Moving From SpamCop To Gmail & Loving POP Download With Archiving

I moved my primary mail account from SpamCop to Gmail earlier this week. I’m a long-time SpamCop user, but Gmail may have won me over purely because of the storage issue combined with spam fighting. Here’s a rundown on why I made the move, plus how the two compare and making use of Gmail as an infinite backup even if you go for POP downloading.

First of all, let me explain that I get a lot of email. I receive on the order of 100 to 200  messages per day that are NOT spam and that I need to respond to, read or deal with in some way. Add to that spam, which can generate 200 to 300 emails per day, and you can see why I’ve never thought it that great to try and read my email through my phone. I’d get swamped.

About three years ago, I needed to go on a trip for two weeks with no internet access. I was absolutely paranoid that I’d never be able to dig out from all the spam. I even asked my readers not to email me.

Fortunately, one did and turned me on to SpamCop. They have a filtered email system that runs only $30 per year. I could redirect all my mail to them, then have the spam filtered out.

Prior to this, I ran my own POP account through my domain. Each day, like many others, I would download all my mail from it — good stuff and spam combined. With SpamCop, I forwarded all my email to SpamCop and downloaded from there. In my mail program, Outlook, I still used my own outgoing mail server and set all the settings so that no one saw my SpamCop address but rather my one. As far as the outside world was concerned, SpamCop did not exist.

It worked great. I can’t remember the amount of spam it caught, but it was in the thousands of pieces when I got back from my trip. I’ve stuck with it ever since. As added protection, I also use MailWasher. Before I download into Outlook, I use MailWasher to do a quick grab of what’s in my inbox on the SpamCop mail server. SpamCop does a good job, but some spam still gets through. MailWasher lets me spot that which does and set up further blocks plus do deletes. If spam manages to get past those two steps, there Outlook’s junk mail filter kicks it. I rarely depend on that.

This week, SpamCop went down for some reason. I couldn’t login and get my mail. I dropped a support note but didn’t hear back soon after that (in fact, I’m still waiting). Nothing was posted on the email system news page. Not wanting to be without my mail for even a short period, I thought I’d check out Gmail’s POP downloading feature.

I’ve had a Gmail account since the day it launched and have 1.7GB of mail in there now, 63 percent of my always increasing quota. What happens is that soon after Gmail launched, I started sending all my mail to both SpamCop and Gmail. Anything at SpamCop got deleted. But I figured I’d see if I could push past the original 1GB limit at Gmail. After about a year, I was just about to when they upped the mail box size.

Over time, I realized Gmail was working as an excellent backup system for my email. I tend to delete sent and received messages in Outlook every two or three months. If I need them, I used to go back to archived versions of Outlook and open them up, a painful process. But by forwarding to both SpamCop and Gmail, I got the advantage of a nice clean inbox along with access to all my inbound mail over time.

At launch, Gmail didn’t have POP downloading. Now it does. So in checking it out, I realized there was no particular need to keep with SpamCop. Despite this week’s hiccup, it’s been a great service that I happily recommend. But Gmail can do what SpamCop does for me and more, all within the same account.

When you go into Gmail, there’s a Settings link that leads to a Forwarding and POP tab. The options here were dead impressive and sold me on it. Sure, you can start doing POP downloads of your email and pull down everything in there. But check out other things you might not realize you can do:

Download only mail from the time you enabled it onward. Why’s that cool? I have over 50,000 items in my inbox at Gmail from over the past nearly two years. I don’t want to download and read again this stuff that I already read via SpamCop. This feature made it easy for me to get going downloading only the new stuff.

Archive downloaded messages. Fantastic! I like a nice clean inbox. However, I don’t want to delete messages out of Gmail. Here’s the perfect solution. Anything I download gets moved out of my inbox and archived. I still have access to it, but my inbox stays nice and tidy. That sold me.

Still, I’ve got one big problem. Those 50,000 items are still messing up my goal of a clean inbox. How do I archive those? You have to move them manually, 100 items at a time. That sucks. And there’s no mass move solution. I checked with Google and they’re considering this, but it’s not out there yet. Fair to say, I’m not going to be clicking 500 times to do it myself.

