Sunday, September 21, 2003

IMAP Backups

From time to time I hear that IMAP is great because you can rely on whoever’s running the server to do the backups. But as Lee Bennett shows, there’s no substitute for backing up your own data.

My host’s e-mail database rebuilt itself (as it has sometimes done in the past), but this time, it completely reset the contents of my mail space!

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While the server site performing the backups is certainly a perk, I wish to clarify that the primary reason for my IMAP preference is to more easily access mail accounts from a variety of computers--something I repeatedly do. Ergo, the implication is that it is, indeed, still very much my own responsibility to back up.

I generally always keep my IMAP folders cached. I'd recently did some cleaning out and ended up with a fresh Entourage database. I'd retrieved all the headers from my accounts, but hadn't yet cached the mail. *Sigh*

Fortunately, the most important stuff was in my inboxes which actually was all cached.

I run Mac OS X, which has the upside of running just about any Unix program you can find. I keep all my email on an IMAP server, but to address the backup issue, I run an IMAP server on my laptop as well (Courier IMAP). It takes up next to no resources (I'm only one person using it).

I use a unix program called "Mailsync" to keep my local IMAP server synchronized with my ISP's mail server. This gives me the benefits of having all of my email always accessible, but also the ability to use the mail "offline", so to speak. Since it sync's both ways, any changes I make while not connected get replicated to my mail server, and vice versus.

Then, my local copy gets backed up nightly with my normal backup program.

It's a little involved to set up, but it's well worth it IMHO.

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