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    Simple steps for backing up Web-based e-mail




    BEST PRACTICES

    Simple steps for backing up Web-based e-mail


    By Lincoln Spector

    Most users of Web-based e-mail services assume that as long as they're connected to the Internet, they'll have 24/7 access to their accounts.

    But a recent Gmail failure proved otherwise. Here's how to create backups of all your mail residing in the cloud.

    The full text of this column is posted at WindowsSecrets.com/2011/03/17/06 (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.

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    One thing to keep in mind when using IMAP rather than POP for backup purposes is that when IMAP connects to a server and sees that all of your email has been deleted it will begin to merrily delete your local copy/backup emails, which would be exactly when you need them. If you're using IMAP for backup purposes, when you need to access the emails in an emergency you need to be sure that your computer is not connected to the network so this doesn't happen. POP has it's drawbacks, but for a backup solution it works pretty well and is pull only, so it won't try to delete local emails when they accidentally disappear from the server.

  3. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to CharliePlatt For This Useful Post:

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    I abandoned the idea of backing up my Yahoo email messages by downloading them--I used Thunderbird and, if I remember right, I tried a couple of other methods--because the process left ALL the messages in my Yahoo account marked as Read. It's important for me to have my Unread messages left marked as Unread. Maybe there's a way around this?

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    Quote Originally Posted by CharliePlatt View Post
    One thing to keep in mind when using IMAP rather than POP for backup purposes is that when IMAP connects to a server and sees that all of your email has been deleted it will begin to merrily delete your local copy/backup emails, which would be exactly when you need them. If you're using IMAP for backup purposes, when you need to access the emails in an emergency you need to be sure that your computer is not connected to the network so this doesn't happen. POP has it's drawbacks, but for a backup solution it works pretty well and is pull only, so it won't try to delete local emails when they accidentally disappear from the server.
    Exactly! Using IMAP for the purposes of archiving is perfectly baffling.

    By the way, it's a dirty little secret that if you change your location to Asia in Yahoo Mail's settings, you can get free POP/IMAP access. I did this quite some time ago and have experienced no ill effects. (But yes, unfortunately when you check your mail it will indeed mark everything as read.)

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    I had another thought on how to back up a web based mail setup if it doesn't support IMAP as long as it supports POP3. It may be a little arcane, but it works.

    To summarize, most PC based mail clients will only download the inbox. The solution is fairly simple. First, set up your PC based mail client to 'leave messages on server' as explained in the article. Now do a "get mail' and your inbox is downloaded. Now, in your PC based mail client create a new folder called (say) "saved inbox," then highlight all of the items in 'inbox' and drag to 'saved inbox'

    Now go to the web based client and repeat the process. . . i .e. move everything out of the inbox and into a new folder. This can normally be accomplished (depending on which webmail program is implemented) with just a few clicks.

    Now in the same fashion move all of the email in the 'sent messages' in the webmail to 'inbox' in the webmail. Next, go back to the PC host and download the mail. All your sent mail from the webmail will be downloaded to 'inbox' on the local PC. Now simply move all of them to the sent mail folder on the PC. The inbox on the PC is now empty again. Now go back to the webmail and move everything in the inbox and move it back to 'sent mail' where it came from.

    You can repeat the process for any other folders you want to back up to your local PC. When you're done downloading, just move the contents of 'saved inbox' back to 'inbox' on the local PC and server and you're done.

    The only thing you need to watch for is any new emails that come in while you're doing this. Since everything is sorted by date (by default) they're easy to find and you can just move them back where they belong.

    I hope this helps.

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    "POP presents significant archiving drawbacks" is asserted. I'd say not if you check "Leave messages on server" in Thunderbird. Then you have a local copy to access should the "cloud" actually rain on your day (as is documented in the column). Thanks to Charlie for the heads up about IMAP auto deletion of your local copy! I set up TB to access 3 gmail accounts with POP years ago. Then WS advised IMAP be used with Google, and I subsequently found that Google will not allow you to change an existing account from POP to IMAP access. I heeded TBs warning that multiple POP servers could cause trouble, but using my throwaway spam address for all mail caused all replies to go to that account. So, against advise, I tried using the appropriate POP server for each account and everything actually works perfectly! When I added another gmail account, I set it up IMAP and discovered that POP and IMAP accounts can live happily with each other in TB. Nonetheless, given Charlie's heads up, I think that I'll delete the new account and create another POP one. I'll also try to plant the suggestion with Mozilla that Thunderbird include an option to prohibit any deletion of locally stored mail by IMAP. Since this will have zero effect on Google's end, it should be something almost trivial to code into TB.

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    Suppose I run both Windows Live Mail and Outlook 2007 or 2010. Can I set them up so that they both use the same message stores, and I thus only have one copy of my e-mail on my system?

