Let’s be honest, using two separate cloud services for both storage and backup is hard. Syncing files every day is an important task, but so is backing them up. I started using Google Drive backup as my primary solution when I bought an Android tablet that came with 100GB free storage space and haven’t looked back since.
Though it’s worth noting the service has some disadvantages (lacks scheduling features, and has privacy issues), that’s why if you’re looking for a simple backup solution, I would recommend services like Backblaze, CrashPlan and Carbonite. Each of them provides unlimited storage, strong encryption and run incremental backups continuously in the background.
Returning to Google Drive, it has some great advantages as well, the interface is super easy to use and all files can be viewed and edited online. Not to mention, it also provides free storage for all photos under 16MP via Google Photos.
There’s yet another advantage to the storage service that’s not very well known – if you convert uploaded documents to Google Docs’ formats, they won’t count towards the total storage limit. In this post, we’ll be covering tips and tricks to using Google Drive backup for every important file on your computer.
Before We Start – Things You Will Need
A Google Drive account and a good amount of storage space on your hard disk. Check the folder size of what you want to upload, before starting the backup process. Storage plans are considerably affordable, so procuring space shouldn’t be an issue.
Currently, Google Drive provides 15GB of free storage to all users.
Step 1 : Download The Desktop Client
The web app can upload data too, but finds it difficult to upload a large amount of it. If your system accidentally shuts down or the internet gets disconnected, the online resume process also becomes difficult, because you have to check which files uploaded and which ones didn’t.
Whereas, the desktop client resumes backups and synchronization right where it left off. (Download the desktop client here)
Step 2 : Deactivating The Sync Option
Google Drive’s syncing option by default is activated, and to backup data, it needs to be deactivated. For those still confused over the terms “backup” and “sync,” here is a more simple explanation – With syncing, the same copy of a file is saved on the local machine, and a cloud server.
Changes made to the file will be reflected on all devices that are synced to your local machine.
For example, if this article is written in a Word file then synced with all my devices, I would be able to access and edit it from anywhere. All the modifications will be reflected across other related machines, however, if I accidentally deleted the Word file from any one of my devices, it will be removed from all of them.
Syncing is for ease of accessibility, and it can’t be used as a backup substitute. Backing up files the right way means I can retrieve a copy of it, even if it’s been deleted from my local drive. Before moving on to how to deactivate syncing, there are two things you should know about Google Drive:
- 1: Files in the main folder are automatically synced
- 2: Uploaded Documents automatically convert to Google Docs formats
When directly saving a file to Google Drive or opening a Gmail document in Google Docs, the file is stored in the main folder. Even when selective sync is checked, all files will be synced to the local drive, whether you want to or not.
So, before downloading the desktop client, make sure to check your online Google Drive folder and see if there are any files that you don’t want to sync, and move them to a separate folder to save space.
Just remember that Google Drive doesn’t allow sub-folders to be selectively synced. When directly creating a new Google Doc or converting an uploaded document into Google Docs’ format, such files are not counted against the storage space quota.
Individual files might look similar, but they will have different extensions. For instance, Word files change from .doc to .gdoc, and Excel files change from .xls to .gsheet. The difference between them is clearly visible in their thumbnails. When an uploaded file is opened in Google Drive during editing, a Google Docs copy of it is created.
While doing research, I found user feedback stating that Google Drive might miss some document formats if it doesn’t support them. But as a regular Google Drive backup user, I have personally not noticed any such problems, with any document.
The option to automatically convert uploaded documents into Google Docs’ format is present in the Settings pane.
But there is an issue here -– conversion is not selective.
Checking this option means all uploaded files will be converted to Google Docs; slowing down both the backup and restoration processes, since documents will be converting from one format to the other. There is one other issue that can occur during restoration, read Step 4 to learn about it.
Moving on to the process of deactivating syncing, go to the Google Drive app on your desktop, click the three dots present on the top right, choose preferences and a new Window should open.
