Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
It's tempting to rely on online services like webmail and assume that they've got all of your backup needs covered. Unfortunately, they don't.
I have a Mac and use both Gmail and Yahoo! Last week, Yahoo! suddenly lost my entire inbox, about 18,000 messages. They could not recover them. How common is this? Shouldn't they have some responsibility? And more importantly, is there a backup for email like Yahoo! or Gmail?
While your exact scenario is infrequent, the results are all too common.
People rely too heavily on data stored "in the cloud" and, as a result, they are often at a loss when that same cloud somehow loses their data.
If your data is in only one place, it's not backed up.
And you do need to take responsibility for backing it up yourself.
Cloud services are lucrative as they're easy to set up and easy to rely on. It's pretty reasonable to assume that service providers "do the right thing" and have appropriate security and backups in place to recover from assorted failures.
In fact, I'd go so far as to guess that failures happen every day - you just don't experience any impact normally because all of the appropriate backup and recovery happens behind the scenes. Hiding those kinds of infrastructure details are part of what online services are also all about.
But failures can happen; accounts can be stolen; data can be lost.
If the service can't recover your data, then there is no other backup. Your data is gone.
I've said it before, if your data is in only one place, then it's not backed up.
That applies just as much to email as to anything else.
Online services count as "one place". You actually don't know how, how often, how well or even if they backup your data at all.
You also don't know if your data will be lost due to errors on the provider's part, your part, or due to the actions of some hacker. Even if the service does backup their servers, if you or a hacker posing as you explicitly deletes your data, it's very possible that the service will simply not support recovery from their backups. That's not what their backups are for.
Backing up your important data is your responsibility, regardless of where it's kept; online, on your computer, or anyplace else.
In a word, no.
Oh, sure, it'd be nice, but it's unrealistic to expect it for two reasons:
You need to take responsibility for backing up your important information yourself anyway for those cases where the fault was not that of the providers.
You probably agreed to some terms of service when you signed up that explicitly absolve them of any responsibility. If you didn't want to do that, you were free not to sign up and use the service.
By far, the best way to backup webmail is to configure a desktop email client like Outlook or Thunderbird or any of hundreds of others to download the email to your PC. Make sure to configure it to "leave mail on server" and you'll be able to continue to use webmail exactly as you have been.
Yahoo! is slightly more problematic. POP3 access is not enabled in Yahoo!
mail unless you sign up for Yahoo!
Mail Plus. Once you do that, the same techniques work: download to your PC
and you have a backup. Update: check out How do I backup my Yahoo! Mail? for a technique using IMAP, which is available without signing up for Yahoo! Mail Plus.
In any case, a desktop email program using POP3 gives you an instant backup of your email.
In most cases, you'll need to separately backup your contacts. Periodically export the contents of your webmail's contacts or address book. Depending on the email service and the desktop email program you use, there may also be add-ons available to download contacts automatically.