I wrote recently about the online archiving approach I use that meant the death of my laptop neither destroyed my data nor stopped me from working: I had instant access to my files through a web browser, arranged as they had been on my computer. See:
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While that worked great for files, my emails were another matter. As I had not backed up my email database for some time I lost emails that had been deleted from the server (though I did eventually manage to recover these from my dead laptop – it was a Mac and start these up holding down the T key and another computer attached by firewire can read it as if it is an external hard drive).
I lost a job because of losing someone’s email details in that crash. So now I have a boot and braces approach with emails forwarded to a second account, which is an expandable archive.
In the latest innovation to my security system, I am now using IMAP for accessing emails from this account. IMAP, standing for Internet Message Access Protocol, is offered by most email service providers, including free services such as gmail.
IMAP is an alternative to POP3 protocol. With POP3, you download emails to your computer, though you have the option of leaving a copy on the email server, which you can usually access by logging into the webmail page using an internet browser. However, with most services, the inbox will eventually fill up.
With IMAP, your email programme (be it Outlook, Entourage or Apple’s Mail) communicates with the server when you are connected to the internet. Whatever you do with emails in your email programme is repeated on the server. Create a folder to store emails, the folder will be there when you login to the webmail page on the internet. Move emails or delete them, the will be there. Store drafts, they will be there. Send emails, there will be a copy in the sent folder.
You can also work with the email programme offline and it will synchronise with the server next time you connect.
With the email services I use, restrictions on number of emails apply only to the inbox. Using IMAP, I can move emails to other folders to free up space instead of deleting them.
And should I be away from my laptop, my emails will be accessible online in the familiar folder arrangement. If I switch computers, I can quickly create a local copy of everything that is on the server.
So with IMAP emails and online file backup I am not only protected against computer failure, I have a virtual office accessible through a standard browser from anywhere there is an internet connection.