It’s funny to see how fast our tech solutions go from robust digital solution to fragile digital problem. Take emails for example. Having an email account means you never lose a message that you are sent, right? The downsides are that you can never really find a message once the amount of emails you store goes up, and basically all the mail is stored in one location on your computer and so vulnerable to loss.
Of course it’s possible that your computer is backed up (and you really should do that if you just realised that you don’t), but having a backup is one thing – restoring your emails back into your email program is another.
Doing It by Hand
The fastest and easiest way to back up vital emails is, of course, to drag them into a folder and store them on a USB drive. Most email programs on most platforms will open a loose email which will probably include any attachments. That’s all well and good, but the thing about an email client is that it keeps your emails in a (theoretically) searchable database. A loose collection of files in a folder secures the data, but it’s by no means a searchable resource.
You can be a bit more organised about it and drag emails about account activation, product serial numbers, receipts from purchases, etc., but that’s a bit of a pain to have to keep all that manually updated.
The solution is an email archiving service. You will find many services out there, but most are very corporate in tone. There are some, in particular the popular MailStore solution, which offers a free version of their corporate software for home use.
This is a much better solution to keeping your emails safe, and not just safe but accessible. As well as backing up your emails offsite at a distant digital location, you can restore your emails right back to where they originated in your client software. You can also search the emails in the backup for relevant details like sender and dates.
The biggest upside of using a dedicated email archival service rather than a general offsite backup or doing it by hand is simple: Your emails are not only searchable but restorable. As a side benefit, this also means that having your emails stored in an external database makes migrating your emails easier, too. If you change computers, for example if you upgrade your main desktop machine, one of the biggest sources of pain is having to start your email client from scratch without having access to your legacy mail.
With an offsite backup which can be easily restorable to any client, you can just pull in all the emails from your boss, your wife, your primary software provider, and continue as if nothing has happened. This is so much easier than deploying email export and import tools or hacking the databases by hand, which has been the standard solution for a long time.
As we move to a time of your entire work and home life being stored in email, it makes sense to take steps to secure it.
Using Mailstore as an example, it’s very simple to use. Once the software has been downloaded and installed, on running it you are faced with a Dashboard.
On the left you have a detailed list of all the reports you can do.
In the centre you have hotlinks for common tasks.
And on the right you have your dashboard.
To get started you need to click the “archive email” link in the centre column. This brings you to the archive email panel.
Archives are governed by “profiles,” so each email you wish to back up needs to create a profile. You do this either by typing your email into the create profile field or selecting a specific protocol from the advanced drop-down.
You will be asked to put in your password to authorize the access.
Once the software has polled your email account on the internet to verify it, your new profile will be created.
A profile will be created in the dashboard, and you can now double-click it to be archived from the server to your machine.
Note: as the software talks directly to your mail server, this archive machine doesn’t even have to be your email machine, which is helpful for off-site backups.
Once that’s done, your email will be backed up and searchable using the Mailstore software.
Hopefully this has given you some ideas to help you feel that your emails are a resource and not a junk pile. It’s pointless having them lying around unless you can get to the ones you need, and email archiving is certainly a step in the right direction.
If you have any thoughts about email archiving, please let us know in the comments below.
Image credit: Yuri Samoilov