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CloudPull Discontinued, Look Elsewhere for Google Backups

John Brayton of Golden Hill Software has informed us that he is discontinuing CloudPull, his Mac utility for backing up data from Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Contacts, and Google Drive (see “Back Up Your Google Data with CloudPull,” 6 March 2012). As I noted in that review, it’s unlikely that Google itself would lose your data, but:

  • It may be protected by nothing but a password (unless you use 2FA)
  • You could delete data accidentally
  • An app with access to your Google data could corrupt or delete data

And so, for the last 7 years, many TidBITS readers have been relying on CloudPull to make local backups of their Google-hosted data in file formats that Mac apps can open.

So what happened? Google is tightening security on access to Gmail, requiring apps to get permission to write to a user’s account by providing justification for write access. CloudPull doesn’t need write access at all, but Google offers no read-only permission level that would allow CloudPull to back up Gmail. Google denied Brayton’s appeal, and the alternative approaches he identified to keep CloudPull working would require more time and effort than he could justify.

As a result, Brayton has discontinued CloudPull and removed it from sale. The app should continue working through about 15 May 2019. Existing backups will remain intact after CloudPull can no longer access your Google account, but it won’t be able to update those backups.

Alternative Google Backup Solutions

So what can you do if you currently rely on CloudPull, or if you’ve decided that you need to back up your Google data now?

Gmail Backup

Backing up Gmail is the easiest part of CloudPull to replace because everyone has Apple’s Mail. It can access Gmail via IMAP, downloading and storing local copies of all messages and attachments by default.

If you don’t trust Mail entirely, you could use C-Command Software’s EagleFiler or Moth Software’s Mail Archiver X to archive a copy of everything outside of Mail. Or go directly to the IMAP source with Horcrux, which is designed to back up email to your Mac.

Google Calendar and Google Contacts Backup

Mac users probably view their Google Calendar and Google Contacts information in Apple’s Calendar and Contacts apps. The data is local but updated frequently enough that problems on the server side would be reflected locally quickly. Luckily, both apps can save local archives with the File > Export command.

A more automated solution would be to switch to BusyMac’s BusyCal and BusyContacts, which also support Google’s calendaring and contact services. Both feature a File > Create Backup command and can automatically make and maintain a set of backups in standard ICS and VCF formats.

Google Drive Backup

I’m unaware of another utility like CloudPull that creates local backups of Google data in standard formats. Google’s Backup and Sync app creates Finder-visible versions of Google Drive files in a Google Drive folder on your Mac, but it doesn’t convert word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation files from Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides into formats that you could open in Apple’s iWork apps or the Microsoft Office apps.

Another option is Google Takeout, which will create DOCX, XLSX, and PPTX versions of all your Google Drive files while giving you a copy of everything in your Google account. It’s not a bad solution, but there doesn’t seem to be any way to automate it short of using Keyboard Maestro to open the Web page and click the buttons. And even then you have to wait for hours or possibly days for Google to create the archive and notify you that you can download it. It’s a good thing to do periodically, but not an approach for everyday backups.

Unified Backup or G Suite Backup

If you want a single unified backup solution for Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Contacts, and Google Drive, or if you subscribe to Google’s full G Suite (which includes all those apps), there are a few options.

For individuals, Upsafe offers a cloud-based backup service for your Google data. It has a free tier that maxes out at 3 GB of storage; for more data than that, Upsafe charges $2 per month. Spinbackup offers a similar service, and also backs up Google Photos. An account that can back up only 4 GB and has other limitations is free; otherwise, Spinbackup costs $4 per month for 50 GB of data, with an additional $0.03 per month for every extra gigabyte. If you’ve tried either of these services, let us know in the comments how they’ve worked out for you.

Other services are targeted at G Suite subscribers and don’t (or no longer) support individual use. They include Backupify, Spanning, and SysCloud, and pricing hovers around $4 per month per user. They’d be appropriate for small offices that have standardized on G Suite.

What other ideas do you have for protecting your Google data against hackers, mistakes, and rogue apps?

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Comments About CloudPull Discontinued, Look Elsewhere for Google Backups

Notable Replies

  1. Hmmm. Takeout defaults to downloading everything, so automating it is a question of scripting two button presses (so long as you don’t mind a huge download). That might be doable with an AppleScript.

    Given a source full download and a target Google Drive folder, an app that lets you set everything you want to keep locally and then builds that archive seems doable. It would be cake to write an app that just takes the full download and intelligently culls it based on your preferences.

