This is a lengthy but extremely valuable cautionary tale about keeping your data in the “cloud” from James Fallows. If you are reading this now, this article applies to you.
A little more than a week later, after several more warnings that “unfortunately” nothing might be recoverable, my wife did in fact get her messages back, all 4+ gigabytes. The first thing I did was to back them all up onto her hard disk, with Thunderbird—and then back up those archives elsewhere, just in case. But one of the next things I did was to arrange a trip to Mountain View to try to understand what had happened. My main discoveries exposed the gulf between the way information professionals understand the realities, vulnerabilities, and responsibilities of the cloud era and the way the rest of us do.