Maybe You Should Back Up Your Own Email; Google, AOL, Yahoo All Losing Emails

from the whoops dept

Web-based email has made quite the comeback in the past few years thanks to massive increases in email storage offerings, as well as revamped user interfaces. However, it appears that all of the big players have run into some problems actually keeping email systems online. This past week there have been stories of both AOL and Yahoo losing a ton of email (thousands of emails for AOL, millions for Yahoo Japan). This comes just a few months after Google had some problems with mass email deletions in Gmail. While the convenience these services provide is fantastic, all of these stories of lost emails should act as a reminder that you probably shouldn't trust any of these providers alone to care for your email. It's almost surprising that we haven't seen more of an effort by these or other providers to position email backup services as well, promising to keep you running, should your main account get knocked out or deleted.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    ScruffyDan, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 1:12am

    Gmail makes this easy with pop

    If you use pop to download you email to a desktop email client like outlook or thunderbird you now have two copies for every email you receive: one locally on your computer and one remotely with your web mail provider. It seems unlikely that you will loose your local copies at the same time as your webmail copies.

    If you are extra paranoid you can always use a free remote backup tool like mozy to keep a third copy of your emails somewhere else.

     

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      cole, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 5:55am

      Re: Gmail makes this easy with pop

      Really? I was under the impression that Gmail doesn't allow you to use pop accounts and too lazy to find a way to get around it.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 1:21pm

        Re: Re: Gmail makes this easy with pop

        From Gmail's side it's really simple. Click on Options then Forwarding & POP. Choose what you want. The hardest part is getting your email client on your PC setup correctly but Gmail provides helpfull instructions.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 1:18am

    I followed the "mass email deletions in Gmail" link. The only info I could find after reading the story was that a grand total of *60* Gmail users lost email prior to 12/18.
    How exactly that qualifies as mass deletions, I do not know.
    Frankly, (I do backups and restores for a large web hosting company) that is much better odds than you have storing your own email.

    Lets tone down the sensationalist scare tactics, eh?

    -MJP

     

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      AHinMaine, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 6:05am

      Re:

      I *wish* I could lose some emails in my gmail account. I use my account for a lot of technical mailing lists and, after a few months shy of three years of usage, I'm nearing my quota. I go into a label and try to use their Select All messages feature and when I click delete, it comes back and tells me it has deleted all conversations despite the fact that it hasn't deleted any (or occasionally a very small percentage of the total number of messages). I've tried Windows, FreeBSD, openSUSE, Kubuntu, and Solaris using different versions of IE, Firefox, and Mozilla and it doesn't work. PITA!

       

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    bish, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 2:04am

    Emails.

    Your funny trailer park slang. Incidences. Deers. Emails. Mike Tyson would be proud.

     

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    SECURITY, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 2:51am

    Forward & CC important emails to other addresses

    One tactic that works well is to Right-click on the original Email Link and select 'Open in New Window' from the context menu.
    Either copy and paste the text in notepad or copy and past in Word for the full HTML effect - then save it to your hard drive.


    Another option, if the first does not appeal to you, is to click REPLY -- change the destination email address -- then FORWARD a dup to another email address (or even two addresses)

     

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      Inept, May 3rd, 2007 @ 6:39am

      Re: Forward & CC important emails to other address

      I have three years worth of email, saved in a couple of folders on my PC, that I want to save to a disc, to ensure they are protected in case of a hard drive crash. The folders are AOL email folders, not folders that are accessible otherwise. At least not that I am aware of. I mention this because I do understand that the content of other types of folders can be saved by moving the entire folder as one entity onto a disc.

      Is there any way to do this without having to open each email and saving them to disc one at a time? Forgive my ignorance on this topic; I'm aware that this forum is primarily for those who know far more than I do. Thanks in advance for any advice.

       

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    JBB, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 2:52am

    Nobody wants backups...

