On a BlackBerry that connects to a BlackBerry Enterprise Server and Exchange Server, your email is the same everywhere. For example, when you send a message on your BlackBerry, that message also appears in your Sent Mail in Outlook and vice versa. The same goes for any folders you create.
If your law firm doesn't use BlackBerry Enterprise Server, you can still have nearly the same experience using IMAP, an email protocol available on most email servers and from many ISPs (we use Webmail.us, an ISP that specializes in email).
Because IMAP is server-based, your email is identical everywhere you check it — work computer, home computer, laptop, smartphone, other computers, etc. The only major difference between IMAP and BlackBerry Enterprise Server is that you'll still have to manually check your email or set up your email program to check it periodically rather than have it pushed to you like a phone call.
WHY YOU SHOULD PART WITH POP ...
If you don't have an Exchange Server and don't currently use IMAP, chances are you use POP, the most common email protocol among consumers and small businesses.
Unlike IMAP, POP stores email on your hard drive and then deletes it from the server. POP has its advantages. Because the email resides locally, you can access it faster. But the day you no longer check your email on a single device is the day you should part with POP and switch to IMAP.
You can set up a POP account to keep incoming messages on the server so you can receive them from multiple devices, but this trick does nothing for your sent mail, which will become scattered across your devices. And no, bcc-ing yourself is not a solution. It's an abomination.
You could also forego dedicated email programs like Outlook and check your POP account using Webmail. While Webmail clients have come a long way on computers, they don't work well on smartphones. Even Gmail on iPhone via Safari — probably the best mobile Webmail experience currently available — doesn't hold a candle to the native email applications on BlackBerrys, Treos, and iPhone itself.
Don't bother with these kludges. Switch to IMAP.
MAKING THE SWITCH TO IMAP ...
To switch from POP to IMAP, simply set up your IMAP accounts, create folders in those accounts that mirror the folders in your POP accounts, and then copy your POP email to those matching folders.
Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, a few gotchas exist.
1. STORAGE: Remember, all your email will reside on the server! This means your IMAP accounts must have enough storage space to hold all your email now and in the future. For example, our IMAP accounts have a 2 GB capacity plus we can increase that limit anytime nondestructively. My account currently uses about 600 MB of the 2 GB.
2. TIME: If your firm has its own email server, copying your email should not take too long since it will take place on your network. But if you use an ISP and have gigabytes of email to upload, prepare yourself for a time-consuming task.
3. SPEED: Most email programs can keep a local copy of your IMAP email. I recommend taking advantage of this feature. It will speed up access to your existing email because you won't have to download it from the server every time. Instead, you'll only have to download new messages.
4. SECURITY: Whether you use your own email server or an ISP, make sure it supports secure, encrypted access. This way you can use WiFi hotspots on your laptop or smartphone without having to worry about anyone snooping on your email.
THE ARCHIVE OPTION ...
Switching from POP to IMAP provides a good opportunity to reassess the way you organize your email. In addition to changing your folder structure, you may want to consider archiving older email rather than moving it to your IMAP accounts.
Many email archiving solutions exist. I'd like to quickly tell you about a free option (provided you don't need more than 2 GB of storage per account) that we currently use — Google Apps for Your Domain.
You could also use a regular Gmail account, but I recommend using your own domain name so that you can set up accounts like email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, etc.
Just to be clear, you'll need to use a domain name other than your main one because Google inexplicably does not support IMAP, only POP. Thus, Google will not become your primary email provider, just an archive solution.
Also, this archive solution works only if your mail server or ISP supports simultaneous protocols, which means that you can access the same account via POP or IMAP.
Here's what you need to do:
1. Set up an account at your primary domain name — something like email@example.com
2. Set up this account in your email program using IMAP.
3. Upload the email you want to archive to this account. You can set up folders if you want or just dump all your sent mail into Sent and all your received mail into the inbox.
4. Set up a similarly-named Google account — something like firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. In your Google account, under Settings/Accounts, use the "Get Mail From Other Accounts" tool to download all your archived email. Google will access that account using POP so nothing will remain on your server afterwards.
6. If you want, you can have Google tag the email it downloads with a "label" — the equivalent of a folder. Some people don't bother on the theory that once you can take advantage of Google's search technology, such categorization becomes irrelevant. Also, you can only apply one label at a time, which means you must first upload the messages from one folder and then download and label them, and then repeat the process for each additional folder. As a happy medium, you could download all your Sent Mail and then download all your Received Mail, labeling each accordingly. This way, you can separate what you sent from what you received.
7. Once you complete your initial archive, continue to archive messages on a regular schedule that best fits your needs. Once per year works fine for me.
WELCOME TO EMAIL BLISS ...
Though time-consuming, switching from POP to IMAP will do more to help you overcome email overload than any other tactic. The ability to access and respond to email anywhere and have all your messages automatically synchronize will make you wonder how you ever lived without IMAP.
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