/ 30 June 2007

How to avoid an email meltdown

Losing email can cost you both lost time and opportunity.

That’s because most of us have valuable information stored in our email programs — addresses, contact information and appointments, and some of it can be difficult or impossible to replace.

Backing up your email, therefore, is essential. And in many cases, it makes sense to maintain an email back-up 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 email should a data catastrophe strike, and you don’t want to have to locate and unearth just your email data from a larger system back-up. Doing so is both time-consuming and frustrating.

How you back up your email will depend on what type of email you rely on. There are many types in use today, but we’ll cover the most popular here.


Microsoft Outlook stores email in a file with a ”pst” extension. For a simple data back-up, 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 email 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 makes an inexpensive little utility that fits the bill. Its EZ Backup Outlook program provides a one-click way to back up all of your Outlook email and settings. The program 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 back-up application itself does not even need to be installed.

Rinjasoft has equivalent back-up programs for other popular email programs, including Outlook Express, Eudora, IncrediMail and Windows Mail. The basic versions of these applications — all you need for standard back-up and restore — cost less than $10 (about R70).

AJ Systems offers similar functionality in its OutBack Plus and Express Assist applications.

These applications go beyond just email back-up and restore to include browser favourites and other system settings that most folks want to take with them along with email.


Thanks to its ample storage space and effective spam filtering, Google’s free Gmail has become a favourite email provider around the world.

With web-based email 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 email 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 email with Outlook Express, Outlook or another email program. That way, you can use your standard back-up procedure for your email program 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 email address you use for your non-web-based email program.

You can choose to leave a copy of the forwarded email on the Gmail servers to have access to the email in both places. Gmail also provides you with instructions for setting up standard email programs such as Outlook and Windows Mail so that you can access Gmail directly from your desktop.

AOL Mail

Many people who continue to use AOL do so primarily because they have an AOL email account that they’ve relied on for years. AOL Mail, however, is among the most critical to back up regularly, as AOL retains your old email for a very short period of time before deleting it permanently.

AOL stores all of your email on its servers. Once you read an email 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 email back-ups in a Personal Storage folder once every four weeks.

To create an offline back-up 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 dialogue box, click the Backup Now button.

Make sure you can restore

Backing up your email is one thing. Restoring it can be quite another. Regardless of the back-up solution you choose, run a test to determine whether you can restore your email in the event of an emergency. Preferably you should try this on a new machine; otherwise you run the risk of overwriting your current email with an old copy or duplicating messages.

Nevertheless, if you rely on your email in your day-to-day business operations, the trouble you take to ensure that your back-up and restoration procedures are bullet-proof will be well rewarded once a data meltdown occurs. — Sapa-dpa