I’m debating setting up a separate Gmail account to use temporarily as a way around this. But why care about having a nice clean inbox if I POP? Because if I’m on the road, then I like to go into web mail as a quick way to check on anything pressing and reply.

SpamCop offers web mail like this, and it has worked well for me. I also go into it each day to check what the spam filter has caught and clean that out. There’s usually one or two items that I need to whitelist — not bad when it catches 200 to 300 items per day.

As a workaround, I archived a bunch of stuff in my Gmail inbox so that it’s clear from the dates where the old and new begins. I did the same with the spam mail it has caught, so that I could begin scanning more easily only new stuff each day to see if there were any false catches (I’ve got about 11,000 spam items caught so far over the last 30 days; Gmail deletes all spam that’s older than this).

I was confused about where my archived mail went at first. I wanted to put it into a folder, since I’m a folder oriented type of person. Gmail, of course, uses labels. But what was the tag it used for archived mail? I realized the All Mail labels shows you both your archived mail and inbox mail in the same screen.

What about Yahoo Mail? I have access to the new Yahoo Mail beta, which is awesome. My wife is a regular user of it, because it looks and feels like Outlook, which she was used to.

One thing I dislike about Gmail are the threaded conversations, at least by default. I want to see what’s new in my inbox. But the way things are displayed, it’s hard to tell at a glance if something really is new because of the way it combines related mail.

I’ve gotten more used to this, and I often I love it when searching for mail, as opposed to checking on new mail. But I far prefer the more traditional “see the individual message” listed option. Then if I want a conversation view, let me click that for a particular message. But Gmail has no options like this.

So why not send my mail to Yahoo as well or instead of Gmail? Actually, I did. At one point, I forwarded mail to SpamCop, Google and Yahoo and in particular was going to track their spam catching abilities. But I moved on to other things, then my Yahoo account filled up and started sending out “mailbox full” messages that panicked people. It quickly came off my forwarding list.

I’m going to check things out again. Unlike Gmail, however, you have to pay for POP access through Yahoo Mail Plus. That gives you “virtually unlimited storage” of 2GB of mail rather than the standard 1GB.

So, Yahoo falls down on cost and storage compared to Google. But honestly, I can also understand charging for POP. It’s not like I’m going much at Gmail. But then again, I actually am. I’m in there daily checking on spam or doing a late night peak for new messages when the main work computer is off. When I’m traveling, I’ll also be there as well. I won’t be at Yahoo — maybe that POP access really is worth giving for free.

I’ll report back on if Gmail adds that bulk delete tool. Yahoo certainly beats them on this in terms of clearing a spam folder. By pushing empty, I can wipe everything in my spam folder at Yahoo with one click. I can’t tell how easy it is to move hundreds of messages from the inbox to another folder, but I’ll find that out in short order. Once concern already at Yahoo Mail is that in the beta, unlike traditional Yahoo Mail, I see no “select all” or “check all” option. Hope I’m not going to have to scroll through thousands of messages. I’m also going to check just a bit on how they seem to fare on the spam fighting front.

FYI, any company doing your mail should be able to forward it to one or more addresses easily. If not, find another company! I believe that you should always own your own domain and use that rather than an, or whatever address for another service. Forward to them, but maintain your own identity, and you can always migrate elsewhere if need be. My friend Rob’s Tiger Tech hosting service can get you your own domain, mailbox, aliasing etc for $7 per month. There are probably cheaper and maybe easier options, but Rob’s good, plus I can ply him with wine gums for any of my special needs.

By the way, in case you missed it, Jeremy Zawodny had a great piece called 30 Day Gmail and Yahoo! Mail Challenge Results, where he summarized experiences giving up desktop mail and going for web mail exclusively, as a test. Like me, he was already forwarding stuff over to Gmail (his personal email) and to Yahoo (his work mail).

He’s sticking with Gmail for personal mail, though he wishes they’d bring in folders rather than labels (me too). He liked Yahoo Mail but found it needed more changes to be useful in managing the amount of email he gets from work. Using Gmail as My Spam Filter covers him making use of Gmail as a spam filter in the same way I’ve now shifted from SpamCop to Gmail — plus you get a nice screenshot.

Finally, unlike Jeremy, I could never make the jump to web mail. Blame travel. I get through a serious amount of email when I’m on a long flight from the UK to the US. I need my mail portable.