Whether you use your cell phone for business or pleasure, chances are you’ve racked up a list of contact names and numbers. So what happens if your phone is lost, stolen or broken? Would the contacts in your address book be lost forever?
They don’t have to be. With a bit of advanced planning, you can backup all of your contacts (and in some cases other data a well) before you have a problem.
Smartphones all have the ability to sync your data wirelessly with an Internet-based service, like Google, Yahoo! or your company's Microsoft Exchange server. Even if you don't want to use the Internet service as your primary messaging application, creating an account is free—well worth it for the protection it provides. And you can access those contacts anywhere in the world, even if you don't have your phone with you. Some devices also have desktop software that syncs with your phone and backs-up your data locally on your PC.
Android: Phones wirelessly sync to Google plus other accounts you add including Microsoft Exchange and Yahoo!. There is no desktop software.
Blackberry: Phones wirelessly sync to BlackBerry Enterprise Server and personal accounts you set up, including Google and Yahoo!. Blackberry Desktop Software can sync with Outlook, Lotus Notes or Yahoo! and backup all of your data, including media files.
iPhone iOS: Phones wirelessly sync to accounts you set up, including Google, Yahoo!. iTunes desktop software lets you sync with Outlook (without an Exchange server), Google or Yahoo! and backup media files.
Palm webOS: Phones wirelessly sync to accounts you set up, including Google and Microsoft Exchange. There is no free software from HP Palm, but the company does recommend a few third party sync programs.
Windows Phone 7: Phones wirelessly sync to Windows Live plus other accounts you add including Microsoft Exchange, Yahoo! and Google. The Zune desktop software syncs your media files and you can use Outlook Hotmail Connector to sync with Outlook.
Other Cell Phones
Phones with SIM Cards (AT&T and T-Mobile)
SIM Card Reader: Some phones let you save your contacts to your SIM card instead of your phone. If your contacts are saved to your SIM card, devices like the Kingston FCR-HS219 ($14) can transfer data stored on your phone's SIM card to your PC for storage. If you already have a memory card reader, it may also have a slot for SIM Cards.
Carrier Backup Options
All of the major carriers provide a contact backup service, but you’ll need to check to see if it’s compatible with your phone.
AT&T Mobile Backup: This subscription service ($1.99 per month) allows you to set up automatic backups. Contacts stored on Mobile Backup can only be synced or exported to another AT&T phone.
Sprint Mobile Sync: This free service for select handsets allows you to store and manage up to 5,000 contacts in your Mobile Sync address book. Each time you make a change, the information is automatically saved. You can import contacts and keep them synchronized with Outlook.
T-Mobile Mobile Backup: This free service allows you to sync your phone's address book to your my.t-mobile.com account. You can import contacts from Outlook and other contact management software, but it's a one-way trip. Once contacts are stored on Mobile Backup, they can only be synced with other T-Mobile phones.
Verizon Backup Assistant: This free service allows you to conduct daily automatic backups. Contacts stored on Backup Assistant can only be synced or exported to another Verizon phone.