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What are the pros and cons of Web-based e-mail systems?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / June 22, 2012 9:11 AM PDT

What are the pros and cons of Web-based e-mail systems?

Hi Lee & friends, I really appreciate the advice and opinions that you
share with us in the Topic of the Week. Here's a question on which I'd
appreciate some advice: What are the pros and cons of using a
Web-based e-mail system such as Gmail instead of a system where I use a
mail client such as Outlook and my e-mails are stored on my computer?

I currently use Outlook, but find that the Webmail app provided by my
ISP is very unreliable and slow. So accessing my mail when I'm away
from home is not easy. (I'm not into iPhones, iPads, etc.) Presumably,
using a Web-based system would mean I don't have to worry about
backing up my e-mails any more.

The wisdom of community members on this issue would be very welcome. Thanks.

--Submitted by: Rob B. of Sydney, Australia
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Use Portable Apps
by llucyy / June 22, 2012 11:10 AM PDT

Get a flash drive 2 or 4gig, install Portable Apps. and a portable email client like Thunderbird Portable.
Then wherever you go, just slip the drive into any PCs USB port and you can use your own email, contacts etc.
Also Firefox have a portable and you can have all your Favorites there.
Also your Favorite image viewing software etc etc

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Portable App pitfall
by saprising / June 29, 2012 11:56 AM PDT
In reply to: Use Portable Apps

A serious pitfall with Thunderbird Portable is that it uses the Windows viewer, thus leaving behind traces on the computer used to run the app. I have searched many times for a suitable portable app and have come up short on a full fledged client. Most are some variant of a text only system. Pocomail is a very good one that does not use the Windows viewer. Problem with it is that it has not been updated in quite some time. If you view attachments, they will be left behind in the most recent file list of the base machine. Komomail is similar; however, in sending it is a pain to insert an inline graphic as the paste function has severe limitations. Oh, that someone would come up a totally contained portable email client.

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Why Choose?
by Acaykath / June 22, 2012 11:25 AM PDT

The benefit of web based systems is accessibility. You can access it from anywhere and on anything, but you have limits on things like storage and attachment size.

The drawbacks are that, if they choose to, your provider could terminate your service at any time, and because the storage is online and out of your control, you account can be hacked, or subpoenaed, or terminated, and you cannot access your e-mail without a network connection.

The benefits of a client that retrieves your messages from a smtp server is privacy and control. You keep the only copies.

The drawbacks are that most people do not backup properly, so it is easy to loose all your emails, and it requires you to perform other maintenance and oversight, and you cannot access your email if you don't have your own computer with you. It also is likely not free.

Personally, I prefer a hybrid approach. I use a IMAP capable client, (Outlook, Windows Live Mail, Thunderbird) to connect to online web services. This approach means that, should my service ever be terminated, or my network connection fails, I still have a local copy. Should my local copy be destroyed, I can still access it through the web interface from anywhere.

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Good answer, but...
by The Yoder / June 22, 2012 10:10 PM PDT
In reply to: Why Choose?

Good answer but I would add this: There are options in Outlook (and other local email programs) that wipe the copy off the server once you store it locally. Make sure these types of options are disabled otherwise your only copy is local and you lose the benefits mentioned by Acaykath of having back-up copies on the email server.

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How to disable these options?
by degelmom60 / June 30, 2012 5:17 PM PDT
In reply to: Good answer, but...

Hi, thanks for your answer, but how do I go about disabling these options? I have XP service pack 3,Dell XPS 410, Incredimail for email & Comcast for my server. Thanks again!

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limited storage
by akeyvak / July 1, 2012 8:43 AM PDT
In reply to: Good answer, but...

The only problem with approach (keeping the server copy on the ISP server storage) is that ISPs give limited storage and if you run out of storage, people send you emails, their emails get rejected.

I'm with you though providing the storage is enough, this is a good to consider.

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I access my roadrunner account via the internet ofter
by drpmeade / July 2, 2012 2:05 AM PDT
In reply to: Why Choose?

but I would like to know how you can use Thunderbird to do that when you are away from your "home" computer that connects directly to your ISP?

