I was one of the early adoptors of Gmail in our group. I kind of evangelized everyone to move to Gmail because it was awesome, it was fast, reliable, stopped spam. There’s no reason it could go out of business.
Until one day, after years of using Google cloud services, they disabled my account. I was frustrated to lose all my correspondences, family photos on Picasa, my quirky blogs. There was absolutely no way of contacting a person in Google. An automated bot checks for a few red flags and disables them.
The frustrating part is, it wasn’t Google’s fault. They are an amazing company doing business as they find best. As organisations get bigger, they can’t keep everyone happy.
Thankfully, I did have an account on Backupify.com which is a cloud backup service. It did have “backups” but the problem was, they weren’t usable. You could browse images, emails etc in their interface, that’s it. I contacted the support, they did export the data with metadata json attached. The inner programmer in me built a few little scripts that did the job.
Not everyone is a programmer, this is when I thought people like me needed an easy to use portable backup solution. I spent a few months to build a portable backupify like system but then it hit me, I wasn’t really solving the problem. I was merely transferring my data from one cloud to the other. I could see myself as a user, the sovereignty of the data still lies in a 3rd party who will have access to my accounts.
I wondered if there are client side apps that’ll let me backup my emails. There were a couple of them that could download emails from the cloud. Then again, there was no way to restore it back when things go wrong.
I wanted an app that’ll easily backup my emails in background without much intervention. I am personally using Google Apps on my own domain as Gmail is still the best. If in case things go wrong, I could easily change the email host and upload old emails.
On and off during my past few months I built Horcrux. The first version was very buggy. I naively shipped it. That was good in a way, I found out that, not a lot of people wanted it, people who did wanted it badly, like me. The following few months included bug fixes.
The 1.3 version is fairly stable. It still needs improvements. Most implementation of IMAP do work Google Apps, Gmail, iCloud, Dovecot, Rackspace. You might want to check it out. I’ll probably open source it when the code base is bit mature. Until that time, all backups created with Horcrux are packaged with a little Ruby script that can restore emails even if Horcrux is not around.
I’ll work toward building more portable backup apps. My next target, photos.
(For people who can work work with servers, S3 buckets, please check out Open Photo )