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Bring Your Contacts Together and Keep Them Safe

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Address BookGmail. LinkedIn. Facebook. Your phone’s address book. Your contacts may live in many places online, yet there’s always the possibility one of these places will disappear or crash, taking your information with it for good. Or perhaps you simply decide to close your account with the network.

You should consider importing the contacts from these networks into your main address book app. We use these services to connect with people, update our statuses and play with whatever features they contain, but we don’t always remember that these resources have contacts that belong in our primary address book.

Another consideration is having a secondary resource for backing up your primary address book. With most services able to import and export files as a CSV or vCard file, it has turned into a fairly easy process. For the least tedious approach, try to find a secondary resource that you can keep in sync with your primary resource — for example, Plaxo can sync your address book with Mac OS X, Yahoo!, Google and several other apps. Otherwise, you’ll have to import and export your contacts on a regular basis.

After selecting the apps for your primary and secondary sources, here are the steps to take to make sure that you have all your contacts in primary resource and backing it up to the secondary resource.

  1. Determine what kind of files your address books can import and export.
  2. Export address books from your social networks into a comma-separated (.cvs) or vCard (.vcf) file based on Step 1. Remember where you save the files.
  3. Import the addresses books from Step 2 into your primary resource. Repeat until you’ve put all of your contacts into your primary address resource.
  4. Sync your primary and secondary resources. If they don’t have a sync wizard, go to Step 5. If they have a sync wizard, make sure you synchronize them on a scheduled basis if it’s not automated. You’re done.
  5. Export the address book from your primary resource into a comma-separated (.cvs) or vCard (.vcf) file.
  6. Import the primary resource file into your secondary address book as your backup. Repeat on a scheduled basis, unless you find a way to automate it.

You might want to consider a solution that can sync with your phone — if that’s not already your primary source. That’s what I like about Google Contacts and Calendar — they sync with my favorite PC app, I can access them anywhere and they also sync with my phone. Read our contact management and application articles for ideas and apps to consider.

How do you manage all of your contacts?

7 Responses to “Bring Your Contacts Together and Keep Them Safe”

  1. Over the years, I have tried a number of ways to sync my life. It started with a Palm pilot, then a Handspring Treo, then a couple of Blackberrys. I’m a Mac user, so it always seemed to be difficult to get most of my life syncing. It was always a “one-off” or “hack” method of doing things. I tried Daylite, for my small business, which worked great, but for a non-techie, it would be a mess trying to configure your router to access your database.

    So I finally went to Google this year. I have a Mobile Me account as well, but have found that Web-based in how I need to go. I use for backup, Google for email, calendar, docs and I’m syncing my iPhone. Also moved to using 5pm as our planning and task management tool. So far, I can access everything on any computer I’m at, or on my iPhone. I have a much better feeling about having life in order now

    Thanks for the contact backup tip using Plaxo. I had a Plaxo account, but didn’t see the need to utilize it, until now.

    • I started with a Palm Pilot and I had considered an iPhone. But the biggest problem with it (at the time) is that I had no way of entering info on my computer (I didn’t use Outlook) and transferring to the iPhone. And it looked like there was no app that could handle the To Dos for the iPhone. Google hasn’t quite gotten there yet.

  2. Hmm… the article mentions Facebook but there’s no way to (or no menion of how to) back up Facebook contacts.

    On the topic, backing up everything in my life is critical! But it’s also been a pain!

    Google’s made my life 10x easier with Google Sync for Blackberry. My contacts are constantly updated and I then import them from Gmail to Vista’s crappy Address Book. I also make constant backups of the Blackberry itself with Blackberry Desktop.

    I use Google Sync for my calendar and tasks as well because Blackberry + Outlook do funny things like email everyone invited to a meeting or event. Embarrassing.