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web based email
by geomurray / June 22, 2012 11:35 AM PDT

Well Rob that is a very good question. Microsoft Outlook is a good email program and has it's pro's and con's also just as any other. I would use either Windows Live (hotmail) or Yahoo. You can access these from any computer so if you take your laptop with you since you are not into pads and phones you would be able to connect via wi fi.

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Here's an Experiment that I did
by Hforman / June 22, 2012 11:41 AM PDT

Create a Yahoo account. Do NOT send any emails from it. Do not give the address to ANYONE for any reason.

Check the mailbox daily or weekly. Watch it fill up with junk. I did this and the amount of junk mail was tremendous. Some people think that you get junk mail because you use the email address and someone sells the information. Nope. A totally "secret" email account fills up rather quickly.

So one "con" of using online accounds is that people can somehow find your email address. The nice thing is that you can get to all of your email any time and anywhere. Now, I use my ISP's email and, guess what? I can get to that from anywhere too. They have a web interface. The nice thing is that I only see NEW email. I could set Outlook up to leave a copy on the server but the size of my account is limited. So, it's a case of whatever is convenient for you. Just remember your account seems to have less privacy when it's on an internet-based mail system. I also use as a remailer so I can always change my provider whenever I want to and my email stays the same.

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by bigbear639 / June 29, 2012 12:50 PM PDT

I have a paid yahoo email account and get no more than maybe 1 or 2 spams per week and they are in the Junk Folder. At the same time I have a Paid Hotmail account and get about 2 dozen spams a day and several dozen are caughtr and sent to Junk Folder. My Gmail Account and my Comcast account no more than 1 or 2 if any per month.

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Thats funny...
by JCitizen / June 30, 2012 1:42 PM PDT
In reply to: BS

All my clients who use anything but hotmail complain of tons of spam everyday. Especially Yahoo in the last month or so. I've had hotmail for years, and put my address all over the web, and I get maybe 2 or 3 junk mails per day, in my regular inbox - I never look at my junk mail folder anymore, because I never get mistake legitimate emails in there.

I have Yahoo!, Gmail, hotmail, and ISP server based Outlook; and I got to say hotmail is definitely the best. I hate junk mail and even when I inadvertently sign up before reading the privacy statement of some site, and get bombed by junk, all I have to do is mark them as junk for a few days, and voila! No more junk mail.

I don't think ANYONE has the anti-junk mail capability of MSN's hotmail - just no comparison. Cool

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Over and above that
by DADSGETNDOWN / June 30, 2012 2:30 PM PDT
In reply to: Thats funny...

Gmail is by far the worst for me, I hardly use it too, I also have accounts all over, 6 total.
Between bots and people doing random emails, and cookies and cache on your computer will determine the amounts of spam. It's not a I don't use the account thing as much as it is, the aforementioned and timing. ALL emails will get some.
Downloading an email locally to your computer, as is using your isp/outlook etc, bad very bad, good way to lose your hard drive and data, get infected and such. The storage capacity these days of web based is pretty darn decent.

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Over and above that.
by RichardSlipper / June 30, 2012 7:41 PM PDT
In reply to: Over and above that

This answer applies to my UK experiences

I used to have real problems with spam when I had an ISP called PIPEX which was taken over by TISCAL and then TALKTALK. Perhaps I didn't have the anti spam set up correctly.When I moved to SKY the spam problem almost stopped.
I know have several email a/cs which all post through to GMAIL and spam is as rare a poor merchant banker! Happy The key is to get the anti-spam set up correctly. The big ISPs can kill spam easily.

On the point of security the big ISPs, in my opinion, present little risk of data loss unless due to closing down etc.

I don't tend to use a client any more. If there is anything important I will save it as a pdf.

Any cloud based process is going to present new risks which it will take time for us to get used to, but the more such facilities are used the more important the providers will take security. If business customers are at risk I cannot think that governments would not intervene to mitigate any impacts on the economy.

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haven't found that true
by janitorman / June 30, 2012 3:46 AM PDT

I've had a yahoo account since 2002 and I have given it out, to forums, sites I don't really want my "real" email to show on, etc. With Yahoo's filters and a few I created, all the "junk" goes in a spam folder. Very rarely do I get one that slips through into the inbox.
I also created a G-mail account last year, I only use it for Linux forums and a couple posting boards, and so far, NOT A SINGLE spam has come through. I cheated on that one, if you're not a contact, the emails go straight to trash. (That's a solution for people who only want emails from friends.)
I have three hotmail accounts, two set up with the "exclusive" option, and the other with a lot of filters (including sending "RE: and FWD: " to junk (which I check frequently. No spam in the inbox. Easy as that.