    ...but everybody wants restores. What are you worried about? Probably nothing, until something happens. Sysadmin error, hardware failure, user error, undoing normal use (I deleted something last week but need it back, I deleted something just now and need it back)... One of my favorites: Drat, I left pop-and-delete running at home, and it grabbed an urgent piece of email I need right now, and I can't wait the hour-long-commute home to get it, can't you get it for me NOW?

    Backups are complicated. Preparing for all the eventualities is complicated. Your average user ain't up to the task. Your average techie is up to 90% of it but will miss that last 10% that only experience can teach. It's far easier to just not guarantee anything. If you can get away with it and not lose too many customers or your job.

    If you're doing anything important with email, you need rock-solid infrastructure. But, if your average teen chatroom junkie loses a day, a week, or a month of stored email, what's the big deal? They'll wail about it, and life goes on. If your average corporate worker loses mail, there can be serious ramifications.

    So, free email is great when it just isn't that important. But when it absolutely positively needs to be there tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after... You'd better have a real system with a real sysadmin who's really serious about YOUR needs, not just their own.

     

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    Ajax 4Hire, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 5:53am

    Using Web-based emails is like

    building sand castles on the ocean shore.

    It nice, its useful, its public and easy access but it is not secure and it is not permanent. Don't be surprised when the tide comes in and washes away the web-site.

     

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    Evil_Bastard, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 6:08am

    nature

    I save the important ones. I work on the assumption that not only is everyone incompetent, but that they are out to screw with me.

     

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    b, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 6:12am

    pop

    yes, gmail has been allowing free pop for several years now. the instructions are in the settings menu under "Forwarding and POP"

     

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    Adam, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 6:20am

    Don't use free email for important stuff. As the saying goes: "you get what you paid for". Pay $5-10/moth for commercial mail hosting that guarantees backups and uptime. And for that money you'd get several emails too, enough for your family and friends. or split the cost between few people. Most commercial mail hosts give you at least 5 mailboxes and it usually comes down to $1/month per mailbox and they give you 1GB or more per mailbox with option to buy more storage. Adam

     

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    SomePerson, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 6:37am

    Weird. I've been using G-mail for over a year and have not once had any problem. It has proven to be 150% more reliable than any ISP's e-mail services I've ever tried. I don't touch my ISP provided e-mail accounts, at all. I have two g-mails, one for personal use, one for business and both haven't failed me.

    And yes, Gmail does offer POP service. When you're logged in, click on OPTIONS and look for "POP and forwarding." It provides you with full instructions on how to use it.

     

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      Cunk, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 7:19am

      Re:

      I too have had zero problems with my Gmail account however our personal experiences are hardly enough of a sampling to conclude that Gmail is problem-free.

      This is like when people tout their anti-virus software of choice by stating they've never gotten infected. That doesn't really prove that the software works well since they could have just gotten lucky.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 6:37am

    Kyles mom

    I agree with Adam. Free??? Pay for your email if you want to be safe and back it up is the bottom line.

    I use a paid email service and www.hellokitty.com for my free email. I love the cute pictures but I would never use it for important stuff. I do love giving my free email to people I don't like to get spam and such and get a reaction from the name.

    ieatbabies@hellokitty.com

    send me some hate mail

     

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    CharlieHorse, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 6:51am

    why oh why oh why

    why would you even think of using a free email service for anything essential that you would be upset about if it got lost ?

    okay, so posts #5, #6 are SPOT ON. Your mail WILL be lost someday, period. It's going to happen. Whether or not this was massive loss of data is irrelevant to the point Mike is making with the article. (and Evil_Bastard made me LOL - thanks EB!)

    Disclaimer: I use several of these free email services myself and they are great - they are my net sign-up mail accounts, mail list accounts, send goofy pix of my dog, etc. However, nothing I consider too important to lose ever goes to them.

    Also, as was stated above, Google has for a while now allowed users to POP mail from their servers - I do this daily ... then I delete most of the messages that are pulled. LOL! You can also pull your mail from Yahoo - for a small price, of course, and even M$ allows you to pull mail - IF - you use some shoddy mail reader like outlook or winmail, that is ... ('k, sorry, couldn't help throwing in some flame bait, there ... ;-P ) ...

