Going all in with Gmail2014-03-18
After mulling over the pros and cons, I have taken the first steps to adopting GMail as my email client.
A little history for context:
When I started my own consulting practice in 1996, focused on helping companies communicate more effectively online, it was important to have my own domain for both email and a web presence. Eighteen years ago, most companies remained unconvinced of the need for a website and not everybody had adopted email. But since I was focused on the online dimensions of communication, it wasn’t optional.
Hosting sites were notoriously unreliable back then, so my friend Mike Vincenty built a server for me that included Apache and other tools for maintaining a website, along with Communigate, an ISP-grade email server package. I initially hosted the site at a small operation near my house, but they eventually folded. I moved my box to a server farm in the heart of San Francisco.
Since then, hosting services evolved from dicey propositions to trustworthy commodities. I moved my website to a service that specializes in the content management system I use. Because I was happy with Communigate, I had my tech guy move to another hosting service. (I confess to having way too many hosting accounts.)
There have always been tradeoffs with maintaining my own mail server. For example, the mail servers some companies maintain reject email sent from a server without reverse DNS set up on it. The policy is designed to reduce spam. To address that, I pay a service to send my email through their gateway; it’s a simple matter of setting up all my outbound email to be sent through the service’s system. I use the same service to check all my inbound mail and quarantine spam.
If you need something like this, by the way, the service is inexpensive—$200 per quarter for both inbound and outbound—and the team at Nuvotera is exceptionally diligent. That diligence, however, is another occasional problem. From time to time, somebody is able to infiltrate my server and send spam through one of the accounts I maintain. That triggers Nuvotera to suspend my outbound mail until I can prove I’ve taken measures to eliminate the spammer and prevent a recurrence. While I’m having my tech guy handle that (at a cost), I’m back to sending email directly, which means some emails to corporate mail servers never get there due to the reverse DNS issue.
Gmail has always been an appealing alternative. I could easily set it up to manage holtz.com email. But my own email account isn’t the only one. My wife maintains her email account there, too, along with a mailing list she uses for a weekly update to an organization where she volunteers her time. Other family members have forwards set up. They find it easier to tell people to email him at first-name at last-name dot-com than the convoluted addresses their ISPs have provided them.
I have encountered only one issue: The process for importing saved messages from my email client (that are no longer on the server) is convoluted and complex. I haven’t gotten around to it yet—I figure I’ll need half a day—so in the meantime, I still have my laptop open and running alongside my desktop.
The advantages so far, though, are huge. Other than the occasional reference to an old email, I no longer need to run my laptop side-by-side with my desktop. (I handled all email on my laptop so it would always be with me.) Now, I just turn to the Gmail site regardless of where I am, and that includes somebody else’s computer. Also, I only need the Gmail app on my phone and tablet. Gmail-delivered messages aren’t rejected for the lack of reverse DNS functionality. And I have been able to quickly and easily apply filters that keep my newsletter subscriptions under one tab and social media notifications in another, leaving my primary inbox for real communication with clients and others. (The promotions tab has also made life easier, making it easier to unsubscribe to stuff I don’t want and check out everything else when I have the time.)
Because I don’t like Outlook, I’ve been using a different client that worked well for me—but it didn’t support Outlook appointments. GMail does, and with a single click, I can put those appointments onto my Google calendar (on which I have relied for several years).
GMail has exceptional spam protection, so I’ll suspend the scrubbing of my inbound email to see if Gmail does as good a job as Nuvotera has been doing. If it does, I’ll save $800 annually.
Have you switched your private-domain email to Gmail? If so, what issues or unexpected benefits have you encountered?