They say that if something is on the Internet, it stays there, in some form, forever. However, that is not strictly true. If a company such as Google shuts down one of their services, the data contained within will be gone forever. Regular backups are essential, even for data located in the cloud.
Not too many people know that you can make backups of your online and social media accounts, and that’s a pity because everyone should be doing it. Tweets about your dinner last night may not be relevant today, but in 50 years from now, you can read your tweets and chuckle at the thought of the wife’s horrendous cooking and how you contracted salmonella from her omelettes. Oh, the good old days.
Let’s look at different social media sites and see how to download your history, for when you build your Presidential Library.
The Library of Congress (LOC) is now archiving tweets, but you can also pull a LOC and get your own copies. Twitter is dead simple when it comes to backing up everything you have ever typed in your account.
Log in, and then go to your settings. In the Account Tab, scroll down to the Content section, and you will see this :
Click Request Your Archive and then Save Changes. Your archive is then prepared, normally within 24 hours (often less), and you are emailed a link which brings you back to your Twitter settings. There, you will be able to download a zip file containing the files you need to view your tweets on its own unique HTML page.
To give you an idea of what the page looks like, you can see mine, which I constantly upload to my website. You can see that my very first tweet back in 2007 informed the world that I had the flu. Wow. Exciting stuff, or what?
There are of course other ways of backing up your Twitter data, but if Twitter gives you a one-click official solution, why re-invent the wheel?
Facebook is also very easy to retrieve your data. After logging in, proceed directly to your General Account Settings, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. At the bottom, you will see this:
Click on Download a copy of your Facebook data.
After you click Start My Archive, it will get prepared for you, and like Twitter, you will be emailed a link to a zip file.
If you are only after your photos, Aaron went over 5 possible methods that you might want to check out, and Tina discussed how to only back up your Facebook contacts. But the official Facebook method gives you the entire lot – even the Pokes.
Instagram is where you are forced to use a third-party client, as I was unable to find any official way by Instagram to do any backups. The best third-party tool to use if you are a big Instagrammer is Instaport.me. What makes it even better is that the photo export is more or less instantaneous.
Sign in and grant Instaport the right to access your Instagram account. Then specify which photos you want (see the above screenshot). Once you click Start Export, it will start beavering away. The time it takes will obviously depend on the number of photos you have. Since I don’t have many, it only took 30 seconds for me.
It will ask you for a donation, but you don’t have to give one if you don’t want to. Once you click the download button, it will spit out a zip file with all your snaps inside.
LinkedIn offers an official way to export your data, including your contacts, status updates, and more.
After logging, go to the settings page, scroll down and click the Account tab. There, on the right hand side, you will see a link that says “Request an archive of your data”
On the next page, you will be told it will take up to 72 hours to prepare, and you have one more button to press, to send your request. In my experience, LinkedIn has been quite speedy in putting everything together. It has never been 72 hours.
With Flickr, there is no official method to backing up, but a quick search with my old friend Mr. Google throws up countless third-party apps that will do the job for you. The one everybody is raving about is Bulkr.
The free version of Bulkr does have its limitations, though. One of them is that you cannot access the original versions of your photos – you can only choose between small, medium, and large.
If you want the original size, you have to open up the wallet and upgrade to Pro, which is $25 a year, or a $29 one-time payment. But for me (and I suspect for many others), large is good enough.
Photos are saved to a folder on your Desktop and the process is very speedy.
Finding one for Pinterest would have made me rip my hair out, if I had any. There are so many apps which promise everything, but in the end they all flunked the Mark taste test.
I thought I had finally aced it when I found PinBack, but that only gives the direct URLs to the webpages where the images come from – not the actual images themselves! What are you supposed to do with that? Visit potentially hundreds of websites and individually download each image? (Assuming the image is still on that page.) Who has the time for that?
In the end, the only solution I could find was IFTTT, which has a Pinterest channel. This is the one I used, but the problem is that the recipe is not retroactive. In other words, it will not back up your old pins – just the ones you make from now on.
If Evernote is not your thing, then you can make your own recipe to have the pins sent to wherever you want – provided IFTTT supports it of course. But these days, you can make it do a lot.
One other option – if you are into RSS – is to get your unpublished Pinterest RSS feed and subscribe to it in a RSS reader. Your feed would be:
But I am really disappointed in Pinterest. They should be providing something official instead of these messy hackjobs.
Google on the other hand makes it absurdly easy. They allow you to export data from ANY of their services, with their Takeout service. It’s just a case of logging in, ticking the ones you want, choosing your delivery method (email link or download to Google Drive), and then sending the request off. Google says the whole process can take days, but in my experience, the longest they have ever taken is 24 hours.
If it’s only your Gmail, Calendar, and Tasks you are after, another option is to use a desktop email client such as Thunderbird or Outlook and use the POP3 or IMAP protocol to have copies sent to your desktop. Of course, you need to ensure that you have enough space on your hard-drive (attachments can fill up space), and be ready for your computer to slow down as the desktop client pulls all your emails in.
What Accounts Have We Missed?
There are obviously a great deal more services out there, with their own backup solutions. Let us know in the comments which of your favorites we neglected to mention, as well as how to back that service up.