MailStore Home – For Long-Term Email Archival.

You want to save your emails forever – but for whatever reason, keeping them “online” is not an option. This used to be much more of a dilemma before Google brought Gmail on the scene and started offering gobs of free space and forcing most other major email providers to do the same. Still, there are a few reasons you might want to keep emails forever in an “offline” manner:

  • Backups – You want to ensure that if Google shuts its doors, you don’t lose the last ten years worth of emails.
  • Space – You are an email fiend and manage to consume the vast amounts of free space given you by your email provider.
  • Corporate Restrictions – You are part of a corporation that places limits on your mailbox size – and you’ve reached the limit.
  • Archival – You want to keep the emails, but don’t really want them showing up in your searches through your mailbox.

The last reason is why I use MailStore Home these days. See, I like to keep all my emails for historical purposes – but I don’t necessarily keep them because I’m going to reference them. When I search my Gmail I don’t need to see these emails in the results – they are historical…but I still want to be able to access them just in case someday I need one. So, I use MailStore Home.

MailStore Home is a nifty and free product available for non-commercial use (e.g. don’t use as an employee of a corporation). It has been around for years and I’ve used it on and off-again for years. It creates a local store of your emails which is searchable and browsable through a friendly and intuitive UI.

There are a few weaknesses to the program:

  • Backups – It doesn’t automatically perform some sort of cloud syncing backup, though it does offer the option to backup to Hard Disk Drive or USB. I use SugarSync, so this isn’t really a problem – since SugarSync takes care of the cloud backup for me.
  • Automation – You have to run MailStore Home manually – it won’t just automatically pull down all the latest emails from your email account. Bahh humbug. It isn’t a major pain, but something worth nothing.

Granted, there is a reason this is called MailStoreĀ Home – namely because it is their lite product for non-commercial use. They do offer a for-pay server product which looks pretty amazing as well and probably addresses some of these problems.

Ohh, and did I mention they have a non-profit discount on their server product?

SugarSync – What is Missing?

I love being a fan of great products – and supporting those products with my finances. I’ve been a long-time fan and premium subscriber to SugarSync, a cloud-based backup, syncing, and web drive product. I like raving about them, and getting into arguments with folks like Steve Weir about whether Dropbox is better (nope!).

That said, I’m also a fan of making a little noise when companies don’t always treat their customers with the utmost respect they deserve. Successful business involves a symbiotic relationship between the business and the consumer, neither side can demand too much nor give too little. SugarSync has a great product, but I’m concerned that they aren’t committing enough resources to shoring up some weak spots in their current offerings, instead focusing more on new client acquisitions and business partnerships (which, again, are all well and good, but there has to be a balance).

So, here are my *beefs* with SugarSync and what I’d *really* like to see implemented in the near-term future.

The Critical Missing Components.

Image representing SugarSync as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

Currently SugarSync doesn’t utilize Microsoft‘s Volume Shadow Service (VSS) and I can’t for the life of me understand why – it is built directly into Windows and is utilized by most backup software providers. Why? Because it offers numerous huge advantages with easy implementation. Including the ability to backup files while they are in-use. This means you don’t have to close out of Outlook, an accounting application, or anything else that is actively using a file before it can be backed up.

The other big no-no SugarSync engages in (that I can think of no practical reason to exist, and which should be a very simple config file change to implement) is finite versioning of files. SugarSync currently keeps a limited number of previous versions of a file – which becomes an issue if it is a transactional file (e.g. a database – including Microsoft Outlook or any email client, rss reader, etc.). These files change all the time – in a single day they may change hundreds or thousands of times! SugarSync needs to keep these versions for as long as the user desires them to be kept – not arbitrarily deleting them!

This is Important…

  • Ability to Pause/Resume Backups/Syncs – While everything in an ideal world would place nice with one another, the fact of the matter is that software oftentimes interfere with each other. It’d be great to have a way to pause backups/syncs by SugarSync. Again, I don’t run into any problems with this regularly – but it would still be a nice feature.

It’d Be Cool If…

I’m not particularly concerned about these features, but it would be cool if…

  • SugarSync integrated with Google Docs, backing up all Google Docs into SugarSync and vice versa (or a subset as so desired). This would also allow mobile editing of documents (of many types) via Google Docs without needing to download the documents from SugarSync (as one must do now before editing).
  • Backing Up Gmail is another useful feature. I’m not as concerned about this as the integration with Google Docs, but still, a nice freebie.

SugarSync – Backups, Archiving, File Syncing and Sharing Galore!

Image representing SugarSync as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

[I no longer recommend SugarSync]

On Sept. 26th I wrote a provocatively titled post entitled, “SugarSync – A Love/Hate Relationship.” I’m happy to report that SugarSync has fully addressed the dilemma in our relationship and I’m now happier than I have ever been paying my $5/mo. to SugarSync.

As a sign of this renewed relationship I figured I should do something nice from my end…You know, that whole give-take concept in a relationship? So here I am, writing a fuller review of SugarSync and without the downer of last time.

Why YOU Must Get SugarSync NOW!

