Do as I say, not as I do.
Despite consistent warnings to friends, family, and clients alike, I failed to follow my own advice to regularly back up your data and paid the price when my hard drive failed recently. Recovering from a hard drive failure and data loss is a lengthy and painful process, but the good news is that I managed to recover with most of my data apparently in tact.
I now have two external hard drives to which I will regularly back up my data.
Replacing Microsoft Outlook
Disasters often present new opportunities. I have been thinking for some time that I’d like to find an alternative to Microsoft Outlook for my email and calendar software. I’ve always got my email program running and Outlook just seems to be slower and takes up too much of my computer’s resources.
Perhaps more importantly, though, is that I want synchronized mobile access to my email and my calendar. This hard drive crash gave me the perfect opportunity to investigate my options.
Thunderbird Email Software
I seriously considered just configuring Gmail with my domain name because I figured it would be much less likely that Google would lose my data than another of my hard drives failing. The only problems with that is that, because I have multiple email addresses and Gmail accounts, I’d have to constantly remember to log in and check each account.
And I wasn’t comfortable even with a one percent chance that Google would lose my emails. I wanted a failsafe solution where I could backup my Gmail.
A search provided me with blog post explaining how I could configure Gmail for my POP mail accounts and use Thunderbird to download from those Gmail accounts. The configuration would leave a copy of the emails in my Gmail accounts yet I could still use Thunderbird as my single email client. My emails could be downloaded to my computer but if my hard drive failed, I would have backups automatically in my Gmail accounts.
I’ve become a much bigger fan of open source software recently so I looked into the Mozilla Thunderbird email companion to the Firefox open source browser. Thunderbird looked as if had everything I needed in an email client but there was still one sticking point: A Calendar.
Lightning Calendar Plugin With Google Calendar
I thought about using Google Calendar or another online service but that, too, would require logging in every time I wanted to use it.
A little research unearthed a blog post explaining how to configure the Lightning calendar plugin for Thunderbird with Google Calendar to provide real-time syncing. The plugin is supposed to work with Microsoft Exchange calendar events, as well.
It looks beautifully and seamlessly all through the magic of XML. Create an event in Thunderbird, and it appears in your online Google Calendar and vice versa. Best of all, Google recently launched a mobile version of Calendar that works perfectly on tiny telephone screens.
Multiple Email Accounts & Mobile Access
A very nice aspect of Thunderbird is that you can configure it for use with multiple email accounts and each account can have it’s own inbox.
Finally, everything is mobile. If I’m away from my desk and need to send an email, I can do it with someone else’s computer or even my phone. If I need to look up an email I’ve already received, I can access it through Gmail’s interface. And I’ve got access to my calendar wherever I go.
I’ve completely switched over now, so if there are any problems or glitches, I’ll be sure to let you know.