Most users of web-based email services (gmail, hotmail, yahoo, aol online, for example) assume that as long as they're connected to the internet, they'll have 24/7 access to their accounts. And that their providers are faithfully backing up and keeping their accounts safe.
The recent gmail failure proved otherwise. About 30,000 gmail customers lost their email at the end of February. Not only could they not send and receive messages, but all their archived and saved messages were gone.
Google has backups, but days after the failure many customers still had not had their email restored.
I've seen a lot of options for backing up web-based email – backing it up to Outlook, or Windows Mail; fiddling with IMAP settings in gmail; sync Hotmail to a local mail client, and on and on. Seriously, I barely understand what these directions are trying to say.
However, hidden deeply in one of the articles I was reading was the name of a free program to back up web-based email to your own computer. It's called Mail Store, and it's available at www.mailstore.com. Easy to download and install, simple to follow the directions to back up. I had to let it back up my email to my own computer overnight, there is quite a lot, but it did it and was finished in the morning. Did I mention it's free?
I'm sure that if Google ever loses my gmail, they will get it back for me. But I feel a lot more secure knowing that my email is also backed up by me.