GMail, Yahoo!Mail, Hotmail, and other free web-based email services are free. They also are contentious. Being so, they don't save secret copies of your email.
This week, Google had a glitch and it nuked the email of about 60 Gmail account holders.
Here's Google's note to Techcrunch, explaining the issue:
We saw your post today about Gmail and wanted to let you know what was going on.
Regretfully, a small number of our users — around 60 — lost some or all of their email received prior to December 18th. Once we found out about this issue, we worked day and night to confirm that only a few accounts were affected and to do whatever we could to restore as much of the users’ accounts as we could. We’ve also reached out to the people who were affected to apologize and to work with them to restore the email from any personal backup they might have.
We know how important Gmail is to our users – we use it ourselves for our corporate email. We have extensive safeguards in place to protect email stored with Gmail and we are confident that this is a small and isolated incident.
In the Web 2.0 world, we put a lot of our important information in the hands of benevolent strangers. They operate according to the whims of funding, bugs, advertisers, worms, security holes, and the Department of Homeland Security (or local equivalent).
At any time, your personal information is at risk when using these systems. It's up to you to measure that level of risk.
I use typepad because I can download an OPML file of my blog at any time and save it. I try to do this quarterly.
Typepad and SixApart are bang-up people, I truly trust them. But Fate ... well, she's a different girl altogether. And even with backups, Typepad has been known to lose a day or two there. Not because they are negligent or stupid - but because that's how computers work.
Some things I have to just trust. My del.icio.us information or my network in LinkedIn are entirely unprotected from loss. And I rely on them.
When Ed Vielmetti's laptop broke in October, he arrived at my doorstep heavy in a state of withdrawal. I loaned him one of my laptops and watched the life seep back into him. The color returned to his face, he stopped hyperventilating ... but that was just net access. (Slight exaggerations, mine.)
One of the things Ed told me he was most reliant on was his del.icio.us links. What if someone developed a del.icio.us worm that ate the whole database? Or even just Ed's account? For Ed, Ed's account is really important.
In the terms of service, no one promises to save your data from harm - ever. So, don't blame Gmail if you lose your vital information. You choose your level of risk.
Blogged from the Sai Oak in Ocean Shores, Washington
Image borrowed from DnDAdventure.