As the digital era has evolved, the form of communication for many has also changed. It seems that more and more, despite advances, email seems to still be the primary form of communications when it comes to important or sensitive information. Email is a great form of communicating, when done right, but it also leaves people open to a very big problem. How to store those critical emails so that they are there when they are truly needed.
Depending upon where you receive your email, there are different solutions for you to store and backup your critical information. Corporations use servers which are scheduled to backup the exchange accounts. This helps when someone’s computer crashes and needs to rebuilt. This is great, however the end user cannot actually access those backups.
When it comes to personal backups there really is only 1 truly successful way to backup digitally, through the use of a desktop client. A desktop client usually has built in backup or export feature which allows a user to save an email or group of emails to a location outside of where the mail client normally stores information. For Apple users who use Mail, this feature is called Export Mailbox and places a copy of the folder or mailbox in a location specified by the user. In Outlook, for those Microsoft users, this feature is called Auto Archive.
Mail’s “Export Mailbox”
Mail unfortunately has not had much of an improvement to the “archiving” department as I would like to have seen. Particularly it is missing the option to allow the client to automate this process, although I am sure with some fancy coding in AppleScript this is possible. (I am certain that someone may have already done this, however I have not gone out and rigorously looked.) In order to save any important emails you must first sort them into a folder of your choosing and then export the folder.
This of course will only save the individual folder or mailbox you have selected. If however you decide you need to save all of your folders because they are all important, then group all the folders/mailboxes together and proceed with the same steps.
What needs to be noted here however, is that the archives are not as clean as they are for example utilizing Microsoft Outlooks Auto Archive feature. Each individual folder/mailbox will be output separately. This is somewhat of a benefit as well though, because instead of having to import the entire archived file back into the client, you can select those that are of interest to you.
Microsoft Outlook Auto Archive
I wish Apple would take note of this from Microsoft. Yes you Apple fan boys, Apple could learn something here from the big bad wolf. Enabling the client to perform archiving automatically without the need for you to do anything outside of the initial setup, is a relief. The setup is very simple. When you are in the mail portion of Outlook, find the Auto Archive option and select one of the three settings. (Depending upon which version of Outlook you are using, will depend where you can find it. If you are using Outlook 2010, this can be found under the “Folders” tab.) You can default all the settings or customize where the archive file will be placed on your computer and which emails specifically to backup dependent upon how old they are. There is also an option to just completely get rid of the emails. Be cautious though, Outlooks Auto Archive will take ALL of the emails that are older then then set duration and place them into the folder, disregarding folder structures and sorting.
That said, a combination of the two, Mails ability to individually select folders/mailboxes and Outlooks Auto Archive tool, would be a combination that I believe would be difficult to top. However for now it is what it is, and we have no other option as of now.
Web Based Email
Web based emails are great and many offer the same functionality as a desktop client. With the ability to sync in many cases back and forth between mobile devices, webmail becomes a powerful tool. However, when looking into my own webmail client, Gmail, I was unable to find any indication of a “archiving and exporting” feature which would take my emails offline and off the servers. If anyone does discover something direct, meaning not utilizing a desktop email client, please feel free to leave a comment explaining where I and others can find this feature.
Backup the Backup
The very last tip and recommendation I have for everyone, is to backup the backup. Simply put, offload the backup of your important emails to another location aside from your computers internal hard drive. If the hard drive crashes and it becomes unreadable, then all of your archiving and saving will have gone to waste. A nice and easy way to do this is to use a combination of different tools. For myself, I output my mail archives to Dropbox to make available when ever I need it from any computer, as well as copying the archives to an external hard drive I keep safe at home. Redundant backups will ensure that your files are stored away safely in the event that a disaster of any sorts hits.