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Help! Outlook lost all my data!


Synchronizing Outlook tasks to your iPhone or Android is dangerous. If you don’t do it right, you could lose everything. Worse, the steps are different for each situation. When clients ask for my help, I usually steer them toward safer solutions.

Many attempt the sync anyway.

A client recently emailed me with this tragic tale:

“You were very kind to warn that trying to sync Outlook with my Android might prove challenging. I set up Exchange to connect Outlook 2007 with Touchdown, and MS encouraged me to add my own domain name which I almost did.

Reluctant to let MS host my account I tried to restore the original setup. In what turned out to be a colossal error, I deleted the email address which I had added to the MS365 (MS exchange) account.

Instantaneously, I lost all of my contacts, my calendar and my tasks. The real salt in my wound was losing all of customization I had made via your TRO online training.”

Recovering from that data loss took many hours of hard, stressful work.

Why Does Outlook Lose Data?

Outlook is old technology, more than a decade old. Back in the day, they pioneered the idea of synching between computers and mobile devices. Their solutions were sometimes clunky, awkward, and looked suspiciously like the 1980s, but they did it. Unfortunately, Outlook still uses that same infrastructure to sync with your iPhone, Blackberry, or Android.

When you try to set up the sync, you’ll see strange terms like “DOMAIN” and “Server” and “User ID” (not to be confused with “Username”). It may ask you strange questions about technologies you’ve never heard of, and more than likely it will ask you about syncing .OST and .PST files, one way or two ways, Direct Push or manual, updating contacts or not, etc. etc. etc. Sooner or later, most people guess on one of the questions. If you guess wrong, you could lose everything.

Alternatives to Outlook Tasks

Toodledo, Donedesk, Remember the Milk, and Nozbe are all great alternatives to Outlook tasks. If you set up email-to-tasks, you can forward task emails from Outlook to any of these programs. Forwarding email is as fast as creating Outlook tasks. In addition, all of these task managers are easier to use than Outlook tasks.

Syncing is easy and safe. Because all four of the programs listed above are online, accessing tasks on another computer involves opening the browser and logging in. Syncing to mobile devices isn’t much harder: an app, a username, and password. No confusing questions. No data loss. For those who also need fully offline tasks (e.g.: for travel), Toodledo and Nozbe offer great options for an offline desktop sync.

How to Sync Outlook with iPhone, Android, etc.

If you need to sync Outlook tasks with Android or iPhone, make sure you do it right. First, syncing with Exchange Server is safer and more reliable. If you don’t have Exchange Server, consider getting it or using another program.

The best way to set up the sync is to call your Exchange hosting company and ask for their help. Every company has a unique server setup and unique requirements for setting up Smartphones. If your hosting company is unhelpful or wants to charge a lot of money for their help, consider changing companies. We use and have loved their support.

I already lost my data. How do I get it back?

Call your hosting company today. They keep backups, but it’s easier to access recent backups. Depending on your company, they may charge you for the technician’s time. If it helps you restore your data, it’s worth it.

If you don’t use hosted Exchange, freeze your Internet backup service–such as Mozy or Carbonite–and find the backup of your .PST file. When that is restored, your Outlook will return to normal.

If you don’t use Exchange and don’t have any kind of backups, you might be in trouble. If you had IMAP access to your email, setting up Outlook again will restore your email. If you had contact/calendar synchronized to a phone, you might be able to restore those as well.

If you were using POP3 to access your email, then the only copies of your email were in the inbox that got deleted. If your data was valuable, you might consider something extreme, like calling a data-recovery center. They might be able to use highly specialized programs to recover most of the lost data.

Protecting Against Data Loss

Your data is probably more valuable than your computer, and an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. Here are a few things you can do to keep your data safe:

· Use IMAP to access your email, not POP3.

· Use Exchange Server instead of running on local files.

· Run automated backups, preferably off-site backups.

· Get professional technical help when setting up, transferring, or syncing Outlook.

· Always make a backup copy of your .PST file before you attempt to set up a new sync.

· Avoid using Outlook for tasks.

The Bottom Line

Outlook is a great tool, but sooner or later, most people experience data problems. When that happens, the precautions you’ve taken will keep your data safe. Recovery will be simple and low-stress. But if you don’t take precautions, you’ll regret it sooner or later.

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Filed under: Blackberry,iPhone,Mobile,Palm,PPC,Productivity,Software,TRO — Coach Nate @ 6:27 am

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