Do you use Gmail or some other web-based program, or are you still accessing email strictly on your computer, cursing Outlook, and praying for the sweet, sweet release that
death a hard drive crash will bring? Do you have a backup of your address book and necessary emails, should that blessed day ever come?
When I give a social media talk, I tell everyone to use Gmail for basic contact management. It has saved my bacon more than once, and I’ve become such a raving fan that I use it as my only email interface. I even forward my work email and other addresses into Gmail, so I have one window, one set of contacts, and the cleanest, least buggy interface I’ve ever had the joys of using. I can send email from any of my addresses, but the interface is all Gmail.
The joys of Gmail
If you’re not using Gmail yet, here are a few reasons why you need to:
- Social network building Any social network you join is going to have a way to import your address book into the network so you can see if your friends are on there. Gmail is the easiest one to bring in. Some networks don’t even import web-mail programs like Hotmail. Others are a little more forgiving and will let you import Apple Mail, Outlook and Outlook Express, and comma-delimited CSV files.
- Offsite storage of your contact list Let’s say that your work computer crashes, and you lose everything. Or you are, um, no longer allowed to. . . access your work computer due to a new arrangement you have with your now-former employer, and you need to let your friends and colleagues in other companies know about your new work situation. Having a copy of your address book in your control will make this a lot easier. You can even sync Gmail with Outlook, so any time you change or add a record, that is reflected in the other. Warning: some solutions will split up multi-email records, and then sync all those brand new records into Gmail. I had that happen twice, after I spent hours cleaning them up.
- Emergency access If you ever need to reach people over the weekend or in the evening, but your computer is at work, you can still do so. This is especially important for people in crisis communication whose organizations are still planted firmly in 1997. If you’re counting on your email server and your email list to be available if you need to do a press release or media alert, you’re totally hosed if that thing ever crashes because of a large-scale disaster. When I was in crisis communication, we had to come up with some plan to work around just that contingency. And if you’re in the middle of an emergency, and you can’t get access to your email server, you need another solution. There are so many workarounds to getting online, as long as you can get there, you can communicate. But if you’re depending on one computer’s data, forget it.
- Enterprise email You can even use Gmail for business. For $50 per user per year, you can get 25 MB of storage per user, plus it syncs with Outlook and Blackberry. (For the record, I can also sync my personal email with my HTC Droid.) You keep your corporate identity and addresses, but you have the security and ease of use of Google’s email, calendar, and Docs.
What about you? Why do you use Gmail (or your favorite web-mail application)? Why should people switch to web-mail from computer mail? Or, why shouldn’t they?