iPhone Backup Plan: Restore Your Files, Restore Your Sanity

This post was originally published on the Girls in Tech blog:

Earlier this month, my life exploded faster than you can say Eyjafjallajokull. In the same day, my Outlook crashed, my iTunes stopped syncing, my company migrated email servers and my iPhone died. I couldn’t text, couldn’t tweet, couldn’t calendar, couldn’t email, couldn’t find half my contacts. In short, I couldn’t do any of the things that keep my crazy, busy life running at the pace that it does. I wish I could say I learned some important lesson about how life can go on gadget-free – or at least experienced some zen-like appreciation of the peace of not having constant connectivity while everything was down. But I didn’t. I just panicked.

Fortunately, I live pretty close to an Apple Store, and they happened to have a Genius Bar appointment available relatively quickly after I – literally shaking and stammering and cradling my dead iPhone like the precious baby that it is – made my way there. And luckily, there was a fix to get my baby back up and running. But, it involved wiping the whole thing clean. And I mean completely clean. Total factory restore. Which, of course, wouldn’t have been a big deal if I could have just restored my data from the iTunes backup. Or at least re-imported my calendar and contacts from Outlook. But, since everything else was breaking that day too, I couldn’t.

Fortunately for me – and for everyone who has to live with or around me – I had taken some preventative measures just a few months before to protect myself against this very sort of situation. I had begun regularly exporting my Outlook calendar and contacts into CSV files, and copied all my iTunes data into a folder I stored on my desktop, separately from the rest of the iTunes application information.

So, when I switched to using Google to manage my contacts & calendar, it was easy to import those CSV files and start over. When I uninstalled the incredibly buggy iTunes 9.1 (which I’m convinced broke my iPhone 3G in the first place, something you can read aboutall over the interwebs right now), and reinstalled 9.0, I just used my backed up iTunes data to get everything back to normal. And, when I figured out that you could use the iPhone’s built-in exchange feature to sync google data directly with your phone, I knew I was on the right track to getting my life – or at least my sanity – back.

Long story short, backing up turned what could have been a total disaster into just a few short – albeit excruciating – hours of restoring, reinstalling and reconfiguring. Now, in addition to the things I do to back up my iPhone – both in the google cloud and also on my hard drive and flash drive – I’ve also signed up for Mozy to start backing the rest of my data as well. Because, if there’s one thing my own personal techpocalypse did teach me, it’s the value of a good backup plan. Although I still don’t know how to pronounce Eyjafjallajokull.

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