Saturday, October 16, 2010

We are experiending technical difficulties

After a sufficient amount of blessings, I suppose it's only natural that a little malediction should befall me.

My family and I are devoted Apple users. The missus and I use iMac computers, I have a MacBook Pro for traveling, and the kids have their own iMac to share. As such, we use the MobileMe service that Apple offers, which gives everyone their own email account, online backup capabilities, not to mention automatically synchronizing our calendars, contacts, etc.

At $150 a year for the Family Pack (although it's readily available for much less), MobileMe is money well spent; not just for convenience, but also because it provides handy backup and security tools. For instance, we can locate our iPhones anytime with MobileMe's Find My iPhone feature. Last month, when her iPhone went missing, my wife was able to track its GPS signal to a booth at the Thai restaurant where we had lunch. How cool is that?

But like most technology, it isn't perfect. This is a lesson I learned today when, attempting to access an archived email folder, I discovered the entire folder was empty.

Now, I keep meticulous records and archives of keep-worthy emails going back at least a dozen years. Because of this, my email archives are all obsessively organized into folders and sub-folders. I mention this to point out that it was highly unusual for just one folder to be devoid of any messages, and also to illustrate that its content is, not unimportant, but quite literally over a decade of records.

The particular folder in question just happened to be my archive of every online shopping receipt I've ever received. And since I do a lot of e-commerce, that's thousands of emails lost.

I know what you're thinking: But Martin, didn't you make a backup?

In the days when I used a standard email account, yes, I did regular backups of email. And all of our computers have a regularly scheduled backup for files on the hard drive. But since switching to MobileMe in August--which, like Gmail or Hotmail, is an online email service and thus acts as its own backup--there was, quite literally nothing to back up. It's all "in the cloud" as it were. Heck, MobileMe's logo is... a cloud! It should be safe up there, right?

Looks like I'm not the only one
whose mailbox is empty.

After opening a trouble ticket with Apple in the hopes they can retrieve my missing messages (at $149/year, hopefully they have a backup), I have looked into viable options for backing up web-based email. There aren't many, and most of them are messy and don't preserve folders or labels.

So my search continues. I don't believe I am the only person to ever have this particular problem. If any of you, dear readers, are technically proficient with stuff like this, I would value your advice.

It's important for me to note that I haven't lost faith in MobileMe, or Apple. The responsibility for safeguarding my email is, ultimately, mine, and I do not treat ignorance as an excuse here. Had I known it was possible for online email to go missing, I would have certainly put some safeguards in place. Now I know better, and will be acting on that knowledge.


  1. I feel for you! I'm currently looking for the thumb drive that I keep all the backups of my manuscripts on. No one's fault but my own that it's not where it should be, but you can bet I visit Dropbox more often too. *sigh*

  2. Oh, bummer!

    I'm not one who minds losing my files, in general -- I'm kind of a hippychick with not much attachment to such things -- but it sure can be inconvenient, especially if it's stuff you actually spend time and effort to keep safe.

  3. Thanks for the kind words.

    I actually did find a company that provides backup services for online email accounts. At only $1.50 a month, it might be a worthwhile investment. But ideally, because I already back up my own computer regularly, I'd prefer it if I could find a way to download those messages to my machine, instead of a 3rd party.

  4. Just heard from Apple, finally! They are in the process of restoring my missing emails. I hope IMAP isn't always this stressful. I think I'll archive my messages on both MobileMe and Gmail moving forward.