    The solutions are already available to alleviate these "problems" - just a little research and user education is in order, however, the real problem is feeling "secure" or "safe" using one of these services, because, if you closely read their terms of use - there is nothing secure, private, or guaranteed with these services.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 6:54am

    Yahoo kept deleting my email on purpose. They kept telling me I didn't log in for three months, when I logged in at least once a week. I'd just go to check my mail again and BAM! No email. They did this at least twice.

    The first time was many years of mail, only one or two that I realized I didn't have any where else.

     

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      Lary, Jul 13th, 2007 @ 10:25pm

      Re:

      If you have more than one user account on your ISP and you sign up on Yahoo the Yahoo will only respond and recognize you when you visit (having signed in as the same ISP account). If the next day you log on your ISP account with another user name and then visit Yahoo some of their programs won't recognize you.

       

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    linuxamp, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 7:02am

    I use Thunderbird Portable to backup all my gmail and gfyd accounts. What's nice about this is that you can have one "install" for each mail account you need to backup or use one "install" to backup all your accounts. Since it's portable, you can easily move your backups between computers when you upgrade.

    Mozilla also tries to focus on standard storage formats so it should be relatively easy to import your backups to other programs as well.

     

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    Robert, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 7:11am

    I have a Bellsouth/now AT&T DSL account and use Thunderbird to read my e-mail.

    Thunderbird has an extension "MozBackup" that I run to save all my TB messages to a hard drive folder or to an external hard drive. Saves not only all my e-mail but also my e-mail profile, saved passwords, etc (you select what you want to backup).

    Really easy to use.

    R

     

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    Howard Lee Harkness, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 7:24am

    About once a week, I download all of my Gmail to PortableThunderbird. Gmail is nice for spam-filtering, but I like to keep a copy of my important email on a USB drive that I can access offline. And, while the search capability of Gmail is ok, I prefer the threading metaphor of TB to the 'conversation' metaphor of Gmail -- and TB is faster.

    There was a recent Wired article (later posted on Slashdot) about desktop versus web email that came to roughly the same conclusions.

    --
    Violins and Accessories

     

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    Curiosume, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 7:30am

    Gmail

    Gmail is my primary e-mail account. I don't worry about security because I just use POP and download it into my local mail reader. I then make archives that are part of my local back up scheme.

    I figure since I don't pay Google, it's my job to protect my data.

    Peace,
    Cathie

     

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    seth brundle, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 7:39am

    yahoo japan is not yahoo

    In the story,you use yahoo and yahoo japan interchangably, which is incorrect.

    Yahoo japan is a completely seperate company altogether, ulike the rest of yahoo worldwide,which is all the same Yahoo.

    They simply licensed the name from yahoo.

    Trivia for the most part, but important when a tech reporter.

     

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    Anony Cow, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 8:04am

    I have to disagree. If you think that a paid email service is any better than the big name free services, you are mistaken. I've lost more emails, had more downtime, and had more technical issues with my paid service in the last two years than I have had with Gmail.

    If you expect ANY company to protect your valuable email, you are an idiot. Paid or free email, you need to cover your own ass, not expect anyone else to do it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 8:29am

    StashMyMail

    http://www.stashmymail.com/ solves the webmail backup problem.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 9:20am

    thanks to this sensationalist crap, you've just lost a reader.

     

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      JT, Apr 12th, 2007 @ 6:01am

      Re: sensationalist crap?

      Google and Yahoo have both lost my email before... so if you want to play the game of roulette with important messages or info contained in them, go ahead. But don't complain or piss your pants when it happens to you and you weren't prepared.

       

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    Jason, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 9:23am

    google fans

    man, you google fans sure did drink the cool-aid. Yes, google is not perfect and they do delete (even if by accident) email- they just don't put out press releases about it.

