Consolidating email accounts

email-48 My recent computer meltdown had really highlighted few areas I need to get in order. Email turned out to be huge glaring hole in my setup that completely crashed from simply losing access to main Opera installation.

And so I started to tweak.

My problems with email

I was far from email fan for years. Still not there. For me it is necessary evil (at best). Not in the productivity sense but I consider huge issues of email being:

  • unreliable (messages just poof at times);
  • non-realtime (IM way better for conversation);
  • too damn important with numerous accounts and password retrieval options getting tied for what is essentially third party service that may crash some day.
mailboxes

Photo by SC Fiasco

My accounts and their problems

Over years I ended up with three email accounts (there were more cut off long time ago). Separately they were bearable with different shortcoming for each, together they became one troublesome mess:

  • oldest personal account from local free email service – POP3 only, no relaying (can only send with its address), terrible web interface, problems with mobile access on N810, emails constantly starting with remarks how other party had figured which country I am from;
  • Gmail account – ugly name (one of the very few where Rarst was taken), was not going to use this and ended up with bunch of Google services tied to login I don’t like;
  • domain accounts – as much as I want with any name on them, POP3 only, terrible web interface (way more terrible than mentioned above).

Mess, isn’t it?

What I was looking for

  • single email address, I have full control over (using my domain) for all communications;
  • better backend, capable of consolidating multiply accounts under that single address;
  • fast and flexible frontend with IMAP access and whatever else needed to get mail on the go as well as at home.

Resulting setup

I had chosen Gmail to handle backend and frontend with single umbrella domain address (contact@rarst.net).

  1. Set up and verified Gmail to use domain address for all outgoing mail.
  2. Set up main and extra (admin, wordpress) domain addresses and personal account to redirect everything to Gmail.
  3. Cleared out all POP3 accounts form Opera M2 and made IMAP connection to Gmail instead.

Now all mail flows to one place and whatever address it came to I always reply with umbrella address.

Uncomfortable issues

  • the way Opera M2 works with IMAP is quite different, needed some folders disabled and I am confused all the time between Gmail spam filter and Opera internal filter;
  • it will take me a lot of time to get used to Gmail web interface, I am bordering hateful about web apps;
  • I am used to deleting email I no longer need, Gmail’s desire to save everything forever is slightly annoying;
  • I considered going for Google Apps to get rid of extra redirect but saw tweet from @BenBarden that it causes logging out issues with main Google account and something else.

Nifty extras

  • IMAP is wicked fast, more secure and pleasure to work with;
  • I had automated daily database backups from this blog so they are stashed under separate tag in Gmail and don’t require manual action from me every time;
  • Gmail provides RSS feed for unread email which makes extremely interesting and low-traffic unread indicator;
  • turns out all Google Talk chats are automatically cached in Gmail. Not sure I really need this but might be useful at times.

Overall

Problem with email and free email services that at first you don’t plan your usage and suddenly it’ is years later and you have mess of issues to deal with. I do not care how many of those gigabytes of storage Gmail offers but it does offer most excellent technical features while allowing to use third party address.

What kind of accounts and services you use for your email?

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9 Comments

  • Hi, its me again :)
    I am using around 15 email addresses and can’t live without them :) Actually I can live without about 13 of them, but still…
    I was also considering the same step, an unified e-mail account, the one to rule them all. It would surely be a personal domain account via google apps (which I love by the way and it works ok with primary gmail acc, no logout issues), but the problem is, some of my 15 email accounts have no option to forward mail. Also, gmail offers “only” a 7 (I believe) gigs inbox, which would fill after the import. So this means deleting old email with attachments, not something I am very fond of… So for now I am just adding accounts to Thunderbird, and checking some via web interface. Oh btw, firefox has a great plugin for working with multiple gmail accounts. In case you ever need “just one more” :)

    (another plus to forwarding email to unified gmail acc is their spam filter)

  • @Klemen

    Always glad to see you around. :)

    >some of my 15 email accounts have no option to forward mail

    Do they have POP3 access? Gmail can be configured to fetch mail via POP from other accounts as alternative to forwarding.

    >gmail offers “only” a 7 (I believe) gigs inbox, which would fill after the import

    Yikes, that some hardcore email usage. %)

    >another plus to forwarding email to unified gmail acc is their spam filter

    I am not too fond of server-side spam filters, Pretty happy with Opera M2 native filter (bayesian). Anyway will have to live with Google one, I configured IMAP so I can keep an eye on spam folder, unlike web-interface that keeps it under wraps.

  • They all have pop3, yes, so that would be the way of doing it… Importing old “already read” server side mail could be an issue here with some, tho.
    Indeed I am a heavy email (ab)user, with currenly around 18k emails in my inbox, and many more in my outbox :) I’ve checked the disk usage and this means around 3,6 gigs (i don’t get any “check this out” forwarded mails, which is always a nice thing), so I suppose with some spring cleaning it would be possible. Who knows, maybe this post will be the inspiration for me to do the migration! Also, imap access to all the mail accounts on my mobile would be cool.
    Bayesian filter is cool, yes, but in my experience gmail’s one is also sweet.

  • @Klemen

    Well, I doubt it will be this smooth with your amount of mail – but I simply dragged my messages from old POP3 mailboxes to new IMAP one and Opera transferred all of them to Gmail. I was not even expecting this to work, just dragged on instinct and Opera did the rest.

  • So I guess this means worst case scenario is – installing Opera? :)

  • @Klemen

    Try dragging stuff around in Thunderbird first. Who knows. :)

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