  2. The download sizes are problematic—I got something like 13 files, each 2 GB in size, to download. Obviously, I can select just Google Docs in the list to reduce the file size, but it’s still basically a batch operation where you initiate the backup and then have to download it some time later. Not ideal.

  3. Not sure how apropos this is, but I am a small-town public official, recently served with a public records request asking for copies of certain town-related emails. I use a dedicated gmail address for all my town-related email, and figured it would be simple enough to copy and print as PDF all of the relevant emails (a subset of the whole) to a GoogleDrive folder (and send a link to the town attorney). That proved ungainly, as each email “printed” to Drive included every autosaved version of the email, such that a half-page message would appear as, say, 20 pages of incremental iterations. In the end, I accessed the gmails through my Apple Mail app and printed them one-by-one to PDF, which worked.

    In future, I’d like an an app, plugin, or other tool by which I could automatically archive a PDF copy of any email I send to anyone else in the town government/operations. I envision a macro function where, for any recipient I’ve put on a hotlist, the app will automatically print the email to PDF and store it in an archive folder – preferably one on my own hard drive, not in the cloud, though if that’s the best choice for other reasons, so be it. Any recommendations on how I could achieve this or similar behavior using gmail, either through a browser, Apple Mail or other specialized client software?


  4. In Apple Mail, you can copy all the requested emails to a temporary mailbox (drag 'n drop with the Option key held down), select all the messages, and click File > Export to PDF. In the target folder you’ll end up with PDFs named after the message subject lines. Multiple messages in a collapsed conversation view will be combined in a single PDF, if you need every message to be its own PDF, turn off View > Organize by Conversation in the mailbox.

    You could also use Export Mailbox in Apple Mail to provide the messages in standard *.mbox format (much better format for emails than PDF, IMO). However, mbox contains the full headers of the emails so if there are messages from citizens, they might contain their home ip address and it might be prudent for their privacy to redact those. In BBEdit, I would use Find and Replace (with Grep enabled) to Find ^Received: from.*$ and Replace with Received: [REDACTED]. An AppleScript or other script could be written to do basically the same thing. I don’t know if there are other lines in headers that could contain information that should remain private.

  5. Thanks Curtis, that’s mostly quite helpful. My Apple Mail does not have an option to “export to PDF”, which I assume is because it’s version 6.6 (associated with OS 10.8.5, which I run on my 2010 MacBook Pro for several reasons, including that I don’t know what software I’d use for photo library management in place of the now-defunkt iView MediaPro).

    But I am able to use your second suggested method, exporting to *.mbox format. The town attorneys insist on doing any redactions with their own system anyway, so that should work out.

    Now the one missing piece would be how, when I send an email using my town address, to select that it be simultaneously copied to a folder or mailbox “town emails sent,” for future public document requests, so I have them all in one place already. It would be nice to have the option for that not to happen automatically, because I’m typically required to save only emails that I send to other town officials, not necessarily to private third parties. Is there a way to somehow specify “copy to saved box” using the BCC field? Thanks.

  6. Hi Hoagie,

    here is the developer of Mail Archiver. My software allows you to archive selected mailboxes from Gmail to PDF. Automatically, too, if you want. 10.8 is way too old, though, for newer versions of Mail Archiver.


    Beatrix Willius

  7. Thank you, Beatrix, Mail Archiver looks like it could be helpful in my case, though I have found a system that works okay for now (copying each email to a “save” folder when I send it). For reference, if I were to want to use Mail Archiver, what is the oldest Mac OS it runs on? (I didn’t find that on your website.)

  8. I have to disagree with your recommendation of Horcrux. It might be fine for small Gmail accounts, but I have 3+ GB of email and haven’t had a successful backup in over a week. In addition, there have been bugs that have caused it to not backup all emails. When running, it slows my computer to a crawl and makes apps unresponsive. Look elsewhere if you are a power Gmail user.

  9. Good to know, thanks! We hadn’t tested it, but were just basing the mention on its feature set.

  10. No worries. I’ve been putting in support tickets with the developer. If things change for the better, I’ll post an update.

  11. With the update to Horcrux that was released on Sept. 9, I’ve had a successful backup every day. The developer claims to have reduced memory usage by 90%, and that seems to be true. My computer no longer crawls when a backup is happening. At this point, I would say that Horcrux works well and, if it doesn’t, the developer is open to feedback.

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