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March 13, 2007

Outsourcing My (Digital) Existence

As my last few entries have likely made abundantly clear to all but the most nescient of readers, I am what some people might politely describe as a technophile. (Actually, geek, nerd, asshole, or idiot are significantly more commonplace, but that is hardly the point.) What is likely less obvious based on my sanguine and happy-go-lucky web persona is that I am also about as much of a control freak—in life in general and in technology in particular—as one can be without also possessing a C.P.A. In the past couple years, these two rather dominant characteristics have become increasingly incompatible: my desire to possess the latest and greatest technology stands in stark conflict with my insatiable need to retain control over all my data. Yesterday, this long-standing cold war suddenly became hot over what most will consider a rather mundane commodity: e-mail.

E-mail? Why would this most common of services be the foremost front in an otherwise significant war? Why not, say, web hosting? Or blogging? Or photo hosting? Well, you see, until yesterday, I hosted my own e-mail. Yes. That is right. I am a technophile—or geek, nerd, asshole, or idiot, as the case maybe. The why is not really relevant, but if you must know, it basically boils down to the fact that I am rather reticient to expose my private life to large, publically traded corporations, no matter what their corporate motto1 may promise—that, and hosting your own e-mail in this day and age is pretty bad ass (or moronic, again depending on your perspective).

Though the street cred2 that running my own e-mail server afforded me was always nice, ultimately, there is a reason why even the most hardcore of geeks do not host e-mail: it is simply not worth it. The control one achieves over one's digital existence by running a mail server pales in comparison to the risk associated with losing precious data if one's infrastructure falls apart. I have neither the time nor the means to maintain a 24x7x365 infrastructure while working full time. And with my co-location facility recording two power failures in as many months (why do I pay $99/mo. again?), even if I did have the time and the means, I do not have the desire to wake up at 3 a.m. to bring up a server lest I lose e-mail.

All of life is a compromise, and in choosing to outsource at least this portion of my (digital) existence, I made the correct business decision based on careful analysis. Obviously, the technophile in me is heartbroken; no longer having the need to use Procmail and SpamAssassin is a travesty most of you can relate to, I am sure. But business is business, and ultimately, what I did was for the Good of the Company™.

Considering I already use several Google services, including Google Reader for RSS, Google Calendar for calendaring, and Google Analytics for web statistics, Gmail was the obvious choice. I suppose that since Google already knows what I read, what I am doing, and who comes to my web site, they might as well know who e-mails me too. Plus, I figure, if I do ever choose to pursue my business plan from a few years back, I can always return to hosting my own e-mail.

Converting to Gmail was surprisingly painless. Although I initially checked out the Gmail Loader script by Mark Lyon, I quickly realized the easiest way to import my e-mail archive into Gmail would be through the built-in POP3 functionality. It took less than five minutes to configure SSL POP3 on my mail server and now, Gmail is happily downloading emails at a rate of 200/hour. Within a day or two, the conversion will be complete. It is the end of an era: I have finally become an adult. Cue the single tear.

1 Google, Inc. maintains its corporate motto is Don't be evil.
2 The street where hosting your own e-mail buys you credibility is probably pretty freakin' scary.


One week into using Gmail and I'm a satisfied customer. I still miss Procmail, but c'est la vie.

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