A Google glitch that left thousands of Gmail users griping about lost messages and chats Sunday has drawn new attention to a task not likely at the top of many to-do lists: backing up.
Although less than 1 percent (.02 percent) of users were affected this time, according to Google, it's better to follow the Boy Scout model: Be prepared. And learn how to back up.
Google offers a set of directions under Gmail Help.
For starters, after signing into Gmail, click "Settings" at the top of the page and open the "Forwarding and POP/IMAP" tab.
Then select "Enable POP for All Mail" and the option "Keep Gmail's Copy in the Inbox." That way, the inbox won't look different, even as you save messages to another program. Next, click "Save Changes."
Pretty simple so far. But that's not all. You still have to set up a backup mail program so that it knows to retrieve Gmail messages.
On its site, Google provides configuration directions for popular programs such as Apple Mail, Outlook Thunderbird and Windows Mail.
To configure Outlook 2007, for example, open the program, click the "Tools" menu and then select "Account Settings."
On the "E-mail" tab, click "New" and then fill in the required fields to indicate your name, your full Gmail address and password.
After clicking "Next," the next screen should tell you it's configuring, and then offer a "Congratulations!" note. Click "Finish," and you should be all set.
Backing up Gmail to another e-mail program is free, but it means setting up another account or blending your Gmail account with another account that you might use for professional or other purposes.
The downloadable program comes with a scheduling feature that can be set up to automatically back up Gmail daily, weekly or monthly (you can also opt for manual back ups only).
The program also stores labels associated with each message, and, if you have several Gmail accounts, the program can back up and restore all of them.
If you want to migrate all your messages over to another account (if an old account has been hacked or overridden with spam), the tool can also help with that.
And for those who keep sensitive information stored in their Gmail messages, Gmail Keeper encrypts the mail and can password protect it.