From E-Mail "Hell" to E-Mail "Heaven"

The most questions we get deal with e-mail: how to set it up, how to avoid junk mail, and how to coordinate multiple e-mail accounts and multiple e-mail access points. Hopefully the information below will assist you through the e-mail jungle.

Dealing with multiple e-mail addresses OR multiple devices that access your e-mail OR multiple locations:

If you have more than one e-mail address OR access your e-mail from more than one device (a smartphone, a laptop, a desktop) OR access your e-mail from more than one location (home, office), then this article is for you. And probably everyone falls into one of these categories.

This solution will allow you to have a fully synchronized e-mail account, without any duplication, from any location in the World, and from any device.

Step 1: set up an account with an e-mail service provider that allows for IMAP access. IMAP means that the e-mails are on a server (as opposed to your particular device), which allows for the ease of access and synchronization from any device or any location. We recommend either Gmail ( or Apple's MobileMe ( Gmail is by far the best e-mail service, and is free, although MobileMe is great if you are an Apple user and does far more than just e-mail. It does cost $99/year, but is worth it.

While it would be nice to have a "user friendly" e-mail name at either Gmail or MobileMe, IT DOES NOT REALLY MATTER AS YOU DON'T ACTUALLY HAVE TO USE THE E-MAIL ADDRESS FOR THE OUTSIDE WORLD!

What Gmail or MobileMe will do is gather all your e-mails from different addresses, do great junk mail filtering, other sorting and filtering if you need it, and consolidate your e-mail on one server that you can access from any device from any location. You can reply to the e-mails from THE ORIGINAL ACCOUNT THAT THEY WERE SENT TO, so if you want, the Gmail or MobileMe account becomes transparent to the outside world.

Step 2: set up your new account with IMAP access. If you are a non-techie, you might need some help doing this, but once it's done, it's done. Both services mentioned provide instructions.

Step 3: forward ALL your other e-mail accounts to your new IMAP account at Gmail or MobileMe (or any other service that works for you). MAKE SURE, THOUGH, THAT YOU CAN SEND OUTGOING E-MAILS FROM YOUR FORWARDED ACCOUNTS!! You can at both Gmail and MobileMe. Set up your IMAP account such that it can send from any of the accounts that you are forwarding to it. Again, this is non-trivial to set up, but both Gmail and MobileMe give decent instructions.

Step 4: You should now be receiving all your e-mails at your new IMAP account, and you can even label them so that you know what the original e-mail address was. So you might have your personal account and your work account both forwarding to your new Gmail or MobileMe account.

Step 5: Finally, set up all your devices for IMAP access to JUST the one Gmail or MobileMe account. Since the e-mails sit on the server, each device has the exact same view of the server. If you happen to read an e-mail from your iPhone and delete it (or file it under another folder), when you then access your e-mail account from your computer, you'll see the exact same view (in other words, if you've already deleted the e-mail or filed it away, it won't have to be dealt with again from your computer).

Step 6: If you need local access on your device (say your main computer), YOU CAN STILL MOVE THE E-MAIL FROM THE SERVER TO THE DEVICE! If you want to file all your e-mails away on your main computer, you can do this even though you have IMAP access. You simply have to drag or move the e-mail from your Inbox to a local folder.

While all of this sounds complex, and it is a bit complex to set up in the first place, once it is done you have an amazingly simply interface where you have only ONE copy of each e-mail, and whatever action you have taken with this e-mail (reply, delete, file) is reflected on ALL your devices (smart phone, laptop, main computer, iPad, etc.) and from ANY location. Both Gmail and MobileMe have excellent web based interfaces, so if you need to access your e-mail while away from any of your multiple devices, the "view" is always the same.

As well, with Gmail, you avoid the problem of sending e-mails from different locations (which often happens), in that all your e-mail is actually sent through the Gmail server.

While every installation is unique, we'd be glad to help you out as best we can.

There are a number of articles on the web on how to do this (and most are written with better detailed instructions than this one). Have a look at:

for specific instructions on Gmail.

Avoiding Junk Mail

The best way to avoid junk mail is to NEVER, EVER publish your e-mail address on a website. Junk mailers can search the entire internet and simply look for a valid e-mail address and grab it. If your e-mail address is already published on a website or a blog, it has been picked up by spammers. You either have to set up a new address or do some sophisticated junk mail filtering (the nice part about the solution above is that both Gmail and MobileMe have excellent junk mail filtering).

If you are going to have an e-mail contact on your website or blog, IT MUST BE hidden behind a form, such as:

and the form itself must have spam prevention such as this form. The e-mail address behind this form is totally hidden to any web crawlers, and cannot be harvested.

This is the ONLY solution.

A Note on E-mail Addresses in General

One thing to ALWAYS avoid is using your ISP (internet service provider) as your e-mail address. Addresses such as,,,, etc. are going to cause your problems down the line. Why?

Because if you switch internet service providers (which you will), you will likely lose your ISP e-mail address. And while you can send out a change of address notification, it is inevitable that you will have used your ISP address somewhere along the line for something important and you will forget to change the address.

Most likely this will be your domain renewal, which you probably renewed for 3 or 5 years, so you'll only hear from them 3-5 years from now when it expires. And you will have moved ISP's, sent out notifications to your friends and business colleagues, but never will have thought of your domain renewal. When your renewal comes due, you'll get an e-mail at your old ISP address, and you'll never receive it! The next thing you'll know, your domain will go dark. You'll wonder why, and once you figure it out, you'll try to retrieve your domain information, which the registrar will ONLY send to the e-mail address on file, which does not exist anymore.

I speak from experience on this (both personally and from a few customers). And if not your domain name, you'll use the ISP address for an important medical or financial source, and will also lose that correspondence.

Simply put, whatever e-mail address you use, do everything possible to make certain that you will have access to that e-mail address for the rest of your life!


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