October 21, 2008

Two Features Every Gmail User Must Utilize

By Mona Nomura of Pixel Bits (FriendFeed/Twitter)

Reading Search Engine Journal Loren Baker's Gmail horror story brought back my Gmail nightmare.

Way back in 2005, I tried logging into Gmail as usual. But Gmail kept redirecting me to this odd error screen with the message: "Sorry... account maintenance underway" and would not let me sign in. (Above image taken from my 2005 Japanese blog.)

After trying (and failing to log in) for two full days, I contacted gmail-maintenance@google.com, and even posted in Google Groups, but did not receive a resolution or even a response. I tried logging in twice a day, everyday, for four months, and finally my persistence paid off. Out of the blue my access had been restored and I haven't had problems since. But to this day, I still have no idea how or why my account was under maintenance -- for four months.
  • Yes, I know GMail is free.
  • Yes, I know GMail is still in beta.
  • Yes, I am aware I should not be complaining... but it's... Google.
Even if it's free and in beta, Google isn't supposed to... break. As embarrassed as I am to admit this, I quickly got over the trauma, and continue to use Gmail. But when Google nightmare stories catch my eye, it brings me back to 2005, and the panic of when I couldn't access my e-mail, compelling me to go out of my way and remind my friends the same thing could happen to them.

Fortunately, Gmail has two great backup features that takes only a few seconds to set-up. My peers were extremely thankful I shared, so hopefully they'll help you too. :)

Two Features Every Gmail user should have enabled:

E-mail forwarding.

I created a backup e-mail account for my main e-mail, and have a copy of everything sent to my inbox to my backup. To set this up:
  1. Create a back up e-mail (ie: mye-mailaddress.backup@gmail.com).
  2. Settings
  3. Forwarding and POP/IMAP -> Forwarding -> Foward a copy of incoming mail to "mye-mailaddress.backup@gmail.com" -- or whatever your backup e-mail address is.
Gmail's "Send mail as:"

Gmail enables adding custom 'From' addresses for free. learn more here.
So in case my main e-mail is disabled for one reason or another, I can always send e-mail as my e-mail address from my backup. For free. Pretty neat.

With the above, I have some peace of mind, though I truly hope I will never ever get locked out of my account again. Bonus: check out techradar.com's "40 Brilliant Gmail hints, hacks, and secrets" it may have some more useful tips.

Have any of the nightmare Gmail stories happened to you? Is Gmail your primary e-mail address? Do you have any preventative tips or tricks I don't know?

Read more by Mona Nomura at Pixel Bits