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    The file structures are different for the two programs so this is not possible. I'm not sure why you'd want to do that though.

    On the other hand, if you were using an IMAP server I guess you might be able to do that although I have no idea whether Outlook supports that or not.

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    I've paid yahoo $20/year for a long time for POP access, and recently changed it to IMAP. No need to spend another $10 on some software. I simply use imap.mail.yahoo.com as the incoming server, 993/SSL and 465/SSL as the incoming/outgoing server ports/encryption. My guess is the $10 solution sets these for you, something you can do yourself in 10 secs.
    Last edited by buggsy2; 2011-03-17 at 15:20.

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    And speaking of IMAP and Outlook, can someone explain why Outlook is so slow and erratic with IMAP connections? Sure, it has to keep changes sync'ed, but often even just clicking on the Inbox of an IMAP account hangs the problem for long periods (minutes), until I kill it and restart it. Meanwhile my iOS iPhone has no problem with IMAP.

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    I've already been using IMAP, but mostly depend upon the Web Gmail interface. I wasn't aware that Tbird, in my case, actually downloaded the mail, folders, etc from the cloud to my PC. So, this article was very good, as was Charlie Platt's warning about auto delete. I have a question though. Are all the files then kept in my Tbird profile? I backup almost daily including my Tbird profile, so will I now have a nearly recent representation of the cloud?

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeoR View Post
    I've already been using IMAP, but mostly depend upon the Web Gmail interface. I wasn't aware that Tbird, in my case, actually downloaded the mail, folders, etc from the cloud to my PC. So, this article was very good, as was Charlie Platt's warning about auto delete. I have a question though. Are all the files then kept in my Tbird profile? I backup almost daily including my Tbird profile, so will I now have a nearly recent representation of the cloud?
    At least in the case of Gmail, Thunderbird, and POP, yes, Thunderbird saves the downloaded mail in the profile, so if you backup the profile, you will have backed up the downloaded mail. I have no experience with IMAP.

    You say you mostly depend on the Gmail web interface. Obviously, for any of this to be relevant, you have to start Thunderbird and have it process the mail.

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    Thanks to Bob Spafford (above) if he can get Mozilla to include an option, maybe even prompted, that will prevent mass deletion of local mail when your eMail provider decides to clear contents of the cloud. Is that called raining?

    There is a bigger issue here and that is how to recover from lost eMail. I trust that will be a separate article from your fine contributors.

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    First time I've ever posted on the internet, but just had to bless you Lincoln Spector for an excellent article!

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    Quote Originally Posted by CharliePlatt View Post
    One thing to keep in mind when using IMAP rather than POP for backup purposes is that when IMAP connects to a server and sees that all of your email has been deleted it will begin to merrily delete your local copy/backup emails, which would be exactly when you need them. If you're using IMAP for backup purposes, when you need to access the emails in an emergency you need to be sure that your computer is not connected to the network so this doesn't happen. POP has it's drawbacks, but for a backup solution it works pretty well and is pull only, so it won't try to delete local emails when they accidentally disappear from the server.
    A better way (at least in Thunderbird) is to set up a Local Folders Account and sub-accounts. When archiving Web IMAP e-mail, transfer it to Local Folders. These folders are not affected by IMAP handling of deleted Web or Client messages.

    I use Fastmail for one of my Web Accounts, and they do not support POP, so IMAP is the only option. That's where I learned the hard way that IMAP deletes locally whatever has been deleted on line, unless you set up copies in Local Folders.

    And no, it isn't trivial to change the way IMAP works in Thunderbird. If local deletion were disabled, the whole idea of synchronizing local folders with Web folders would be out the window. Local Folders is the best option.

    I have been using Thunderbird with Yahoo POP-3 access (paid) for years, and I have never seen my Web Mail messages changed from Unread to Read status. I use no special settings.

    Shuffling Web Mail around between folders is insanity. It is easier to use IMAP (not available with Yahoo) to download messages not in your Inbox. With Yahoo, I have never had to download new Web Mail messages from any Web folder except my (Web) Inbox. Once downloaded, old (Web) Inbox messages can be bulk-transferred to a Web folder named "Archive" or something like that. They will never download a second time in any event, being older messages already downloaded by the Client. Once the Web Inbox is cleared, then other new messages (my on line Comments or Sent folders, for example) can be downloaded to the local client's Inbox (after distributing or archiving local new messages) and the non-Inbox new messages can be further redistributed (locally). The trick is not to leave older, already archived messages in any Inbox (local or Web), and to use Local Folders within the Client for archiving purposes. This keeps things neat and clean, and avoids losing messages in the shuffle. It also preserves the Unread vs. Read attributes of all messages.
    Last edited by bobprimak; 2011-03-20 at 05:47.
    -- Bob Primak --

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