Simple Way to Keep Old Emails

Thursday, January 01, 2009

When it comes to keeping documents I tend to err on the side of "when in doubt, keep it", particularly when it comes to email.  It may be overkill, but in such a litigious society, I'd rather have all my bases covered and be able to pull past documents that have something in writing with a timestamp.  This method can eat up space really quickly, in both the offline and online world, so I'm going to share an easy way to keep all email without using up all your email space.

1) Create a new Gmail account. This account will be solely used as an email storage system, so it needs to be separate from any other email accounts you may currently have. 

2) Set up a rule in Outlook, or whichever email client you currently use, that automatically sends a copy of every new email you receive to this new Gmail account.  This ensures that you have the email both in your main inbox that you check daily as well as in the new gmail account.  Setting up the rule in Outlook automates this process so that it happens with each email received without you having to ever think about it.

3) Set up a rule in Outlook to automatically blind copy (bcc) the new Gmail account on each outgoing message you send.  Again, this sends a copy of your email to the Gmail storage account without you having to think about it or worry about forgetting to manually add the bcc each time. 

4) That's it.  You're done. All emails you send and receive are now automatically copied to a second account where you can access them at any time and you can save hard drive space and keep Outlook clutter free once a project is completed.

I recommend Gmail for this method instead of a Yahoo or Hotmail account for several reasons:

*Gmail is free and can be accessed from any computer, anywhere.  Unlike some of the other free email clients, however, it will not delete your emails due to inactivity.  Hotmail, for example, will delete your entire inbox if it has not been accessed in 30 days.  Yahoo has a similar policy.  Since this method is meant to be used as a storage account, chances are you won't need to check it every month, but you need to know those emails will be there when you do.

*Gmail has the Google search capability built into it.  This is probably the biggest benefit as I personally feel that Google's search tool is the best on the market.  If you've deleted an email from Outlook, but need to access it again months after a wedding or event is over, you can log into your gmail account, type an identifying keyword or two into the search bar, and it will pull it up instantly.  No need to sort through all the emails in the account trying to remember the month or date the email was sent and no need to have a complicated filing system.

*Gmail offers two gigs of free space to start with and the space available increases the longer you have the account.  If you use up all of the free space, and chances are you won't, you can either purchase more or open another Gmail account. 

While I do still recommend having a backup system such as Mozy or Carbonite in place, this method is a free and simple way to access past information quickly without it overwhelming your life or workflow.

Do you keep old emails?  Why or why not?

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