We’re going to write this post backwards and start with the conclusion:

The answer is somewhere between ‘most probably’ and ‘absolutely’.

Why, you ask? Now there’s a question.

Fortunately, the answer is pretty simple: the number one cause of data loss in the cloud is user error, and while Google will go to great lengths to protect against problems at their end, they take a slightly expedient view of protecting you against yourself.

This means that when you put data on a cloud platform – like Google Apps or Microsoft Office 365 or any other for that matter – the chances are that the cloud provider knows what they’re doing, and they won’t lose your data. These guys employ lots of very smart & experienced people to set up their systems to ensure that your data is safe in their hands. Sounds great, right? It is.

But there’s a catch – if the data loss occurs because let’s say – you accidentally hit delete (it does happen), then the cloud provider can (and will) legitimately say that it’s not their fault, and not their responsibility.

Google, for example, offer up to a maximum of (more on this in a minute) 30 days to recover deleted Gmail data, or 25 days to recover deleted Drive data.

We know from long experience that 25 or 30 days is often nowhere near enough – it can sometimes be weeks or months before you realise that a really important file is missing.

In the case of certain types of data it may even be a year before you discover it is gone if you only work on it once a year.

What makes this built-in backup even less robust is that the retention isn’t guaranteed. So for example, if you delete something and then empty your trash, poof, it’s gone. Not just sitting in retention, but totally, properly, forever gone. It’s a bit like what happens to the rabbit here [WARNING: possibly NSFW].

Or someone could delete a whole Google Apps user account – poof. This process is irreversible. And if you think this kind of thing doesn’t happen – well, please believe us, it does – oh, and have a quick read of this. What’s the effect? Well Google put it pretty succinctly: “If a Google Apps administrator deleted your account, your administrator won’t be able to recover your files.”

[UPDATE December 2015]: Google now have a 5-day grace period during which account recovery could be possible. Read more details here, but note the caveat: “After five days, the Admin console permanently deletes the user account, and it can’t be restored, even if you contact Google technical support. In most cases, restoring a deleted user account restores the user’s email, calendar events, and other data. However, Google doesn’t guarantee full data recovery for deleted users.”

Or potentially, a third-party app that has access to your data (and almost all of us have those) could come in and totally, irrevocably blitz your data without as much as a by your leave, even if your name is Steve Wozniak and you co-founded Apple.

In fact, literally 48 hours before this post was written we had a situation where an associate of a client of ours ran a disk cleanup utility which promised to free up some disk space, and in the process deleted thousands of random files belonging to various members of the team from hundreds of sub-folders in their team folder.

Don’t forget that there’s a darker side to this – so far we’ve talked about accidental deletions, but there is also intentional deletion. Malicious and intentional deletion of data accounts for a suprisingly large percentage of data loss, and that’s something that’s pretty easy to achieve when there’s a “Delete Forever” button that anyone walking past your computer can click on.

Alternatively, your account could be compromised – and we all know this happens – and then it’s a simple matter of someone hitting that big “Delete Forever” button again.

Google are pretty up front about this – their help page about recovering deleted Google Apps email messages, clearly says:

“If it has been fewer than 30 days and the message hasn’t been permanently deleted, the user can follow the steps in Recover deleted messages… We regret that we are unable to recover messages that have been permanently deleted.”

So – do you need to backup Google Apps? 🙂

And in case you’re wondering – yes, we can help you set up a very quick & easy backup system for all your Google Apps data: Gmail, Contacts, Calendars, Google Drive & sites, starting from about £2/user/month with no minimum purchase. If that sounds as good to you as it does to us, just give us your name & email using the button below and we’ll be in touch shortly to get you set up.

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