In the beginning there was email. And email was run on a Unix server. The network was devoid of PCs. So all email was accessed via a terminal and a command line interface.

So, by some current definitions, email began as a "cloud" application. Then came the PC. And along with the PC, came local storage. And, since network-based storage was expensive and local storage was inexpensive, thus began a logical move to downloading email from the network and storing it on local devices/media.

Now, many of us use our email archives as a primary record-keeping mechanism, and our historical email files are perhaps our most precious resource.

But what happens if the email files are not backed up regularly? Whether your primary email is a part of a corporate network or simply your personal copy, odds are likely that you have your email set to delete the messages from the server as soon as they are downloaded to the PC. And even a copy of the emails may still exist somewhere in the bowels of the IT department, recovering these emails is a major issue.

This issue hit really close to home this week when one of our associates had a crashed hard drive on an almost-new notebook. And, of course, all of the email archives were on that disk - with no recent backup.

At this point, we could start yet another rant about how we all need to have current backups, and how corporate networking departments need to somehow enforce a policy of regular backups for all materials on the users' notebooks. But that would simply be "preaching to the choir."

Instead, we would like to offer a different solution.

Had our associate been using a network-based service, such as Gmail, then all of the email would be "safe". In fact, this is exactly how our associate is now rebuilding everything. This has the advantage of potentially recovering not only the correspondence itself, but also the vast majority of important files. After all, virtually every file of any import is sent and/or received via email.

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