Losing e-mail can cost you both lost time and opportunity. That's because most of us have valuable information stored in our e-mail programmes - addresses, contact information, appointments, and some of it can be difficult or impossible to replace.
Backing up your e-mail, therefore, is essential. And in many cases, it makes sense to maintain an e-mail backup routine that's separate from any other overall data backup procedure you have in place. The reason: you may need or want to restore just your e-mail should a data catastrophe strike, and you don't want to have to locate and unearth just your e-mail data from a larger system backup.
Doing so is both time-consuming and frustrating.
How you back up your e-mail will depend upon what type of e-mail you rely upon. There are many types in use today, but we'll cover the most popular here.
Microsoft Outlook stores e-mail in a file with a "pst" extension. For a simple data backup, you can just locate any and all pst files on your hard drive and copy them to another location. To find the files, open the Windows Search utility, type *.pst, and copy the files that the utility finds.
But a pst file alone will not easily help you rebuild all of your e-mail accounts, stored addresses, and other conveniences that you probably want back immediately should you need to restore data. Therefore it makes sense to turn to a package that not only backs up your PST files for you but also any settings, address book entries, and other data you've entered into Outlook and do not want to lose.
Rinjasoft (http://World Wide Web.rinjanisoft.com) makes an inexpensive little utility that fits the bill. Its EZ Backup Outlook programme provides a one-click way to back up all of your Outlook e-mail and settings. The programme can save the data to a compressed, executable file. When or if you need to restore the data, all you have to do is double-click the executable file and follow the instructions. The original backup application itself does not even need to be installed.
Rinjasoft has equivalent backup programmes for other popular e-mail programmes, including Outlook Express, Eudora, IncrediMail, and Windows Mail. The basic versions of these applications - all you need for standard backup and restore - cost under 10 dollars.
AJ Systems (http://World Wide Web.ajsystems.com) offers similar functionality in its OutBack Plus and Express Assist applications. These applications go beyond just e-mail backup and restore to include browser favourites and other system settings that most folks want to take with them along with e-mail.
Thanks to its ample storage space and effective spam filtering, Google's free GMail has become a favorite e-mail provider around the world. With web-based e-mail accounts, however, come special challenges if you want to save or archive your messages before they are deleted automatically by the service. Most web-based e-mail services provide no convenient means for you to back up or archive old messages.
But with GMail, thankfully, you have several options for backing up your mail. The first and perhaps best way is simply to enable GMail's POP forwarding capability, which allows you to receive and send your e-mail with Outlook Express, Outlook or another e-mail programme. That way, you can use your standard backup procedure for your e-mail programme of choice, and all of your GMail will be backed up as well.
To do this, log on to your GMail account, and under Settings, click Forwarding and POP. Select "forward a copy of incoming mail to," and then type the e-mail address you use for your non Web-based e-mail programme. You can choose to leave a copy of the forwarded e-mail on the GMail servers to have access to the e-mail in both places. GMail also provides you with instructions for setting up standard e-mail programmes such as Outlook and Windows Mail so that you can access GMail directly from your desktop.
Many people who continue to use AOL do so primarily because they have an AOL e-mail account that they've relied upon for years. AOL Mail, however, is among the most critical to back up regularly, as AOL retains your old e-mail for a very short period of time before deleting it permanently.
AOL stores all of your e-mail on its servers. Once you read an e-mail message, it is moved from your New Mail folder to an Old Mail folder, where it will stay for a short period of time. Newer versions of AOL create automatic e-mail backups in a Personal Storage folder once every four weeks.
To create an offline backup of this AOL mail, you need to sign off AOL but leave its software running. Click the Mail menu, and then click Mail Settings. In the Mail Settings window, click the Manage Saved Mail button, and then click Backup. In the resulting Backup Your Filing Cabinet dialog box, click the Backup Now button.
Make sure you can restore
Backing up your e-mail is one thing. Restoring it can be quite another. Regardless of the backup solution you choose, run a test to determine whether you can restore your e-mail in the event of an emergency. Preferably you should try this on a new machine; otherwise you run the risk of overwriting your current e-mail with an old copy or duplicating messages.
Nevertheless, if you rely upon your e-mail in your day-to-day business operations, the trouble you take to ensure that your backup and restoration procedures are bulletproof will be well rewarded once a data meltdown occurs.