Got all your data in the cloud? Here's how to get it back

You spend a lot of time online, crafting clever comments and reflective replies, sharing photos and videos that chronicle your life, and of course, corresponding with people via email and IMs. That adds up over the course of weeks, months, and years to gigabytes of data. And some of that information, if not all, is well worth keeping backed up. Because, face it, when you're not really paying for these social networks and services, who else is going to keep your ingenious statuses in perpetuity?

Don't believe me? Just last month, a Gmail glitch caused users to accidentally delete messages that were not even close to spam. Some Web-based email services have also shut down to avoid the prying eyes of the government.

Of course, there are plenty of ways to back up your local data to the cloud. From direct backup services like Mozy and Carbonite, to the synchronisation products like Dropbox and OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive), online backup is everywhere, simple to set up, and accessible on most Internet-connected devices.

But that doesn't help with all that content you created online. With the possibility always looming of outages or shutdowns, even by the big boys (just ask fans ofMeebo and Google Reader). That's why it's best to occasionally step in and use the tools provided—or some clever workarounds—to back up that data yourself. Check out your options on the next page.

(Also take a look at using the mega-Web-service ifttt to create on-going backups of your data using clever recipes to make everything you do redundant.)

Facebook

On the desktop, go to Settings, click the link at "Download a copy of your Facebook data." You'll be taken to a page to do so, which says the downloaded file will include your posts, photos, videos, messages, conversations, info from your "about" page and more. You don't get to pick and choose what's included.

Click the Start my Archive button, enter your Facebook password, and wait. It takes a while to gather years of data. You'll get an email with a link for downloading it when it's all done. The link only works for a few days; if you miss the window, you'll have to process the request all over again.

Twitter

Tweet much? Then you've probably got a big repository of data on Twitter worth downloading as a backup. On the desktop at Twitter.com, click the Gear icon and go to Settings from the dropdown menu. Toward the bottom you'll see a button that says "Request your archive." Like with Facebook, after it's gathered in a big .ZIP file, you'll get an email with a link for downloading.

Google Services

Google unveiled Gmail and Google Calendar downloading in December. Unlike other services, the tool allows you to only download a subset of data; for example, just get all the messages associated with one Gmail label, if desired. Visit the "Takeout" link and you can check off what you want to get; click the Edit links to select labels for email or selected calendars.

In addition to Gmail/Calendars, Google has other services/products that have downloadable data: Google Contacts, Google Drive, Google Voice, YouTube, Blogger, Google Photos, Messenger, and several items close to your Google+ account, such as Hangouts, Circles, and +1s. You can also grab your browser bookmarks and location history.

Check mark all that you want and click "Create Archive" button. Google will recommend that you don't do this on a public computer, which is good advice. You can leave the page open to get the download when ready, or get an email notification. This one definitely takes awhile if you're a heavy Google user—a message on the page says it could be days! Mine only took a couple hours to get 2.47GB worth of mail ready.

Yahoo

Yahoo doesn't make it easy to back up your data. Let alone your Yahoo Mail. The best you can do is individually download all the attachments and maybe set up message forwarding to another service. Or pay for the premium version and set up POP3 email so you can access it via software like Thunderbird, which stores everything locally on your hard drive.

Better yet, try Zimbra Desktop. It's free desktop software for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux that gives you local access to multiple Web-based emails (Yahoo, Hotmail/Outlook.com, Gmail) and even social networks. It doubles as a place to have all your accounts at once, but also backs up your messages.

You can, however, do a full export of Yahoo Contact and Calendar to ICS format. They're less backups than they are made available to upload for use elsewhere.

Yahoo's Flickr photo service, however, does support several third-party downloader apps that make it simple to grab a backup of all your image. Bulkr is probably the best known.

LinkedIn

There's no way to back up your LinkedIn posts or that fancy resume that makes up your main page. But LinkedIn is all about contacts, and you can make a backup of all those names. On the desktop, click Network and go to Contacts. At the top right you'll see a Gear icon to click. You get options here for syncing your LinkedIn contacts with Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Outlook.com, even your iPhone address book, and with applications like CardMunch and Evernote. But for our purposes you want the link in the middle column that says "Export LinkedIn Connections." Your options: CSV or VCF files that can be imported by other systems.

EvernoteIt could (and probably should) be the online repository for all you encounter online that's worth saving. Evernote is unique ecause it also has desktop installable apps for Windows and Mac, both of which allow you to make a backup of the database of items you've saved. You can click a notebook and select Export Notes, and then save it either in Evernote's own format, or direct to HTML. The other option is point some backup software at the local folder the Evernote app creates.

For more, see How To Stay Anonymous Online.