The Cloud, Day 8: A Different Approach to Email

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30 Days With the Cloud: Day 8

For yesterday’s 30 Days With the Cloud post, I spent time choosing a cloud-based email service, and getting it all set up. In the comments, there were some issues raised about how or why I set things up the way I did, so today I am taking another look at the issue of email in the cloud.

For those who haven’t yet read Day 7, I decided to use Gmail for my webmail service. I don’t necessarily prefer Gmail, but because of other factors that led me to choose Google Docs as my cloud-based productivity suite, Gmail seemed to make the most sense.

However, the way I set up Gmail led some to suggest I was “cheating” on the premise of 30 Days With the Cloud. Basically, I chose Gmail, but set up my established personal email address as a POP account within Gmail, then set up Gmail as a POP account within Microsoft Outlook. The net result is cloud-based email that I can access from the Web if necessary, but that is downloaded and stored locally on my PC by default.

There seemed to be two primary issues that some readers had with this set up. First, my use of Microsoft Outlook to store my “cloud” email locally, and second, my use of POP as opposed to IMAP as the protocol for setting up my email.

There is more than one way to configure and use Gmail.
First, let’s address the POP / IMAP issue. There seem to be some strong opinions about using IMAP over POP. The primary advantage of IMAP is that the information is actually retained on the server. The same thing can be achieved with a POP account by simply checking the box telling the email client to leave a copy of the message on the server.

The other benefit of IMAP, though, is keeping things in sync. Where POP will simply download my messages to my PC, iPhone, iPad, or wherever else I choose, I then have to maintain each device separately when it comes to deleting or archiving emails. With IMAP, the different local repositories are synced up with the server, and subsequently with other devices. So, if I delete an email, or move an email to another folder, those changes should be automatically propagated to my other IMAP clients as well.

There is a problem with using IMAP--at least for me. First, when adding my personal domain email account to Gmail it seems the only option is POP. There is an option in the Accounts and Import settings to “Import mail and contacts,” but it isn’t clear whether that is an IMAP connection that will be ongoing, or just a one-time import of the existing data.

Frankly, I am not sure yet what exactly it will import from my account. It says it could take days to complete the import and that I just need to check back under the Accounts and Import settings to see when it’s done. I’ll have to wait and see how that works out.

As far as using POP to download my Gmail account to Microsoft Outlook, or using Microsoft Outlook at all, I have given it some thought and decided that perhaps some of the comments are correct. It would be nice to have the email data kept in sync across multiple devices, so IMAP has it’s advantages, but I preemptively jumped to using Outlook to download and store my email locally for when (not if) I lose connectivity to the cloud and need access to my email.

But, in the spirit of the 30 Days With the Cloud series, it makes more sense to just use Gmail in the cloud, and cross that bridge when I come to it, so that is what I will do.

To sum up—my personal email account is set up as a POP account in Gmail because I need to continue using my actual established email account and I am not yet sure what “Import mail and contacts” in Gmail is going to do for me. Aside from that, though, I am going to use Gmail from the Web as intended.

Read the Last "30 Days" series: 30 Days With Windows Phone 7

Day 7: Email in the Cloud

Day 9: Hey! Where'd My Cloud Go?

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