Backup Your Online Data With Google Takeout

What’s one of the most frustrating things about using any online service? Getting your data out of a service.

With some, that can be fairly easy. With many others, it can be difficult, if not impossible. But you should be able to get your information – no matter what the information is – out of any online service easily and in a format that other services or software can read. After all, it’s your data!

Thanks to the work of the Data Liberation Front project, Google has been making the process of getting your data out of its various products easier. The result is Google Takeout. While not complete and not perfect, Google Takeout looks like it’s a step in the right direction.

Let’s take a look at how to use Google Takeout and see where it falls flat.

Using Takeout

Obviously, you won’t be using Google Takeout unless you have a Google account. Just go to the Google Takeout site and log in.

Google Takeout main page

Takeout only supports the following services at the moment:

  • +1 (web content that you’ve rated)
  • Buzz (short updates and conversations)
  • Picasa Web Albums
  • Google Profiles
  • Google+

With Google+, you can back up your circles (your groups of friends), your contacts, and your stream (any posts you’ve made to Google+).

On the main screen, click Create Archive. Takeout collects your data into a zip file and downloads it.

By default, Takeout creates an archive of everything. You might not want to do that too often. If you have a lot of data, especially a lot of photos in Picasa Web Albums, the zip file that Takeout creates can be large – several hundred megabytes.

Instead, click Choose services. You can select the data that you want to download, and Takeout will give you an estimate of the size of the archive.

Choose services

Once you’ve selected the services, click Create Archive. Takeout collects your data into a zip file and downloads it.

The Backups Themselves

What you get in the archives the Takeout creates depends on the product. Takeout uses different file formats to backup your data.

Like what? Picasa Web Albums backups are, obviously, image files. Buzz, +1, and Google+ streams are HTML files. Your contacts are vCard files. And your Google Profile data is a JSON file.

While you might not be able to easily read some of those formats, other software and web services should be able to. It’s just a matter of importing the files.

What About My Other Data?

Takeout only lets you back up a small set of your data in Google’s services. But what about your other data? Well, there are some options for that. They’re not centralized, and force you to do a bit more work, but those options can be effective.

You can back up Google Docs using the information in this MakeTechEasier post. The Data Liberation Front website offers suggestions for other Google products.

If you’re willing to part with some money, then you might want to give Backupify a look. It can backup your Gmail, Google Docs, Google Sites, Google Calendar, and Google Contacts. Mac users can take advantage of CloudPull to backup their data from Google Docs,
Google Reader, Google Calendar, and Google Contacts.

Google’s products and services aren’t a black hole for your data. With Google Takeout, it’s gotten a lot easier to get your data out.

Google Takeout

Scott Nesbitt

Scott is a writer of various things -- documentation, articles, essays, and reviews -- based in Toronto, Canada. He loves to play with tech, and to write about it too. Scott hasn't snagged that elusive book contract. Yet.

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Our latest tutorials delivered straight to your inbox