When Gmail first came out I started using it as an address for message board registrations and things like that. Since I’ve owned my own domains since about 1999, I’ve always used them for my primary email. My old method of backup was to use Outlook or Outlook Express and finally Thunderbird for POP3. Periodically, I would backup the appropriate files for those applications.
The problems with that were several. First, I have a LOT of email. As the Outlook .pst file or the Thunderbird files began to grow in size, performance suffered. If I “archived” email to a CD/DVD and then removed old ones from Outlook or Thunderbird, searching archives meant restoring them, searching, then cleaning up again.
A couple of years ago, Google released a service called Google Apps for your Domain. Among other things, it allows you to use Google’s GMail “engine” to handle the email for your domains. You have the advantage of basically unlimited storage, alternate port usage (SSL and TLS) which comes in handy for ISP port 25 filtering, web access, POP3 access, and more recently IMAP support. One of the cool things is that even if you use POP3 access, Google Apps archives a copy of your received and sent email. This means you can access all of your email from your browser, its very searchable through your browser, and it provides a great backup solution!
The Trust Issue
Several people have commented about “trusting Google” with your email. Well, here is the reality check. Trust is a relative thing. We trust that MS’s software (Windows, Outlook, OE, etc) is not doing anything behind our back. We trust that our ISP handles our information correctly, but that has proven to be a shaky deal lately.
Most of those same people “trust their ISP” with their email or another 3rd party email service. In my opinion, I trust Gooogle far more than anyone else.
ATT/Bellsouth, Verizon, and a host of other service providers have given me far more reasons to distrust them than Google.
One other thing to mention about “trust” is that at least Google gives you all the mechanisms to move your email away from Google should you choose. By providing contact import/export, POP3 access, and IMAP support, you have full control of your mail. In contrast, Yahoo requires a premium subscription for export and POP3 access, most of the major ISP’s such as ATT/Bellsouth don’t provide any contact export, and POP3 access only helps retrives your received email – not your sent email.
I migrated my email service over a year ago and have been very pleased with it. I have email dating back to 2004 stored online and have plans to push email archives dating back to 2002. Many of my clients are now migrated to the service and love it.
Web Access or Local Application
As the line continues to blur between web-based applications and local applications (software on your computer), it gets more difficult to recommend which is best. About 2 months ago, I made the decision to go 99% web-based email. This means I use my browser (Firefox) for my email. The advantages are many, but mainly it gives me access to my email anywhere I have a connection. Plus I don’t have to worry about contact synchronization.
There are a few disadvantages though:
- Must have a connection to read any of your email.
- Adding attachments is not as easy as drag/drop for multiple attachments.
This is one of those things that you just have to try both and see which works best for your situation and tastes. Now I said “99%” of my email. If I have an email that I need to attach several files, then I will use Thunderbird with IMAP. This gives me an easy way to attach multiple files quickly and easily.
Following Rule #1
Rule #1: You are only as good as the last successful backup from which you can recover.
As much as I trust Google, ultimately I trust myself more than anyone. Periodically (about once every 2 months), I POP3 down all of my received email and IMAP a copy of all of my sent email to local Thunderbird files. Then I export a copy of my contacts to CSV. Then I backup email adn contacts to DVD.
If something does happen to Google’s service, at least I have a local copy.
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