Bringing e-mail home

I often recommend that people use an e-mail service separate from their internet providers so that a change of internet provider doesn’t require a change of e-mail address.  I’ve had clients maintain their AOL accounts because this is the e-mail address that everyone knows.  Since you can keep your AOL e-mail address forever for free, I count them among the many free e-mail services you could potentially use.  (As an aside, I saw a client today who continues to use AOL because she doesn’t want to change her e-mail address.  I understand this and support it, but she had a client of hers tell her to move on.)

I also recommend using a program on your computer to access your e-mail rather than using the mail provider’s web site.  This isn’t always possible or is made particularly difficult (e.g. Yahoo e-mail requires you pay a fee if you want to access your mail via POP, but I’ve found workarounds you can use without having to pay, but they aren’t easy or reliable).  Google’s GMail and AOL’s e-mail allow you to use a program on your computer to get your mail without paying a fee.  Programs you can use include Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Live Mail, Apple, and Mozilla Thunderbird.  There are many more less known applications also.

One big reason to use a program on your computer is that it acts as a form of backup for your e-mail in the event that there’s a problem at your provider.  If you’re getting your e-mail for free, you can’t count on a great deal of support from the provider.  This article really points that out.  At the end of December, thousands of people using Microsoft’s Hotmail lost their mail.  While Microsoft claims to have recovered it, some have complained that they didn’t get theirs.  Not only that, it took days for it to be recovered.  If you have a business relying on access to these e-mails, it can be devastating.

The upshot is that you should have a backup of your free e-mail on your own computer.  Then you need to follow all the other advice I’ve given about backup and backup the data on your computer’s hard drive to another.  Go the extra mile and get still yet another copy located somewhere else or subscribe to a service that will backup your computer to the internet.

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