How to Backup Email in 2021: A Guide for Outlook and Gmail

Robin Barber
By Robin Barber (Writer)
— Last Updated: 2020-07-15T08:59:16+00:00

A good email backup is essential for anyone with files they don’t want to lose. It can speed up the process of migrating to another email account or even protect you against a ransomware attack, if you’ve set it up correctly. However, many email providers don’t make backing up emails easy. In this article, we’ll go through how to save emails to the cloud on the most popular services.

Most email providers use similar systems for backups, but in this guide we’ll be saving Outlook and Gmail emails using Backblaze. You can use any email provider, including one of the more secure email services that already protect your data on the cloud, just make sure it’s trustworthy and has a good security history.

You should also consider using an external hard drive because even the most powerful online backups are far from perfect. Ideally, you should follow the 3-2-1 rule if you need to keep your email data safe, as it takes advantage of reliable remote storage and high-speed local storage.

What Is Cloud Storage?

Although there are many differences between cloud storage and online backups, the core premise — to keep your files safe by storing it in a remote data center — is the same. This often includes protections, such as redundant storage and AES 256-bit encryption for extra security.

It’s reasonable to wonder why anyone would save their emails on the cloud. However, many things can cause data loss, from accidentally deleting a file to ransomware locking you out of your account. With secure backups, a full recovery can be finished in minutes, with any damage completely reversed.

The cloud isn’t always the fastest or most secure way to protect your files, and it often comes with a hefty price tag. However, it does have unmatched reliability, so when it comes to using cloud storage or an external hard drive, the best answer is a combination of the two.

How to Backup Outlook Emails to the Cloud

When you backup your emails for the first time, you may find that saving the email data file isn’t quite as simple as with other documents. This is normally because your email client doesn’t prioritize exporting its equivalent of the Outlook PST file. However, most of the time, an export option is still available, it’s just hidden.

Although the following steps are for Outlook, they can also work  with different email providers, such as Mozilla Thunderbird. Meanwhile cloud-based email services, like Tutanota, can automatically protect your files.

To find your Outlook data file and start backing up your emails, you will need to open the Outlook email client and log in to your account. Then select “file” in the top-left corner.

Outlook_Client_File

Next, click the “open & export” tab on the left side of the screen.

Outlook_Client_Account_Info

Here you need to select the “import/export” option, which will open a new window. 

Outlook_Client_Import_Export

In the “import/export” window, select “export to a file” and click next. There are also options here to import an Outlook data file (PST or CSV).

Outlook_Client_Export_To_File

Select “Outlook data file (PST)” to enable saving your whole email account, although CSV is fine for individual email folders.

Outlook_Client_Data_File

Then select your email address at the top to save all your Outlook data in the PST file.

Outlook_Client_Export_Everything

Find a location for the exported Outlook data file. By default, this will be in your documents, but you can use a dedicated backup folder.

Outlook_Client_Export_Location

You have the option to add a password to your PST file, and this can be a strong form of security, but it isn’t necessary.

Outlook_Client_Export_Password

Now find your Outlook data file (PST or CSV, not the OST file) and make sure your backup includes the export. You should also check that it isn’t excluding the chosen file type.

Outlook_Export_File

Finally, check the file is safe by opening your backup and finding the Outlook PST file.

Backblaze_Check_Outlook_File

How to Save Outlook Emails

  1. Open up the Outlook email client
  2. Select “file” in the top-left corner
  3. Go to “open & export”
  4. Select the “import/export” option
  5. Choose to “export to a file”
  6. Select “Outlook data file (PST)”
  7. Click your email address to save everything
  8. Save the PST file to your hard drive
  9. Move the Outlook PST file into your backup folder and ensure it’s safe

How to Backup Gmail to the Cloud

Gmail works a little differently from other providers because you can download your whole G Suite in one file. This means there are more options for what you can save, but it could end up taking a lot longer than you expect.

To start the process of saving your emails, go to any Google web page and select your account in the top right. Select the account you wish to backup and click “manage your Google account.”

Google_Account_Selected

Go to the “data & personalization” tab, either from the list on the left side of the page or from the tiles on the home screen.

Google_Account_Data_And_Personalization

Halfway down this screen is an option to download your data, which will take you to Google Takeout. 

Google_Account_Download_Data

By default, this will export your whole account. However, if you only want to save your email file, you can deselect everything except “mail.”

Google_Takeout_Main_Screen

Within the email content options, there is an option to include all messages. To store everything, ensure this option is selected and the remaining options are grayed out.

Goolgle_Takeout_Mail_Options

After you select everything you want to export, scroll to the bottom of the page and click “next.”

Google_Takeout_Next_Page

You can set Google to automatically save your files one time or every two months, either to your cloud storage or by emailing yourself the data file. The preset export options should be fine for most users.

Google_Takeout_Export_Options

Once the email with your export file has arrived, download it and move it to your backup folder.

Google_Export_Backup_Folder

Finally, to check it worked, open your backup system and find the email file.

Backblaze_Check_Gmail_File

How to Save Gmail

  1. Select your Google account icon
  2. Click “manage your Google account”
  3. Find the “data & personalization” tab
  4. Choose to download your data file
  5. Select to save “mail” data and ensure all email types are selected
  6. Go to the next screen and choose your export options
  7. Download your export file
  8. Move the file to your backup folder

Best Cloud Backup for Emails

Most cloud backups use similar methods to save a file. Generally, the process will work as long as an online backup system has decent security and can help you recover data. However, prevention is always better than a cure, and with the right service, you can avoid the need for data recovery software altogether. 

When you go to choose an online backup option, there are many aspects to consider, including its features, speed, usability and price. Depending on how you wish to use it, our full lineup of the best online backup services should have something for you. However, we consider these three to be the best for most users.

Backblaze

Backblaze is a go-to solution for beginners. It’s fast, simple to use and has one of the cheapest unlimited storage plans available. However, to provide this more streamlined experience, it does sacrifice some security and customization options, but these aren’t deal-breaking.

Despite its lack of cutting-edge security or a wide feature set, this cloud backup can keep any file safe for a quick recovery, when necessary. However, if you still aren’t sure if it’s worth the limitations, read our full Backblaze review for a detailed rundown of what it can do.

Acronis True Image

Acronis True Image doesn’t have the high value of its main competitors, and it’s a little harder to use. However, it more than makes up for this with excellent all-round performance, a wide array of features and a practically unbeatable customer service experience.

If you’re willing to put up with its mediocre UI, it’s a robust tool to fine-tune your experience to how you want it. Check out our full Acronis True Image review to learn how you can completely control the protection and recovery of your files with this provider.

IDrive

IDrive specializes in security, but without sacrificing features or usability. With the ability to act as either cloud storage or a backup, this is our favorite provider available, even if it does have an Achilles’ heel in its slow and unreliable speeds.

For a large file or urgent recovery, its speed could become an issue, and other providers are a better choice. However, if speed isn’t your primary concern, read our full IDrive review for a more in-depth breakdown of why this is our favorite cloud backup.

Final Thoughts 

Your emails are important to keep safe, especially if it’s a work email account, and cloud backups are powerful tools in protecting it from both accidental and intentional damage. If your email data isn’t already saved, backing up your emails is a quick, simple and effective solution with no major downside. 

If your email account isn’t with Gmail or Outlook, you don’t need to rush and change to make backups. Most providers have a way to download your data, such as the Outlook PST file, and then save it to any of the best backup apps available.

You can also use any cloud backup provider to keep your email file safe, although we suggest Backblaze, IDrive or Acronis True Image. This is because they provide the best balance between security, speed, features and value.

Have you had to backup emails before? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks for reading.