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Depends on which ones you use.
by macwildstar / June 22, 2012 12:09 PM PDT

Im currently staying at a veterans home, while recovering from heart surgery. Since I no longer have an apartment, or my own ISP, I use web based email a lot. I have tried Yahoo, Hotmail, and Gmail. I found Hotmail gave me the most spam, Yahoo a bunch but they are improving and Gmail hardly any.

Also I like using outlook express to download my mail, both at the vets home on my desktop and on my laptop when I am out on the run for a medical appointment or visiting my mom for a weekend. Yahoo pop mail or yahoo plus as it is called, costs about 20 a year. Gmail popmail is Free.

I have been using yahoo for over 8 years, and Gmail for 2 now, and both work fine. It all depends on your available internet connection, and the ISP that your mail is on.

As far as backing up emails, even if you do have the settings for both Yahoo or Gmail to save messages, you will need to go in and manually clean them up every so often, or your available space for new messages will dwindle down to the point where you cannot get anymore.

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hotmail all the way
by SamRetNavy / June 29, 2012 12:36 PM PDT

I have been using hotmail for over 15years probably more.i get very little spam. never did. I have unlimited spam. If there is anything I think is that inportant i download the mail to my computer. It really isnt hard to save the stuff you want...really.....I dislike yahoo with a pashon probably because thir search engine is a joke..never liked yahoo anything. I pay 19.00 a year and have unlimited space for email no adds and no hastle. never lost an email. There you have maybe I should buy stock...hey thanks for this topic! (o;

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I agree
by bigbear639 / June 29, 2012 12:53 PM PDT
In reply to: hotmail all the way

However lately I have been getting a lot of spam in hotmail. Yahoo Calender is screwed up and you enter a note for wed and it is placed in thur worse uyet if it is a repeat event

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I'm surprised at all the posts...
by JCitizen / June 30, 2012 1:47 PM PDT
In reply to: I agree

about hotmail having junk! The only thing I can think of is maybe folks are too lazy to mark unwanted email in their inbox folder as junk. I do that religiously and only get 2 or 3 per day!!

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What are the pros and cons of Web-based e-mail systems?
by richj120952 / June 22, 2012 1:02 PM PDT


To me, email is email. If you already have an ISP account and it has web email, for all intents it is the same, with some exceptions. You are in the cloud. In fact with Yahoo (for one) you can subscribe to their POP3 service and get your email with Outlook Express just like you can with your existing ISP. As to "junk" mail, when you give your existing email to someone, it is just as likely to wind up on a junk email list. So, I don't see any differences there.

The big difference is that your ISP is not likely to scan your mail and pick up words or phrases that they then couple to "intrest" lists sold to spammers. (Oops, sorry, target marketed to their advertisers that may interest you.) That is what you pay for using the "free" services. On the positive side, you have fairly large storage available to you on the free services, where as when you use your ISP, they usually limit their storage, and when you access them via your POP3 mail application, the email gets deleted. (Some settings allow it to stay, by you run out of room quickly.)

That being said, I use Yahoo, and Gmail, along with my ISP. I specifically use them for some prescreening. Also, I use the online accounts to store important email that I always want to be able to get to. I do like their schedule and todo lists so no matter where or what computer I am using, I can get that information.

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I agree...
by JCitizen / June 30, 2012 1:54 PM PDT

except it used to be that POP based email was inaccessible from the web unless you used a free service like My.mail or something similar as a reader while on the road - however, those cannot be answered through those services - only managed, such as deleting old or unwanted messages.

Many web based services have been blocking Outlook Express, so I'm surprised at folks telling that they can still do it that way. Not from where I come from - Yahoo! - and hotmail have dropped it long ago - Gmail is expanding it's connectivity now, so that any device can use the same account. Our ISP is actually switching to Gmail even though you can still use Outlook and download to your PC.

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Web Mail and using a Mail Client
by GEO2003 / June 22, 2012 1:23 PM PDT

Hello Rob,

I believe is easier to use a client such as Windows Live Mail.

