:29 am

What about smartphone “notes” – any idea about how to back those up? Apart from doing “view -> screen capture to picture -> save picture” ?

    Miriam Schwab

    July 17, 2012 5:38 am

    The iPhone notebook can be backed up via iTunes, but that’s annoying. As far as I know, there are two options: email your notes to yourself; or use a third party application for note taking, like Evernote. With a service like Evernote, your notes are available everywhere.

Debi Z.

July 17, 2012 8:00 am

Thanks a lot, Miriam. Actually I have an android, but I guess Evernote has support for that too. Will give it a try :-)

Miriam Schwab

July 17, 2012 8:26 am

It appears that you can set your memos to sync with Google Docs! It doesn’t seem to like Google Apps though – if I try to enter an email address that’s not gmail, it won’t accept it. In any case, if you go to Memo > left button > More > Sync Memo, it asks you for your Google login info. That’s another possible solution. You can also send each individual note to Google Drive or other services, but that has to be done manually.

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