Backing Up Your Google GSuite Data With Spanning

While online services such as email and cloud-based storage have built-in redundancy to guard against catastrophic failures, data on the cloud can also become unusable - perhaps a folder or file is accidentally deleted, or a malicious actor specifically targets your data.  In any case, it pays to backup your cloud data; your company’s success depends on it.

The most ubiquitous cloud services provider is Google (offering Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, and more).  Business enterprises rely on GSuite and Team Drives, allowing for group-based management of services and multi-user collaboration.  That’s a lot of information stored in one cloud location, and a potentially tremendous blow to a business should that data be lost. Fortunately, there are several options for backing up Google data.

Google Takeout

The cheapest but most difficult option, Google Takeout, is a service that allows you to export data to a local physical hard drive manually. The upside is that Takeout allows you to download data on a user-by-user basis, which can be great for individuals making periodic backups.  Takeout also allows the user to specify which data is exported - everything from Mail, Contacts, and Calendar data to Hangouts Chats, Google Play data, and Chrome bookmarks.

This tool is ultimately not suitable for the “up-to-date” backups necessary for business use.  Backups will have to be manually created, making them susceptible to human error. Incremental backups aren’t an option; a full export is created each time. We don’t recommend Google Takeout although it may be useful for one-time backups (for example, backing up a former employee’s emails) if you prefer to store the data locally. The only upside to this service is that it’s free, though the physical drives have to be purchased and maintained.

Google Vault

Google also provides a service called Vault, which allows for long-term data retention.  However, Vault is not intended to be a backup solution and should not be used as such. This tool is intended for data search, archiving, auditing and compliance purposes, and does not offer many options for recovering data back into your Google account.  While Vault does retain Gmail messages, Drive data, and Hangouts chat messages, it does not retain folder or label structure. Recovering data with the correct directory hierarchy is an arduous process, as it needs to be rebuilt manually.

Vault archives are on a user-by-user basis, which makes it difficult to implement organization-wide.  In addition, if a Google account is deleted (e.g., an employee leaves the company), ALL Vault data for the account is deleted as well.

Vault also costs an additional fee, so this solution doesn't really save money compared to other services. This option is useful for holding on to unstructured data for legal or compliance purposes, but not for easy-to-recover backups.

Google Data Export Tool

Last on the list of Google products is their Data Export Tool, which is designed with organizations in mind. It allows a GSuite administrator to export all of the data from the organization in question, which can then be downloaded or moved to some alternate location as desired (though it must be noted that Google itself will not retain archived data for longer than 30 days).

The limitations on this tool preclude it from being used as a regular backup system.  Exports can only be started every 30 days, and all organization data is exported (including files that have not been modified). This makes Data Export unwieldy and ineffective for day-to-day backup.  It is useful for archiving purposes (assuming exported data is offloaded to some other media), or if you are moving your organization away from Google but wish to retain all your old information. All in all, this tool cannot be recommended for regular backups.

Third-Party Apps

Though Google doesn’t offer the sort of backup application we’re looking for, there are multiple options provided by third-party vendors. These solutions are available for a small subscription fee based on the number of users in your organization.

In our opinion, the best of the third-party services is Spanning, which is one of the top-rated apps in the GSuite Marketplace. With nearly 5 million users, which suggests stability and the proven ability to support large amounts of user data.

Spanning

Spanning is a GSuite backup solution intended for organizational use. It readily handles Gmail, Drive (including Team Drive), Calendars, Contacts, and Sites, all without imposing limits on the amount of storage or number of backups created. It boasts a number of features useful for backups, including unlimited storage and on-demand backups, file history (for restoring old versions of files in case of accidental overwrite), and automation tools. Since Spanning is a separate service from Google, data is retained in their backups even if a user’s account is deleted from GSuite (whether accidentally or intentionally)!

We found this service provides the storage and recovery tools needed for incremental, day-to-day backups, allowing for immediate and easy recovery of any lost Google data.  The user interface is clean and intuitive, and we became customers ourselves after testing! Nodal is now an official reseller of Spanning Backup for GSuite and Spanning will become a major component of our Managed Services Provider (MSP) package.  Availability of Nodal’s MSP service is due in early 2019, but we can help you get set up with Spanning right away!

Spanning offers a 14-day free trial for testing purposes, and also provides backup solutions for Office 365 and Salesforce data.  For more information on Spanning and how to implement it at your facility, feel free to contact Nodal!