Moving My Email Into The Cloud
Posted on May 09, 2010 by GuruBob
“Most of our assumptions have outlived their uselessness.” – Marshall McLuhan
In that frustrating time between when the Apple iPad was announced and when I was finally able to get my hands on one (earlier than most thanks to Ed Dale) I thought very carefully on how I would use the device and how it would add value in my daily work practices.
Like many people who spend as much time online as I do, a considerable amount of my time is taken up with consuming content, be it email, PDF documents, audio and video podcasts, news feeds and general web surfing. What I hoped and what ultimately has transpired, is that I would be able to conduct those activities on the iPad thereby unchaining me from the desktop when I choose to do those things. Now, particularly given that I have mobile WiFi access (using the MyWi app on a jail broken 3G iPhone) I can productively consume content or manage email wherever I choose to be and whenever I choose to do so.
I am fortunate in that I was already a big user of Cloud services from document management (Google Docs) to email (Gmail) and there would be no transitional issues as those services would be accessible on the iPad right from the outset.
But there was a long standing issue, however, with my main email account which had been an irritation for me for a long period of time, it just took the iPad to cause me to do actually do something about it!
You see my email account was a POP email account through which, over a period of nearly 10 years, I had acquired an archive of nearly 2.5 Gigabytes of email stored on my main desktop computer. This email archive is important in my business because I’m expected to be able to search back through that archive when issues come up that may have occurred months or even years ago.
Even before the iPad was a reality, when I travelled away from the office for an extended period of time, I would copy that email archive from my desktop to my laptop so I could access and manage email while on the road and that copy it back to my desktop upon return. This was considerably annoying and ultimately unsustainable and for some time I knew I would have to solve this issue for good but I put it off on the assumption it would require a difficult and time consuming solution to be implemented.
As it turned out it wasn’t as bad as I thought (often the way) although the solution did require some effort to implement. I knew I had no alternative but to transfer my email archive into the cloud and use an online email service. My choices were many although in the end only 2 were really feasible for me. As an Apple .me member I could have used the email service provided by Apple but I was a little leery of doing that as Apple has had problems in the past and I wasn’t confident using that service.
The only other real choice was Gmail as I have been using that service for years without problems and the over 7Gb capacity of a Gmail account meant that I wouldn’t have a problem with importing my existing email archive. In addition, it is possible to setup a Gmail account to look like it is your existing POP account and Gmail will pull email in (via POP) from your existing mail server (often provided by your ISP) and when you send mail from Gmail it can be configured so the mail seems to be originating from your POP email address. All this was relatively easy to implement, but how to get my existing email archive into Gmail…that was the problem.
The solution again was easy but definitely time consuming. It turns out that I could setup my newly configured Gmail account as an IMAP account (see image at left) meaning that I could add it to my existing mail client (I use Mac Mail) and having done so, drag folders from the mail archive on my desktop machine to equivalent folders in the Gmail account. Having dragged the folder in Mac Mail to the Gmail account, the mail client handles the import of the individual emails up to your Gmail account through the magic of the IMAP mail system. All it took was time and patience.
Being a little pedantic about folder management in email, I had over 600 mail folders and when I dragged them into Gmail the folders (even the nested folders) were converted to labels. This was great as I didn’t need to manually re-create my folder structure, it was effectively done automatically.
Now I couldn’t just do the move in one global move, I had to move groups of folders bit by bit and it took me nearly 5 days of gradually moving folders across in Mac Mail and wait for all those emails to be uploaded (via IMAP) into the Gmail account. What I can say though is I got all 2.5 Gigabytes of email imported with only a few failures and even those completed successfully just by attempting the move a second time (just occasionally your connection to Gmail drops and times out which causes the failure).
Having done this, I can now manage all of my emails on the iPad (and as a benefit also on the iPhone or in a web browser) and can access my full email archive wherever I happen to be on multiple devices. There are other productivity gains as well because searching email in Gmail is very fast and efficient and the time it takes to process and archive email is faster once you get the hang of the Google label system.
The other principle benefit is the spectacularly good spam management system within Gmail, some of which I had to do manually before.
So there you have it…if you are like me and have a legacy email system that binds you to a single desktop, then a solution does exist if you are prepared to go through the pain of importing your mail archive into Gmail via IMAP.
It is as it is.
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