I’ve used Gmail as my primary email provider for several years. In that time, I have had few complaints. It has been reliable and fast, much better than other services that charge service fees.
One criticism of using Gmail is that by keeping all of your email in Gmail, you are putting all of your eggs in a Google basket. If Google were to shut down or delete your Gmail account (either deliberately or by accident) then all of your mail would be lost for good. Although I think it very unlikely that Google will discontinue such a popular service, there are plenty of other ways to lose email. After all, accidents do happen and mistakes can be made, both by Google and you.
If your email is at all important to you, keeping an up-to-date archive only makes sense. Here are four choices I have found for archiving your Gmail:
Backupify is a cloud-based solution to the Gmail archiving problem. Backupify will use their servers to perform a weekly backup of your Gmail account for free, provided your total mail is under 1 GB. They also offer premium services with more storage and nightly backups. In addition to Gmail, Backupify can archive Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and several other popular services.
Some might question the wisdom of using a cloud-based service to backup another, but it is unlikely that both would fail at the same time. Others might be reluctant to give their Gmail credentials to a third-party. Because of its server-based nature, Backupify can be used on any operating system that can access the internet.
MailStore Home is a utility that can download and archive all of the email in your Gmail account. In addition to Gmail, it can also download from Yahoo! Mail and also archive mail from email programs such as Mozilla Thunderbird and Microsoft Outlook. Once your email is archived, MailStore Home can restore emails to your Gmail account, either in full or selectively. MailStore Home has some very impressive search features to make finding a particular archived email quite easy. Mailstore also offers professional email archiving software for businesses.
Unlike the other solutions, Mailstore Home is only available for Windows.
GMVault is another utility that can download all of your Gmail mail and recreate your account in case of a failure. The downloaded mail can be stored in an encrypted format, meaning that the backup could be stored on another cloud service without the normal security worries. GMVault is a command line-based solution that is very powerful and customizable. The downside is that it can be more difficult to install. With a bit of work, GMVault can even be setup to automatically download mail at a regular time that you specify.
GMVault is available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.
Mozilla Thunderbird is a capable email client that can also be used to backup your email.
Just follow Google’s directions for setting up Thunderbird for IMAP with Gmail and make sure to select “Keep messages for this account on this computer” in your Thunderbird account setup. Thunderbird will automatically download a copy of every message in your Gmail account. Downloading the mail can take a while, but you will have a complete copy of your email on your computer when it is done.
Of course, this works best if you plan on using Thunderbird for your email client. Thunderbird integrates quite well with Gmail for general email use, and I prefer it to the Gmail website interface.
Thunderbird is available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.