The planets aligned and I lost three years of emails. I had backups and, as a last resort, surely my host did too, right? Nope.
It’s too late for my emails. Maybe it’s not too late for yours. Here’s what happened and how you can keep your emails safe.
It started simple enough. I had some domains on 1 & 1 Internet, a web hosting company base out of Germany, and wanted to move a block of domains to another registrar. I’d been with 1&1 a long time and never thought much about support. Most of what I do isn’t exactly life or death.
How I Lost Three Years of Emails
Moving Domains to Another Registrar. Without even thinking about it, I moved a bunch of domains to another registrar including one with an active email account.
What is a Domain? In case you don’t understand how this whole domain thing works, it’s pretty easy. Your webpage and email is located on a computer server that’s connected to the Internet. When you type in the domain name, it goes to the registrar’s computer and it tells your browser or email where your particular computer is and to get files from there. It’s a pointer.
So, I’m moving this domain name pointer and not thinking much of it. Then, I fire up Outlook and poof… all my emails are gone. Oh, that’s right, the domain name is also how emails find what server to send mails too. Wow, good thing I backed up my partitions with all those emails.
No Domain? Local IMAP Emails Deleted. I have my emails setup in an IMAP protocol. What this means is that I can access my emails on the server from a bunch of devices (computers, tablets, etc.). I download the emails to each device, delete the junk mail off the server, and everything is awesome because I have a local copy and one safely sitting on the server.
What’s the big deal with the domain name on email? The domain name is also how emails find what server to send mails too.
So after changing registrars, when you open up your local email program using IMAP, it can’t find your emails because your domain isn’t pointing to the server anymore. Then Outlook, running locally on your computer, DELETES all the old emails by default. Oh, you didn’t know that you were supposed to set up a NEW ACCOUNT beforehand to prevent this?
Backup Doesn’t Backup Everything. I use the free AOMEI Backupper. I never had to use it and pretty much depended on all the positive reviews. My email program, Outlook 2013, stores mail in a big file with an .ost extension. Backupper has a neat function where you can mount a backup as a drive. I searched for the .ost files. There weren’t any. Why?
Microsoft Explicitly Tells AOMEI Backupper Not to Save Your .OST Emails.
It’s hidden in the registry. You didn’t know this?
Worst Web Host Provider Ever. My failsafe was 1&1 Internet, the folks who hosted my website and email on their servers. The provided support by… telephone? So, I call and after pressing a number of buttons and entering my super secret support code, I go immediately to the elevator music. After 20 minutes go by, I hang up. I try again later. It’s the same. I try again in the evening and eventually get support. The woman on the other end says that… they deleted my email and there are NO BACKUPS.
Safely Backing Up Emails
1. Use a Reliable Web Host that Offers Real Support.
If you’re using a web host provider like 1 & 1 Internet, sooner or later you will be sorry. Even if they’re cheap, there is no excuse for poor service and not even a minimal backup.
2. Don’t Trust Your Email Program to Archive Your Mails.
I’m disappointed with Outlook 2013. There’s no guarantee that something similar wouldn’t have happened with Thunderbird or any other email client software, but I’m reasonably sure that the email wouldn’t have been excluded in a partition backup.
I found a free program to store your emails: MailStore Home.
You’ll still need to backup the database the program creates, but you won’t get any hidden registry do-not-backup surprises.