Sunday evening, to prepare for the work week, you reach for your phone. Tap, tap, tap, you pull up your calendar. What? It's blank. Now what?
That is not a good feeling. If you are like most of us, your calendar keeps you in connection with people who matter to you. Working without out it? Yikes!
You can create a free Plan B to deal with the loss of your calendar. The techniques and free software covered here let you get at your calendar in the midst of a technology calamity.
How You Could Lose Your Calendar
Most of the time, technology delivers what you need. But it is not perfect. That's why we have backups and our Plan B.
Typically, your calendar is on your phone and synchronized online by Microsoft, Google, Apple or a practice management app. But synchronization is not backup.
Synchronization works wonders, except when it fails. A failure or account takeover by a bad actor can delete or corrupt or lock out every synchronized copy of your data. Want to read an account of the incredible hassles faced by Matt Honan, a Wired Magazine writer? See this article.
These calamities could cause the loss of your calendar:
A hacker takes over your account and deletes everything. It happened to Matt Honan.
You lose your phone and can't get into your online account without it until you jump through the hoops to restore access.
Your online practice management system goes down or locks you out in error.
Google or another online provider locks you out of your account because, in error, they think you violated their terms of service.
Need for an Independent Backup
What you need is an independent backup of your most important data, including your calendar. Why?
If your calendar fails, you want to get a copy of it, fast!
Your calendar entries synchronized on your phone, computer, and online account are useless if corrupted, deleted or locked out.
An independent backup, separate from your synchronized places, is your Plan B.
Ideally, you have the backup saved in a couple of safe, independently accessible places. These are places that cannot be wiped out by a software glitch, a breach of your accounts, or a physical disaster such as a storm or fire.
Whenever you sign up for or implement a new technology, you need to have a good answer to this question:
"How can I independently back up and retrieve my important information in this system?"
Backup Example: Google Calendar
Let me give you an an example of how to back up a commonly used calendar, the Google Calendar. You may have this calendar on your phone synchronized with your Google account.
To back up your Google Calendar:
- Login to your Google account and open the Calendar.
- Click the Gear icon and Settings (upper right).
- In the left-side pane, click Import & export.
- Click the Export button.
- A file named [your Gmail address].ics is saved to your Downloads folder.
The .ics file is a Calendar data file that can be imported into various places and viewed as your calendar. It contains all your calendar information in a specialized data format. You have several options for using this backup file.
Options for Viewing Your Calendar Backup
You can create an calendar backup file, an .ics file, with Google and with various other calendar services. If you lose access to your calendar, you can view the .ics file in various ways.
View Your .ICS File in a Standard Program
You can import your .ics file into:
But you don't need to use one of these software programs. They require a certain amount of installation and setup. Other options are a simple, freeware calendar viewer or an online calendar converter.
Freeware Calendar Viewer
ICS Viewer, https://marc.vos.net/downloads/icsviewer/, is a freeware program written by Marc Vos. is a simple, portable program, meaning that you just need to copy its set of files to your computer. You do not need to install it.
To view your .ics records as a list of calendar items:
Download the program
Double-click on the Zip file
Copy the contents to a new folder
Double-click on icsviewer.exe in the new folder
Click File / Open and select your .ics file
A list of this month's calendar items appears immediately. You can change the start and end dates for the list. One quirk is that you need to click on the Start At column to sort the records chronologically.
You may also export your calendar items from ICS Viewer into a .csv file that you can open in Microsoft Excel or other spreadsheet programs.
Convert Your .ICS File to .CSV Online
Converting your .ics calendar items file to a spreadsheet file also lets you view your calendar.
If you convert your .ics file to a .csv file, you can open it in a spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Excel. That gives you a quick, chronological view of all your calendar items.
A downside of using an online converter is that you need to upload your calendar data file and trust the website not to misuse its contents.
IndigoBlue, https://www.indigoblue.eu/ics2csv/, is the most reliable online converter that I tested. It allows you to deselect columns that you might not want to convert, such as Attendee, Location, Priority, and URL. In addition, you can include an Hours column that gives you the length of time for each calendar item, handy for timekeeping.
IndigoBlue is a project of an individual, Evangelia Stamatopoulou, who lives near Bonn, Germany.
After converting your .ics file to .csv, you can import it into Microsoft Excel or another spreadsheet program. Here is an example:
Other .ics to .csv converters don't do as accurate a job of converting dates and times to your time zone.
This short article illustrates some of the threats to your calendar and a Plan B for getting your calendar information in an emergency. Ideally, you will have an automated method of creating nightly independent backup of this critical information. Covering the wide range of options for backups is beyond the scope of this article.
For more information, it is important to dig into the backup options both in your current system and those provided by other vendors.
Remember, no system is perfect! Have a Plan B.
-- Wells H. Anderson, CEO, SecureMyFirm Inc. - 952-922-1120