     

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    rick, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 12:15pm

    Yahoo lost a folder of mail

    I used to pay for Yahoo! mail. I did it so that I could have extra storage. I would put important mail into certain folders.

    In December 2006, every time I clicked on a certain webmail folder, yahoo would stall. I would have to close the browser and reload yahoo. I then contacted yahoo, and they confirmed that that folder had been corrupted and that they would fix it.

    After 3 weeks, I was finally able to access that folder. It said I had 300 messages, but there was nothing actually in the folder. I called again to ask what happened to the mail. They told me not to worry.

    1 week later, I was able to see the mail folder with 0 mail in it. I then called, and they said that they lost all the mail in that folder.

    Yahoo then explained to me that they do not have backup servers. WHAT? NO BACKUP SERVERS? NOPE.

    I asked yahoo! for a refund. I am only paying for their service for the extra mail storage. They failed to store my mail, therefore I would like a refund. I also feel, that if they have to give people refunds, then they will work on not losing mail. They explained that I should go f myself, because yahoo does not give refunds. Yahoo said that if I did not want to lose mail, then I should use a different mail provider.

     

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    rommel, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 5:18pm

    google uses bandwidth throttling to limit access

    using POP download option in google only works if you receive small email attachments. once you start getting messages with large pictures attached your POP download stops all of a sudden thanks to googles bandwidth throttling that prevents you from accessing your email. you have to log in online to see the pictures. so much for convenience.

     

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    tech, Apr 11th, 2007 @ 10:48pm

    disagree with you

    The most important think is brand equity and loyalty for companies so, they can not make anything about this issue

    I have to disagree. If you think that a paid email service is any better than the big name free services, you are mistaken.

     

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    JT, Apr 12th, 2007 @ 5:56am

    Easy Solution - Use a desktop email client

    Since you can set the preferences to either download only new messages or leave the original messages on the server, this is the best and most efficient way to ensure you have a copy of your mail stored safely where you can access it - internet access or not. I haven't run into any Google bandwidth throttling issues with attachments and I regularly download mail with attachments of 6MB or more.

     

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    John "Juanito Hayburg" Eyberg, Jun 24th, 2007 @ 3:21pm

    give up netscape?

    The only reason I came to this site was to find data about whether or not I should convert my email to gmail, from netscape to goodle. The reason is my netscape will not send a large email/attachments easily if at all. From what I've read thus far on this page, it doesn't really make any difference.--John "Juanito Hayburg" Eyberg P.S.: Any other suggestions would be helpful!

     

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    gn, Oct 2nd, 2007 @ 11:58am

    How to recover my original (pre-change) hotmail em

    Without requesting it, hotmail changed to LiveMail... whatever, and I have NONE of my "original" emails or files left... so ALL my stuff is gone. Any way to get it back? thanks, cheers, gn

     

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    identicon
    gn, Oct 2nd, 2007 @ 11:58am

    How to recover my original (pre-change) hotmail em

    Without requesting it, hotmail changed to LiveMail... whatever, and I have NONE of my "original" emails or files left... so ALL my stuff is gone. Any way to get it back? thanks, cheers, gn

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    Melissa, Oct 29th, 2008 @ 6:38pm

    at@t deleted my email

    Hello. Has this ever happened to any of you? When I switched from at@t dsl to dsl light, at@t deleted my longtime email account along with the address book and all other information. Have spent many hours on phone with worthless customer service reps. How can I get at@t to fix THEIR mistake. I know they don't care about my little account but it was quite important to me.
    Thank you for any help you might have.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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      ethan, Jan 4th, 2009 @ 10:59pm

      Re: at@t deleted my email

      did you solve this problem ... and if so how did you solved it ??? my client is having the same problem after we updated the att/yahoo browser .....

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    Laurie, May 8th, 2009 @ 1:37pm

    e-mail

    I am missing my old e-mails. I would like to look at some of them again and decide for myself which ones I want to delete on my own. How do I retrieve old e-mails from April 1-21, 2009? Please let me know. Thank you kindly.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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