I use Outlook on my Mac for email and calendaring. While I have access to Office 365 and the web versions of the apps that comprise it, I am more comfortable using the desktop application. In addition, I use email rules to help manage the large volume of messages I receive every day. Since I get a lot of email with a lot of attachments, my Outlook database gets large very quickly. Also, it goes corrupt from time to time. When I rebuild the database, very often my mail rules get confused and they need to be adjusted to point at the appropriate target folders. This is annoying. I decided that I needed to come up with a plan to make it easier to recover from database failure, and this article provides a solution, or at least some security if not a true solution.
Creative Cloud offers desktop file syncing for customers who install the Creative Cloud Desktop app. This works much like Dropbox, in that there is a folder on your computer that the CC Desktop app syncs with your CC folders online. This is a very handy feature for sure. You can learn how to enable desktop file syncing here. You can also share a folder with one or more other Creative Cloud users. In that case, all of the collaborators have access to the same files on their desktop. This is handy if you are working with a team and need to ensure that you all have the most current assets. You can learn how to share a folder with another Creative Cloud user here.
One of the benefits of using CC file sync is that your files are versioned in the cloud, which means that when you replace a file in your synced folder on your computer, the previous version is stored in the Cloud along with your current version. According to the CC Versioning FAQ, The Creative Cloud stores previous versions for 10 days, which is long enough for most users to be able to recover from a disastrous “Save” when you should have chosen “Save As…” Versioning is also our friend when we consider the Outlook database, because if I have previous versions of the database available, then I can roll back to a previous state and get back to work. Unfortunately, Outlook writes to the database frequently, so it is not a good idea to put your Microsoft User Data folder in your Creative Cloud folder. If you do, then CC will try to sync your Outlook database all the time, causing errors on both the CC side and on the Outlook side. A better strategy is to copy the Outlook database to a folder in CC on a schedule.
I use Automator to copy the Database, but it’s not as simple as “copy the Outlook database to my Creative Cloud folder.” Before you copy the database, however, it is best to ensure that Outlook is done with it. The best way to ensure that the database is “at rest” is to quit Outlook. Once Outlook has shut down, then it is safe to copy the database. When the copy is finished, then we need to restart Outlook. At the end, it is polite to send a message that the operation was successful. If you follow this flow, then you will safely have a versioned backup of your Outlook database going back 10 days.
In Automator, I created a workflow and used Calendar to schedule it. It uses the following actions in sequence:
- Quit Application: Microsoft Outlook
- Get Specified Finder Items: your Outlook Database file (not the enclosing folder)
- Copy Finder Items: to a folder in Creative Cloud called Database Backup
- Launch Application: Microsoft Outlook
- Display Notification Center Alert: Some message to let you know everything was successful
In order to send a Notification Center alert, I used a nifty Automation Action from Automated Workflows, LLC. Read about it and get it here.
The backup Outlook workflow in Automator
If you would like to download the workflow and modify it for your own use, you can download the BackupOutlookDatabase workflow. Unzip the workflow and double click it to install. You will need to modify the workflow in order for it to work properly. Whether you download mine and modify it or make your own, you need to save the workflow and then save it again as an application in order to execute it with iCal.
To save your workflow as an application, you need to expose hidden menu options in Automator. Hold down the Option Key and click the File menu. You will now see Save As… Choose it and then save your workflow as an Application to a place you can find later.
Hold down the Option Key to expose Advanced Options in File Menu
Save as Application
Now, you need to schedule the workflow to run at a convenient time. I used Calendar to schedule the event, since the whole premise here is that the Outlook Database can become corrupt. If we use Calendar, then there is some built-in peace of mind because we’re using another system to backup the system of record. In Calendar, create a new calendar called Automator so you can hide the daily backup events. In the Automator Calendar, create a new event called “Backup Outlook” at a convenient time for you. I chose 2:00 am Eastern Time. Set this event to recur every day with no expiration. Set the action to Open File>Other… and browse to your Automator Workflow Application that you made in the last step.
Det the calendar event properties
There you have it: an automated backup for your Outlook Database using your Creative Cloud account. It is important to note that your computer needs to be in a state to run the Workflow at the time you designate, so if you have a laptop, you might want to leave it open or on overnight. It’s OK if the computer goes to sleep. The workflow will run so long as the computer isn’t powered down.
I mentioned that another benefit of using Creative Cloud for the backup is that the Database will be versioned in the cloud. This lets you go back in time if you inadvertently backup a corrupt database and need to go back a few days. To view file versions in Creative Cloud, go to your Creative Cloud account in a browser and click on Files, then click through to your Database file. Click on your Database to open the details view, and then click on the Activity link to view the file activity. Here, you can view annotations and versions in a timeline on the right. Choose the version you’d like to restore, and then either click the Restore link or the Restore icon to the left of the version.
Choose Versions from the Activity Timeline
Select a version and click Restore
Once you choose Restore, you will need to confirm that you really want to restore your version.
Confirm that you want to restore a version
Once you click Restore, your previous version of the Database will be restored and will immediately begin to sync with you CC Desktop folder. Depending on your Internet speed, it may take a while for the previous version to appear on your computer. You will get an alert from CC telling you that the file has been updated. Once you get that alert, you can safely use it to replace your corrupt Outlook Database file and get back to work.
This method has saved me hours of frustration, and while I don’t wish Outlook Database corruption on you, using this method could save you hours of frustration, too.
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