Both methods work, and for cloning or backing up specific files, there are many, many options from which to choose. Here’s one that works very well for what it does, but it has a few requirements that must be matched first. Can you spell IMAP?
Backup For Masses
It’s been many years since I lost an email message that I saved and wanted to retrieve. Time Machine is that good, and what it misses often can be found in a backup clone. Unless the message was lost before the last backup.
That’s where utilities such as Horcrux Email Backup comes in. This is one of those simple, set it and forgetaboutit Mac apps we love. All it does is backup up everything while you work. Got new mail? It gets backed up. Got old mail? It gets backed up, yet everything backed up can be restored or retrieved about as easily as using Time Machine (which, obviously, backs up far more than just email).
The only caveat here is IMAP, the email protocol which stores email messages on the remote email server. If every message you’ve ever received is still stored there, then Horcrux Email Backup is a perfect backup utility because it backs up, well, everything. If you’ve deleted messages from your IMAP account through the years, then those need to be stored on your Mac.
Install Horcrux Email Backup on your Mac. Fill in the account information for each IMAP account you want backed up. IMAP is used by Gmail, Apple’s iCloud, Microsoft Outlook and Exchange, and most other internet service providers, and corporate email systems.
Backups are handled incrementally, which means ongoing and in the background, so once it’s installed there’s not much to do. It handles multiple email accounts, backs up files on multiple locations, and lets you set the account backup frequency (no need to backup every 15 minutes if you get five messages a day, but if you get five messages an hour a more frequent backup could be useful).
Horcrux Email Backup has a few useful features which require some intervention on your part. Choose to backup archived email as a .ZIP file (which makes it easier to backup or move archives off your Mac). Email is stored in the standard .eml format which means Apple Mail and most other email apps can read the messages when restored. Email messages can also be exported as a standard .mbox file.
The good here is that your email accounts are backed up, can be backed up in multiple locations, and will be archived if you use Time Machine and a cloned backup system, but the whole shebang works in the background and there’s little to do once it’s setup other than restore a message that may have been deleted.
The negative is simple. If you only use POP email, you’re out of luck and need to depend completely upon Time Machine. If you’ve downloaded email messages from your IMAP account, then moved them to a different folder and deleted the original, they won’t be backed up by Horcrux Email Backup. This is a good option and another layer of security and safety if email messages are important to you. Maybe Hillary Clinton would have had fewer problems had she backed up everything onto a Mac.