What would you do if Gmail crashed, your facebook account got suspended for suspicious activity, your LinkedIn network disappeared, or the Fail Whale moved in permanently?

Online networking and collaboration services provide us with great tools that have become part of our everyday routine. It’s important to remember, however, that we don’t own that data. If something were to go wrong with one of your service providers, you could lose access to all your information – contacts, files, correspondence, documents … EVERYTHING. You backup your hard drive (don’t you?!?), why wouldn’t you backup your online files as well?

<embarrassed pause>

Ok. I admit it. I haven’t backed up my online accounts either. BUT … I have thought about it and begun investigating the available services and apps. The goal of this post is to 1) get you thinking about backing up your “cloud” data, and 2) provide you with some solution options to explore. Please Note: I have not yet test-driven any of the tools from these providers, so – please! – download, install, and purchase at your own risk. On the other hand, if you’ve had experience (good or bad) with any of these, OR have some alternate suggestions to make, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

Now – off we go!

Considering the 140-character-sized data to be backed up, twitter seems to have the largest selection of backup options of all the primary social networks.

  • Backupmytweets Automated, daily back up of your tweets. 1GB of storage, free … if you allow them to send one automated tweet to your followers announcing that you’ve backed up with their service. For $9.95/year, you can skip the auto-tweet – same storage: 1GB (about 1 million tweets).
  • Tweetake Currently requires that you provide your twitter log on information, but OAuth access coming soon. Allows you to backup your followers, friends, favorites, DMs, your tweets, or all of the above. Donation button on the site.
  • Tweetbackup Daily back up of tweets, no install, no need to provide them with your twitter password. You are required to follow tweetbackup on twitter.
  • And here’s a tip from TweetCrunch on how to manually back up your followers and friends.

Your choice for backing up facebook is simple, since there appears to be only one app that fits the bill:
(Adobe Air) $2.99 seems a fair price for this robust app which accesses your account via facebook connect to back up your profile, friends, photos, and wall status updates with comments. The interface that allows you to access your back ups offline is very intuitive, connected to the live site (for instance, if you click on a friend’s name or profile pic in the back up, you’ll be linked to their live profile on the facebook site), and features a cool “time capsule” view that provides a visual overview of your iterative back ups along with key statistics.

Perhaps because LinkedIn kindly provides a couple of simple ways to backup from within the application, there don’t seem to be any third party services available. 
To backup your contacts:

  • Click on the “Contacts” item in the primary navigation
  • Scroll to the bottom of the Web page
  • Click the “Export Connections” icon at the lower left
  • You can select a format. I chose an Outlook CSV which opened up in Excel and was easy to edit and save.

To backup your profile:

  • Click on the “Profile” item in the primary navigation
  • Click the PDF icon under the list of actions shown in the upper right-hand corner of the page
  • LinkedIn will generate a nicely formatted PDF that includes your overview information, work experience, and any recommendations. In a pinch, it would work as a quickie resume.

It’s sometimes frightening to me how much of my professional life is stored in Google. I don’t even use Gmail, but my life is run by google docs and google calendar. Not to mention that I just got an invite to Google Wave … who knows where that will take me!

After you finish railing about the fact that Google doesn’t make it simple either export or backup your mail from within the application, you might give one of these options a try.

  • BackupMyMail Free trial. Requires that you provide your Gmail account log on information.
  • Gmailbackup Freeware solution that looks to involve a bit of configuration on the user side.
  • GmailKeeper $19.95 special with 6-month upgrade period. Provides automated back up and restore for all Gmail folders.
  • POP/Thunderbird If you prefer to have a little more hands-on control, you might try to set up a POP account through Mozilla Thunderbird. Matt Silverman’s post walks you through the how-to.

Google Docs:
When I think of all the collaborative data I have stored in google docs (and the fact that I haven’t yet backed it up), I feel a little sick. This may be my top priority backup item!

  • GDocBackup This site looks a little “homemade,” but I came across a number of positive write ups on this tool. Free download that appears to be frequently updated.
  • Google Docs Backup $10 download app that allows you to back up to a local folder, network drive, or Amazon S3. Offers both a command line and Wizard-style GUI interface options. Can be scheduled for automated back up.

Google Calendar:
This seems to be the only app for which Google provides a native backup option. You can do a direct export to an ICAL file (one for each of your calendars).

Your Blog:
Finally – what about backing up your blog? First, if you’re self-hosted, check with your hosting provider to find out what backup provisions already exist on your servers. Then, you can check out these supplemental services:

  • BackupMyBlog Works with WordPress, Blogger, and Typepad. Automatic back up of your content, pictures, comments, and site styles. $19.95 for 1 year of back up (1GB storage) – recurring annual fee billed automatically.
  • If you’re blog is a self-hosted WordPress blog, check out the WP-DB-Backups plug-in.

So – that’s what my research turned up. How about you? Do you have any horror stories about lost data? Any tips you’d like to share to spare others your pain?