There will be two options here: Sync everything and Sync selected folders.
Choose the ‘Sync selected folders’ option and uncheck the folders that you do not want to backup, or the folders you don’t want synced with a local machine.
The best option would be to create a separate backup folder, which will come in handy when you need to restore all of that backed up data.
Step 3 : Moving Data to The Backup Folder
Since Google Drive creates a separate folder on the system when the desktop client is installed, it becomes super easy to drag and drop data into the folder. As soon as a file or folder gets dropped on it, the upload process will start in the background.
But since Google is not inherently a backup tool, it has limitations which should be kept in mind: it lacks incremental uploads, there’s no backup scheduling and new files need to be moved manually to the Drive folder
I searched extensively for third-party apps that could help with these issues, but unfortunately, none of the apps tested were perfect. Here are the apps that I tested.
This service has a free version and a paid one, which provides encryption. Cloudberry impressed me with the features it had — files are easily filtered, and backup scheduling came with many options too.
When I ran the backup, I wasn’t getting upload speeds above 16 KB/sec, which further plummeted to 4 KB/sec after I took this screenshot. And before you ask, no, it wasn’t my internet speed’s fault.
Worse yet, when I checked in Google Drive, only one out of three folders were backed up. Here’s the folder I was trying to backup
And this is the folder Cloudberry backed up
I tried again with a different folder, and Cloudberry still missed a few files. This could turn into a huge issue when backing up a large folder; you would never know which files didn’t backup until finding out the hard way.
I also tried to automate the process by using a batch file script, but that solution didn’t work either. The only way out of this conundrum is to move folders manually every week, or better yet, use Google Drive backup for redundant folders that you still want to keep.
Since the files won’t be changing every day, no new files or incremental uploads will be required.
As for running Google Drive in the background at specific times, choose the Task Scheduler in Windows or Automator in Mac. Though they’re only useful for one-time backups, it’ll be still useful because the uploads won’t hinder your work.
To use Task Scheduler, just search for it on Windows and open it.
Specify the time when you want to run Google Drive
Choose the ‘Start a Program’ option (The remaining two functions do not work on Windows 10)
To enter Google Drive in the Program/Script section, make sure to put the path to its .EXE file which should be present in Program Files.
Duplicati claims to encrypt and backup data to various cloud services, including Google Drive. When trying it out, I found a huge list of supported services; except Google Drive. Instead, it had Google Docs.
A little confused, I decided to try anyway. In the next window, it asked for my Google credentials and Google Docs collection.
Yes, collection, which was a way to sort Google Docs into folders before the Google Drive era, and that feature has since been deactivated. So, Duplicati turned out to be outdated.
Step 4 : Restoration
There are two ways to restore backed up data from Google Drive: Choosing the web app’s download option or syncing folders with a local drive. To directly download a folder, right-click on it and select ‘Download’.
Since you’ll be downloading a folder with hundreds of files in it, Google Drive will kindly zip the folder first, and then let you download it.
Downloading via the web app takes double the time, and God forbid if the internet breaks down in between, you have to go through the whole process again.
That is why I recommend the second method. All you have to do is follow the steps mentioned above to deactivate file syncing, but this time, checkmark the backup folder. As the syncing process initiates, files will start appearing in your Google Drive account.
Even after syncing, they can be opened online only, if you try to open them with Microsoft Word or a similar word editor, you will only find the link to the original file in it. The Zip option seems to be the way to go, it’s a give-and-take relationship, between saving storage space and quick restoration.
Even though Google Drive is mainly a cloud storage and syncing service, it can be used as a decent makeshift backup tool. The best part is that all your data, whether it needs to be synced or backed up, can be saved on one cloud account.
Of course, Google Drive does have a few shortcomings, but in my opinion, it’s easy-to-use interface, accessibility and affordability are all top tier. Have you used Google Drive as a backup tool? Please share your views and experience with us in the comments section below.