Since it was already posted that this approach allows you to save your emails on your computer.

I also wanted to point out that it gives you flexibility. If you are away from home and want to read an important email, you do it through your ISP Web Mail and I like to point out that just because you read it there, the emails WILL stay on your Inbox Folder.

There may be several important email you want to make sure you keep, such as a confirmation from your banks, other service confirmations as well. And you should not rely on Web mail only to store them.

When you get home, you open your Client and download it to your computer.

Therefore, I believe that this is the safest and more flexible way to deal with Web Email, and then downloaded Via your client.

Of course just remember to backup your emails from your computer.

I don't know if you know where the folder is for Outlook, I use Windows 7, but the location is probably the same for Vista.
You should be able to find the Folder under - User/Your Name/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Outlook

Hope this helps.

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I've been using web based email for years!
by ClissaT / June 22, 2012 2:28 PM PDT

I gave up downloading my emails from my ISP's many years ago after getting a couple of nasty viruses & other horrible malware. This was before anti virus, spam etc was a big deal. I decided it was better that my ISP deal with the nasties than me on my computer.

The decision came after a marathon 24hr effort to rid my computer of a nasty that installed itself without me so much as clicking on it. Apparently the process of downloading it via my Outlook Express was enough to open it & send it right through my system. Yes I did have paid for security but in those days that wasn't enough mostly because the updates weren't regular enough.

Since then I haven't had any issues with email nasties. Although I do have spam issues with the free account but as has previously been stated here, that's unavoidable. There are harvesting devices, tracking devices, email address generators all working 24/7 covering millions of addresses daily & no matter what you call your email, it will get generated eventually. As soon as it lands in a real box it sends it's little message back to base & there you are recieving spam.

I have an email account that I pay for because it comes with my internet connection & a free account for all the joke mail etc. Only really important emails come through the paid ISP. However I still log-in via the internet to both of my email accounts to read all mail. If I need to keep an important email I download just that one. I can read all my mail anywhere & use anyone's pc without leaving traces if needed.

I know this wouldn't suit most business people & many other people get heaps daily that they really need to keep & have instant access to, but this method suits me. It would also suit most people who don't generally recieve important emails or are travelling. (I don't class joke mail as important enough to keep. I send a few on then delete it all).

That means my online data storage needs are small. Actually my paid for email has worse data limits & time storage limits than my free account. The free account has very generous data volumes whereas the paid ISP deletes everything after 45days no if's or buts! I got caught by that one because I was already used to my free account which has no time limits & never deletes any of my contacts details. The paid ISP deleted all my contacts' extra details which was a real p!ss-off I can tell you!!! X8

So the only problem I have is that many people's email security is set to label as spam, many of the free email clients, I guess because they contain tracking features. That's why they're free afterall.

So sometimes I have to send a particular contact an email from my paid ISP just to be sure the free one got through! Which is a bit silly actually. But I tolerate it. Wink

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by janitorman / June 30, 2012 3:54 AM PDT

were definitely a huge concern even 10 years ago and that's why I have NEVER used an e-mail client. At the time, I didn't have a virus scanner that would work WHILE downloading those emails to the client.
If you simply opened Outlook ( which was then a horrible program in my opinion anyway ) and clicked "download all" or (shudder) had it download automatically, you would never KNOW what viruses were in attachments, etc.
I used hotmail, which did NOT download attachments unless I opened them, and my virus scanner would then scan them as they came in.
Personally, I think that if you don't have a business with its OWN web server and email address, there is very little reason to use a client. Home users are perfectly fine using webmail, especially if they are always connected. If there is an email you wish to save for offline use, you can do that, as well, and you really don't need a client to do that, although it does automate things. (Again, however, automating downloads of viruses from the web has never been a "best practice." )

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I agree about the viruses...
by JCitizen / June 30, 2012 2:08 PM PDT
In reply to: Viruses

but our ISP provides Postini for about a dollar a month. It has SLOWLY improved. Avast does a good job killing anything else that gets past that, and has excellent spam filtering.

I must admit though - that with the recent MS updates Office Outlook has greatly improved filtering and some built in spam control, that seems to work fairly well - as well as blocking dangerous HTML images from unknown senders, and a way better search agent to bind similar emails together.