I work in the Technology Services Department at Philadelphia Biblical University. On occasion individuals walk into my office and ask, “Can you help me get my files back? I have all the pictures I ever took in my life on this hard drive…and it isn’t booting.” Yes, there is variation to what is lost and how it is lost – but the point is, I hear quite regularly – at work, at home, everywhere – that people are losing data. Sometimes the data is relatively unimportant – sometimes it is heartbreakingly important. That masters thesis you were 3/4th’s done with? Gone. Those emails from your beloved, now-deceased family member? Obliterated. Those copies of legal documents you need for an upcoming court case? No longer available.

Back in the day it was a hassle to ensure your files were backed up – that is no longer the case. No one has any excuse for not having a backup of their critical files – and SugarSync eliminates this excuse. As a teenager, in spite of knowing better, I twice lost significant numbers of files to a systems crash – applications I had developed, documents I had written, emails I really wanted to save. Back in those days it was a bear to save things. You were using dialup internet and floppy disks were all the rage. Today, those excuses no longer exist – thanks to SugarSync.

Other Options?

There are other options. When it comes to backups the options are multitudinous – for example Mozy and Carbonite. Unfortunately, while I once was a Mozy fanatic (I was with them from the early beta days when Josh(?) sent us very random emails masquerading as newsletters) they refused to make their pricing competitive – continuing to charge for software licenses (almost nobody else does) and exceeding the going rates for data storage (I’d say Amazon S3 defines this) by 2x-3x! Carbonite’s user interface has never particularly impressed me.

Now SugarSync extends far beyond backups – though backups are the must-have feature everyone needs – and there are numerous competitors on this front as well. Probably the best known is Dropbox. At the time I was considering Dropbox you were forced to place all your files in one directory – I’m not sure whether they removed this limitation or not – but this was unacceptable to me, and I generally liked SugarSync’s clients and interoperability better anyways. Now I’m a bit of a SugarSync fan-boy but for good reason. I’m open to alternatives – if you believe you know of a better one let me know – but it will take more than feature parity to make me switch (and I’ll ask SugarSync if they have intentions for the feature first…and it’d have to be a pretty killer feature).

How Much Does it Cost?

For most people it is free. If you just want to ensure your critical files are protected you can use the free 2 GB account SugarSync offers and will likely never need anything more. If you want not only your critical files but your music files, saved games, pictures, and so on – then you’ll need to pay, but still – it is really reasonable. I pay $5/mo. for 30 GB and I utilize around 8 GB. If 30 GB isn’t enough you can get 60 GB for $10/mo. and so on. It is really reasonable[1]

What Else Can it Do?

The absolute, must-have feature is backups. If you don’t use SugarSync for anything else you should utilize it for backups of your files. That said, SugarSync offers a wide variety of sheer awesome features, let me outline a few of my favorites below:

  • Security – Worried about your files being in the cloud? How about knowing they are protected by 128-bit AES encryption and that all communication to/from the servers occurs over a SSL (Secure Socket Layer) connection?
  • Infinity Device Sync – I have a home laptop, a home desktop, a work laptop, a work desktop, a Verizon Droid, and an Apple iPhone 3G…If I want to have my files synced to all of these computers – I can. I can also define specific subsets to go to specific computers. For example, don’t want those work files going home? Exclude them.
  • File Versioning – What happens if you accidentally overwrite an important file? Delete the file? What happens if you need to look five revisions back? SugarSync offers seamless and intuitive file versioning – and any file that is deleted gets dropped into their deleted files bin – waiting to be permanently deleted, so if your little kid deletes a critical file – no worries, SugarSync still has it ready to go.
  • Cross Platform – SugarSync has clients for Windows, Mac OS X, iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Mobile, and Symbian. Pretty nifty aye?
  • Sharing – Want to share files with someone else? With the whole world? No problem! Its easy and intuitive and with the latest revision you can have those files you shared or others shared with you sync to your computers just like any other files you personally own.
  • Archiving – Have files you want to keep around but never use? Put them in the Archive folder and they won’t be kept on your local machines but will be kept on SugarSync’s central servers.

What Would You Still Like to See?

So, I know I said I’d be happy if I saw just this one additional feature – and I am…but I suppose the grass does always look greener on the other side…So, here are a few dream wishes:

  • SugarSync has upgraded their customer support portal and forums, I hope this indicates a new era of responsiveness to consumer feature requests, even if it is only to say, “Hey guys…we really don’t have enough demand for this feature right now” or “Yeah, we are working on it…We’ll keep you updated on how it goes.” Transparency is a huge feature to me.
  • While I was raving about the cross-platform support I noticed SugarSync doesn’t support Linux…wait a second? I swore they did once? Anyways, no matter – point is, SugarSync should support Linux…and, yeah, I mainly say this b/c I’m an open source lover – not b/c its necessarily a sensible business proposition.
  • As soon as I heard about the new sharing feature I opened SugarSync to check for updates…but wait, there is no check for new versions? Boo. šŸ™ Please add one, I don’t want to have to navigate to a website to grab the latest client. Give me an option to force a check for updates. Again, just a small issue.

Conclusion

You better be on your way to get SugarSync right now…or when you complain about losing your files I might just have to…okay, I’ll try to help you anyways, but you should get SugarSync and save yourself a lot of time and headache.

  1. [1]If you have a huge collection of photos you may want to consider sending those over to Google’s Picasa Web Albums as their pricing is ridiculously inexpensive.