Changing tools, the easy way

We sometimes are wedded to certain business solutions by dint of the daunting task changing them presents. It needn’t be that way. BRENDAN LEWIS

Brendan Lewis

By Brendan Lewis

Last week I advised that I had decided to try out a netbook as a replacement for my dying notebook. And to make things a little more interesting, try it with a Linux-based operating system rather than my usual Microsoft Windows. (Note: The notebook has now died – bugger.)

The rationale is to substantially reduce my costs (say 80%) and force me to be a better collaborator (because I can’t really store that much locally).

So first up is moving over my email since it’s the tool I use the most.

Over the last couple of years I have amassed a couple of gigabytes of email and I want to take it with me. I feel there is nothing wrong with being a hoarder when it comes to data. Storage is meaninglessly cheap.

Previously I have been using trusty old Outlook with a number of different POP3 mailboxes. POP3 is the basic type of mailbox available on the internet. With POP3 you point your email client to your mailbox, enter your password and download your email. No rocket science here and no issues. Unless of course you want to do something a bit more clever.

If you do, then its time to look at IMAP. IMAP keeps your email on the mail server. When you look at your email, you download a local copy (header first, then the rest when you open it).

This is incredibly handy, because it means among other things, you can look at your email from more than one computer. Because of this, I chose to move all my emails over to IMAP email. Luckily, my hosting provider offers the ability to connect to my mailboxes with either POP3 or IMAP.

So changing my email over took five steps.

  1. Checked I had details of all my email accounts; username, password and server name.
  2. With my old notebook, I went into the account settings and deleted my mailboxes (not the old emails, just the connection to the mailboxes).
  3. I then went back to the account settings, and recreated the email accounts, but this time as IMAP mailboxes.
  4. I then checked to make sure the new accounts worked by sending an email to each.
  5. I then transferred (dragged and dropped) all my folders full of emails into the inbox of each relevant IMAP account (this wasn’t quick mind you – I’m talking hours on a fast connection).

Voila, I now have IMAP email accounts which:

  1. Keeps all my messages on the mail server so backups get done by others on a nightly basis.
  2. Ensures my email client doesn’t store a copy of the emails permanently unless I want it to. And thus doesn’t chew up storage space.
  3. Allows me to access my email without synchronisation issues from the three different computers I regularly use.
  4. I can allow my bookkeeper to simultaneously access the IMAP email account that keeps event registration information in it.
  5. Happily connects to the webmail systems I use so I can check my email accounts at an internet cafe if I desire.

The next step was to access my email on the new netbook. Since the netbook was running a Linux distribution, Microsoft Outlook wasn’t an option. Instead I chose Thunderbird (free), which is a familiar looking email package that comes from the same people that make the Firefox web browser. Thunderbird comes in both Windows and Linux flavours and was incredibly easy to setup, however getting on to my netbook was a nightmare, which I will deal with later.

On the netbook, I set up the new email accounts, the eight mailboxes as IMAP accounts.

I can now access all my email, including sent emails, from my netbook, my desktop PC and even my iPhone. Life is sweet.

Next week, a look at the other applications I set up and the rationale.




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