I've spent the past two weeks enjoying email again thanks to Google Mail. In fact, I am doing something that I have wished I could do for years, but did not want to go through the trouble of setting up an IMAP server and multiple mail clients. I can now leave several computers around my house and office essentailly "logged into" GMail. My OS-X Mac's, Windows 2000 and XP machines all get constantly refreshed with the latest mail coming to my self-hosted mail server at davemathews.com online.
Sure IMAP would allow this and work well with my SideKick smartphone as well, but I have not had the patience to set up a new server on my FreeBSD box nor have I wanted to setup multiple clients on the several computers that I use daily. The spam problem I am having would not be solved by IMAP either.
Because spammers are "name blasting" to randomly created addresses at my domain, I had been using an anti-spam identification client to pop into my mailbox before Outlook Express, in order to quickly delete the messages before the mail client would retrieve them. With thousands of messages in the box per day it was a tedious process to "police" what was identified as potential spam and manually identify the ones that were not chosen as such. Even after shutting down numerous spammed accounts, this process was such a pain in my day that I would frequently avoid email. The main reason for this was that I was using a single computer for the anti-spam chores.
GMail has some shortcomings, like not being able to sort messages on name or subject, but I really like the way it threads messages - even by multiple parties and the reply process to messages is smartly done as well. Searching messages takes much less time than on my laptop with 10,000 messages stored in multiple folders and my outgoing messages can seem to come from my personal domain instead of gmail.com - Google's domain. This means that if they discontinue the service or drop features I will not have to update my friends address books.
I am currently using 25MB of my 1000MB allowance, just over 2%. With an upcoming trip to Asia and limitless cybercafe's I am glad GMail supports an SSL login and feel this will be a secure enough solution compared to using WiFi and popping into a machine that I do not have VPN software running on. When I see any connected computer my email is always available. I am keeping a backup copy on my server however. I have not lost anything with GMail, but there is that chance since it is in beta.
Now if I could only change the standard "web click" sound notifying me of a new message to a tone that suits my fancy. The system is in beta now, so it is not available for public consumption yet. Keep checking at www.gmail.com and if you want to plead for a beta account you must check out www.gmailswap.com which is a site to let the haves mingle and barter with the have-nots.