Google Backup Trials and Tribulations

Like many others, I’ve switched from using a dedicated camera to using my smartphone over the past five years or so. This is especially handy when traveling, since you can get by pretty well without needing to pack a camera and associated gear. The picture quality on phone cameras has come a long way!

I’ve always been an Android user, and for the past few years I’ve been taking advantage of having all the pictures/videos on my phone automatically backed up to google drive. This has been a lifesaver when a phone suddenly dies (thanks not-so-waterproof-bag in Thailand!) – the worst case is you lost whatever pictures/videos were on the phone since last backup. This usually means, the last time you were on wifi.

But, something that has been bugging me is that a huge percentage of my pictures are “in the cloud,” with the attendant risks. No, I don’t suppose google is likely to lose my pictures – but I’m pretty risk-averse with these kinds of things and I don’t like being held hostage by a provider. What works well now could suddenly be a problem if Google suddenly decided to change their policies…

So, I’ve been meaning to back up all these images to a backup system I control, that is not in the cloud. Google has something called google takeout that allows you to export data from many of their services. You choose the data you want, and start an export. After a while Google tells you it’s ready and you download it.

The problem is the amount of data. My export is something like 180GB. That’s not such a problem to store these days – the issue is the download. Google only keeps the export files around for short period of time. Our internet connection is not super fast. And it doesn’t help that the download links lose their session quite quickly – meaning you have to keep logging in… And then Windows has a tendency to kill the downloads when the laptop goes to sleep – sometimes.

As a result I’m on my second run of trying to grab this data in eighteen 10GB zip files. This is a pain, and it’s not going to be particular easy to repeat and get only the changed data.

In addition, the files you get include a directory for reach date a picture/video was taken. Sometimes more than one. Inside that directory there’s a mess of files, including a json metadata file. Organizing this is not fun.

There may be some way to use an API to make this a better process, but the last thing I feel like doing is mucking around with yet another API and writing code…

Well, if I come across better options, I’ll write it up here!