Offline Strategy – GMail Edition


Courtesy of Flickr User Netwalker

Courtesy of Flickr User Netwalkerz

As many of you know, earlier this week, Google’s popular web-based email service GMail went down to most users for the better part of a day. While some of us used this as an excuse to unplug and enjoy family or the outdoors, others had important business to attend to and were left high and dry. This incident shines a light on a legitimate concern of leaving important services like email entirely in the cloud, but there were steps users could have taken to be prepared for such an event.

The first possibility is to use Google Labs offline GMail which relies on Google Gears. If you haven’t installed Gears, I highly recommend it. It will not only give you access to GMail and Google Calendar while offline (and when Google services go down) but also to a host of other websites. The thing about GMail offline though is it needs to be enabled through the web interface which was down during the outage, so unless you enabled it previously, you were out of luck.

Gmail OutageThe second and more versatile option is to connect to GMail through POP or IMAP using a desktop email client such as Apple’s Mail application.  I recommend using IMAP due to the inherent two-way communication with Google’s servers which provides a consistent user experience across multiple devices.  This is especially useful if you access your email on multiple computers, use the GMail web interface or access GMail on an iPhone or other mobile device.  Like offline GMail, IMAP also has to be enabled via the web interface and I recommend doing that right now.  An additional upside to using POP or IMAP is, during this past outage you were able to continue sending and receiving email unlike with the offline GMail option described above.

It’s probably worth enabling both of the options described in this post as this will provide the greatest amount of flexibility during the next outage.  If you have any suggestions on accessing web services during offline or outage time, please leave your suggestions in the comments.  Also, stop wasting time and be sure to enable these services right now so that you’ll be prepared for next time.

  1. #1 by admin on September 13, 2009 - 10:53 pm

    Lifehacker.com just posted an article covering this same material that includes a few additional possibilities for accessing GMail when the service is down. Take a look… http://lifehacker.com/5354314/how-to-access-gmail-when-its-down

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