I have to have server based email for legal reasons; and that is the only reason I don't ever want to get rid of that account.

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thanks Geo
by ClissaT / June 22, 2012 2:54 PM PDT

I was wondering where to find Outlook! Happy

W7 is new to me & I have to pluck up the courage to wander around my new PC trying to find everything! lol

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@ ClissaT
by GEO2003 / June 23, 2012 6:47 PM PDT
In reply to: thanks Geo

Your very welcome,
I forget to put the path clearly - When Windows Explorer is open.

Click on the plus sign next to C to expand the folders, so the correct path should include C:\ - The rest of the path is as described.

For those using Windows Live Mail, the same path applies.

I for one, create a second partition on my internal Hard Drive to which I moved my Personal Folders.

Once the Partition is created, I expand C:\Users and every folder under my name is moved to the second partition by doing the following:

Right click on the Folder - eg. Documents - Click on Properties, the window that opens has a TAB label - Location.

The path where
the folder is presently will be listed.

Lets say my second partition letter is F.

Under the Location Tab, I click Home, which brings me to the beginning of the path.
I change the letter from C to F and accept the prompts.

Now, if you change the path for Windows Live Mail or Outlook, the next time you open those clients, it won't find your emails, Calendar and settings.

If I remember correctly, Outlook will give you an error message indicating that it could not find the -dot-pst file, but it opens a Windows Explorer window and you just have to look for the Folder which in my example would be on F, accept the notifications.
Then you close Outlook and re-open it, and everything will be there for you.

In Windows Live Mail, when you open it - Go to Options - Mail.
Choose the Advance Tab - Clic Maintanance
Click on - Store Folder and then just change the letter C to F.

The point of me changing the folder locations is because if something goes wrong with my Laptop I can simply restore partition C with my images held on a external Drive.

But it also makes it easier to plug in my External Drive and just Drag and Paste the Folder User directly to the external to make backups every 2 weeks.

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@GEO2003 Last point about Backups
by LogicalMick / June 30, 2012 12:58 AM PDT
In reply to: @ ClissaT

I do a similar thing to you GEO but with regard to backing up the Outlook .pst file(s) there is an easier way, if you use an Outlook Add-on called "MS Outlook Personal Folder Backup", it's only 160kb and semi-automates the backup process.

By semi automates, I mean it prompts you when the time is due for a backup (or copy of the files it in essence simply copies them), and will perform it for you if you choose to let it, or you can run it manually from within Outlook whenever you want. The data files you wish to backup and the backup location and frequency of backing up can all be set by the user. The only caveat is that it won't do the backup until Outlook is closed but then again the same applies for the copy method. Just thought I'd mention it in case it helps, but it may also depend on the version of Outlook you are running as it may not be compatible with versions later than 2007.

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outlook is a paid program
by comtech / June 29, 2012 12:08 PM PDT
In reply to: thanks Geo

if you had windows Xp You had outlook Express That was discontinued. outlook is part of Microsoft office and needs a license

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Then of course...
by JCitizen / June 30, 2012 2:18 PM PDT

there is Windows Mail, if you just have to have the built in free one.

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Definately a lot of Pros to the Web email program
by eBayJunkie / June 22, 2012 3:11 PM PDT

I've been using Hotmail for over 10 years now and love it! I still have the 'main' email from my Internet Provider but hardly use it.

I have multiple accounts with Hotmail for various things: i.e. web sites, eBay etc.

The main reason I started using it was that I do a lot of Internet research where I have to leave posts with my contact information. If I had used my original IP email address all those posts were be mute now because no one would be able to reach me.

Also by posting my email on-line I know that I am susceptible to getting Spam etc. By using the different Hotmail accounts I can easily filter the good emails from the bad/junk ones. I also use MS Live Mail program which allows me to download/read all my accounts within the same window -- very easy! I can also adjust what I want to download and what I just want to delete. (This can keep bad emails from actually downloading into my computer.)

I also enjoy being able to access my email from anywhere: Traveling, libraries, friends houses etc.

Note: Most 'free' web based email programs will have restrictions to keep the account active. I believe Hotmail's policy is that you must check it at least once every 30 days.

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