Cloud to Ground Email

Warning: This post is a little link-heavy. Welcome to how I use Teh Interwebz.

I’ve been slowly moving more of my computing into the cloud. I tweet, I blog (duh!), my RSS cup overfloweth, I do online backups of my data, I occasionally use Google Docs, I IM, I Skype, but most of all, I email. And my email client of choice for the last couple years has been Gmail.

Gmail, My Love

I really like the Gmail interface, extensibility (via Firefox extensions like Better Gmail), mailbox size limits, and flexibility of piping many of my other email accounts into my Gmail account so that I can read, respond to, and archive them all from one place. There are, of course, things I don’t love so much about Gmail (why are signatures such a pain in the butt, why can’t you check my other inboxes just a little more frequently, and what (in the name of Harrison Ford) is with your EULA?), but over all, it’s an incredibly useful cloud application, and my daily workflow would be poorer without it.

Trouble in Paradise

In the last 36 hours, I’ve noticed significantly more spam getting in to my Gmail inbox. There are (at least) a couple of pretty good reasons for this. The one that concerns me the least is that a bright spammer (that’s probably not an oxymoron) somewhere made a breakthrough in his/her process that allows the spam to slide past Gmail’s filters. That’s no biggie, because the filter definitions will get updated in a day or two, and life will be good again. My other hypothesis, which is more worrying, is that there’s technical trouble somewhere in the depths of Google’s server farms. There’s no notice of anything amiss at Google’s official marketing site blog, and a little critical thinking about Google’s probable backup strategies implies that my first scenario is significantly more likely. Still, I’m feeling a little nervous.

Cloud to Ground Email

Gmail doesn’t take any responsibility for the safety of the data on its servers. Basically, the EULA says “Use our services at your own risk.” So, pretty much like everywhere else in the computer world, it’s up to each of us to backup our own data.

I did some looking around (ie. consulted the Oracle) and saw that probably the easiest way to make this backup was via Gmail’s IMAP interface using Thunderbird.

I’ve used Thunderbird in the past, and have always appreciated what it can do, but gave it up in favor of Gmail a couple years ago. Now, however, it looks like it can fill a couple blank spots in my emailverse, so it’s back on my computer. Installation and basic setup of Thunderbird is super-easy (as per pretty much all Mozilla tools), but configuring Thunderbird to talk to Gmail via IMAP took a little more time, but everything worked as advertised the first time.

The Final Step

My computer is banging down all my Gmail, and that’s good for backing up my Gmail account. But I also need to backup the stuff on my computer (Murphy’s law would seem to suggest that the moment the Googleplex explodes, a fiery meteorite will plummet from the heavens and annihilate my laptop). So, I guess it’s back to the cloud (ala Mozy) for me.

How Do You Like Yours Cooked?

I’d like to hear how ya’ll set up your email systems. I’m especially curious how Chris, Omar, and Joe do it.

2 thoughts on “Cloud to Ground Email”

  1. Geez, you had to ask. My email is a disorganized, messy, hodge-podge. I started out many years ago with a compuserve account, then added prodigy and eventually aol. The compuserve and prodigy accounts are long gone, but I continue to use aol as my primary personal email provider (via the web). Over the years, many corporate email accounts have come and gone and I usually had little control over them. At the current time, I have to juggle personal email (including a huge amount of traffic from the giac-alumni mailing list) on aol, with two corporate email accounts; one from the company I work for and one from the government agency I’m assigned to at the moment. I have little control over either of these accounts. I have recently added a gmail account for the sake of learning how it works and developing a good way to “conglomerate” (as you mentioned) many different sources if possible. I own and operate a Lotus Domino server which has the capability to integrate many sources and serve as a complete SMTP server and relay, but have SMTP shut down on it at the moment because a few years ago a spammer hijacked it and slammed the hosting ISP and my server with traffic. Someday, I dream of having the perfect single email interface that gracefully handles all my needs, but have not yet stumbled upon that valley of paradise.

  2. My reply is is destined to be less verbose than the original post and the first in line comment, and if you think that’s because I have precious little knowledge of what goes one behind the pretty framed lightbox in front of me, you’d be pretty correct.

    I too use Gmail for all my personal stuff. Started out as a wee bebe with Hotmail back when the Interweb was new to me (1995ish) and then migrated to Yahoo as I started getting tech savvier (1997) and then Gmail back in 2004. I’ve also had a now defunct college email account and more than a few work related accounts that have come and gone. For Gmail I’ve married it to Thunderbird as you described AJ using IMAP earlier this spring. I have Thunderbird Portable for when I’m away from home and not on one of my machines and I have my home copy of Tbird set to back up my messages on my HDD. I don’t go much beyond that, though. And let’s not talk about organization. I don’t have much. My Inbox stores all my messages unless they come from a list.

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