Easy email redundancy for hardcore geeks

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26 August 2006

If you already host your own mail (preferably with qmail) and are comfortable with sending your email to Google’s Gmail service, try this:

  1. Configure your existing mail server as usual (spam filtering and saving non-spam mail) and also forward the non-spam mail to your Gmail account.
  2. Also configure a special email address (you-fromsecondary@specifichostname.yourdomain.ext) to do spam filtering and deliver mail to your Maildir/Mailbox, but don’t forward it to Gmail.
  3. Find a friend you trust who will let you use their server as a secondary mail server. Configure that server to accept mail for your domain.
  4. On that server, forward all mail to the special address at your primary server (you-fromsecondary@specifichostname.yourdomain.ext), and forward it to Gmail. Don’t save it to your Maildir/Mailbox.
  5. Configure your DNS records to point to your secondary server as a second MX.
  6. Configure Gmail so you can send email from Gmail and have it look like it came from you@yourdomain.ext.

Congratulations! You now have a working secondary mail server and a permanent archive (in Gmail) of every email that is sent to you, even after you delete them off your server. All email will still end up on your primary server (eventually), even if it goes down for a while (as long as the secondary doesn’t go down also). While your primary server is down, all your email will still be delivered to Gmail immediately. You have a quick-n-dirty form of webmail, via Gmail, and an easy way to search all your old email. You don’t have to change email addresses.

Enjoy :)

  1. Amitai Schlair says:

    Sorry, this is insufficiently complicated. Where do I ritually sacrifice the goat?

    Quick suggestions:

    * s/gmail/Gmail/g (since this is how Google capitalizes the service) to help visually distinguish it from qmail at a glance.

    * s/save/${MAGIC_CLEARER_PHRASE}/g. Maybe “locally deliver”?

    * For logical clarity, switch steps 3 and 4 so the primary is ready to receive mail from the secondary before the secondary could potentially start hitting it. (Just like the ordering within step 1: first prepare your server, then diddle the MX.)

    Yay for the technique and for the existence of this document.

  2. Nathan Arthur says:

    Done, but more so. Thank you for the suggestions!

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