GMail goes Down
GMail service worldwide went down for a couple of hours late Tuesday (Manila time – 9:30 am GMT), February 24, 2009. Here’s a screenshot of the error page.

Google Server Error

Google Server Error

“If you’ve tried to access your Gmail account today, you are probably aware by now that we’re having some problems. Shortly after … 9:30 a.m. GMT our monitoring systems alerted us that Gmail consumer and businesses accounts worldwide could not get access to their email,” Acacio Cruz, Gmail site reliability manager, wrote in post on the Google blog. – Technewsworld

This is not the first time something went wrong with mighty Google’s services. There was the vanishing emails of December 2006. Last year it went down twice in August  – one lasting for 15 hours.

This is inevitable and may happen again and again. Web services (not only Google’s) may sometimes crash due to some reasons. They could be attacked by hackers. There could be messed up codes. And this only proves that entrusting our valuable data (especially emails) to these services (called the “Cloud”) makes those data vulnerable to unavailability, damage, or even loss. This gives us doubts if cloud computing is reliable. But why use those web services in the first place? Why don’t companies provide their own mail servers, collaboration suites, ftp servers, etc? Having your in-house servers doesn’t exempt your company from the problems being faced by these web services. It’s also expensive, may have limited functions, and would depend on your existing resources (bandwidth, power/electricity). And these (plus much more) are the reasons why some companies embrace Cloud Computing.

A Solution for eMails
One of the main features of these web services is email. Google, for example, has bundled GMail for their Google Apps Suite. Having over 7+(and counting) Gig of email space for every person would definitely lure companies to embrace the said suite. And a lot of those have been using GMail as their work/company email. But since now we know that GMail sometimes fail and doubts on consistency of cloud computing arise, should we really continue our grip to it? How can we prevent data corruption if we don’t have control over the servers and machines handling our data?

Enter GMail Backup. The users (us) of these web services have a capability to do something to make sure their data are safe. With the use of GMail Backup, we can create a backup of our mails from GMail, save it locally on our hard drives, and restore them if they get lost. And here’s how you do it on Windows-based machines:

(Note: If your company is under a proxy server, it is recommended to do this at home because the current version of GMail Backup doesn’t work if it’s behind a proxy.)
1. Download GMail Backup from their website.
2. Install the pogram.
3. Enable IMAP on your GMail. On your GMail page, click “Settings” and select the “Forwarding and POP/IMAP” tab. On the “IMAP Access” section, tick the “Enable IMAP” option and click Save Changes.
4. Clear out your Trash, Sent Items, Drafts, and Spam folders. Remove all unnecessary emails from your inbox also. If you have mails with attachments of more than 2MB, much better if you just download the attachments and delete the mail. It’s just a tip to make sure only important things from the inbox are backed up and to cut the time short when doing the task.
5. Create a backup folder on your hard drive.
6. Fire up GMail Backup. Type in the needed info like your GMail login (complete email address) and password. Click the Directory button and locate your backup folder. Initially, the first time you create a backup you have to specify the “Since” and “Before” dates. The next time you make a backup you can just check the “Newest emails only” option.
7. Click Backup.
8. Close the application after the backup process completes successfully.

*You don’t have to delete your emails after a successful backup.

If you’re going to check the contents of your backup folder, you’ll see folders named by year. You may open the contents of the folders using your installed mail client like Outlook Express. If your backed up email has a PDF, DOC, JPG, etc. attachment, you can open the file by double clicking their filenames on the “Attach” field.

To restore your emails to GMail:
1. Run GMail Backup and enter the info needed. Specify the dates if needed. Make sure if you have the right path to the directory where your backed up mails are stored.
2. Click Restore.

You might be prompted for a network error, but as long as you see the “Processed” field incrementing just let the program finish the task. The process of restoring might take time depending on your connection speed and the size of the files being restored.

I don’t promote Google, but since it’s Apps, especially GMail, is being embraced by a lot of companies and users it’s better to know what we can do and what technologies are available to save or protect our data.

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