Is Gmail suitable for use as your main email box?

Now that Gmail offers proper IMAP access for free, I think that there are few reasons not to use Gmail for all my non-work email now.

Gmail’s 7GB (and growing) amount of space allows it to be a ‘store everything’ type of mail box, as opposed to a ‘store what I haven’t downloaded yet’ (as in POP) or ‘store the last x days’ worth’ (as in an IMAP box that’s only small).

My web hosting provider allows POP or IMAP access, but it’s restricted to only 100MB, so it’s not really usable as a ‘store everything’ box, not to mention that I might change hosting providers some day.  I really love my host, but the possibility exists that I’ll outgrow them or need some new whiz-bang feature one day.

My current email strategy is:

  • Download all mail to my home computer, but have it left on the server for 7 days.
  • I can still access at least the last 7 days’ worth of mail when I’m away from home.
  • My Gmail account fetches mail from my mailbox via POP every x minutes, so I have another copy of everything on Gmail.

That third point was to be a temporary measure, but I find it just too convenient to be able to search all my mail on Gmail while I am away from home.  I might as well forward everything to Gmail.

More points about Gmail:

  • Gmail doesn’t force you to use your ‘’ address as your ‘from’ address.  You can use an address with your domain name in it as a default.  Therefore Gmail does not suffer from the type of ‘lock-in’ – if you move to a new provider, you can keep your email address.
  • Gmail’s web interface is better than any web interface I have seen an ISP or a web hosting provider provide.  It even rivals desktop based email clients.
  • Keeping a copy of everything on Google’s server acts as a really easy, free, form of off-site backup.  My current off-site backup strategy consists of burning a DVD of my Thunderbird mail box folder every other month if I remember it, and tucking the DVD into a drawer at work.

The only hesitation I have, but one which I feel is pretty important, is that entrusting all of my email to Google would vastly increase the amount of damage done should an attacker – or a Google employee (unlikely) – gain access to my account.  Rather than just 7 days’ worth of emails being available, as with another provider, Google would store an entire history of possibly personal and confidential mail.  This includes such secrets as password reminder emails for online services.  I’d feel better about it if I could encrypt Gmail’s entire contents with my own key, that Google themselves didn’t have access to, and nor did anyone who had gained access to the account.  Of course, it’s not really possible with the way Gmail works.

So, is using Gmail worth it as a ‘store everything’ mail box for personal email?

One Reply to “Is Gmail suitable for use as your main email box?”

  1. I use Gmail for EVERYTHING. It is the defining record of my life. As far as I’m concerned, events before 2004 didn’t actually occur because there’s no record of them in Gmail.

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