Health Secretary Matt Hancock said last year that GPs in England must start routinely using email instead of sending letters to communicate with patients and he wants email to become the default option by 2021.

As the rest of the world runs on email, the NHS should too and he added that NHS organisations could use any secure email provider - not just NHSMail - if it met the required security settings, in a bid to support innovation and open up the market.

As a GP it is easy to accumulate a vast amount of emails and some of them may contain vital data which you might want to keep for future purposes. You may already have your emails stored either online or locally on your PC or smartphone but you might want them kept elsewhere in another separate and secure location as a backup. 

In a recent blog post, I looked at protecting the security of your email account, so this time I want to look at preserving emails and making a good and safe backup system for yourself. 

This means that you have a secondary backup of your email archive just in case something happens to the primary source. Within this backup of a large database of emails, you may also want to be able to drill down quickly and precisely to a specific email that you need rather than spend ages manually ploughing through thousands of emails to find the email you need.

My experience with Mailstore

I wanted an easy to use email backup system that was effective and not too expensive. I have a personal theory that for every software problem, there is a software solution out there, but the problem is finding that solution. So I came across a piece of software called Mailstore that sells email storage solutions. However for home users, there is an offer of free email archiving software available to download. There only seems to be a Windows version with Windows 7, 8.1 and 10 supported and I have the latter and used this to test the software.

Downloading and installing the free home version of the software is easy and straightforward and offers the possibility of installing it on your main drive on your PC, another drive on your PC or a separate removable drive. For me, the latter prospect is a huge advantage and I have installed this software on external hard drives and backed up my email on to a number of these removable devices.

The software including the archived email (of course that depends on the number of e mails backed up) takes up a relatively small footprint. Installing the programme alone on a USB drive took up only about 60MB of space. Reassuringly from the home (called the start page) page, the license states that it is free for non-commercial use. If you want, you can click on the license and read the small print.

You can see this is a classy piece of software. From the start page there are clear directions to the various services which are self-explanatory. Setting up an email backup account can be a bit fiddly as you need to know the precise settings of your email account such as password, server name, username and the nature of your email protocol. You need to do this setup only once per email account you wish to use, after this the backup process is fairly simple. Yes, you can backup multiple email accounts and it can work with email protocols such POP3, IMAP and web based services such as Gmail.

Once set up for the first time simply highlight the email address and double click it and all the emails are added to the database. When you run it after the first time, there is a running total of how many emails are processed and how many are newly archived. The whole process does not take long but obviously the more emails to backup, the longer it takes.

Now you can have your emails backed up either on to your PC or a removable device such as an external hard drive. The latter can be stored off site for better security. The programme can launch quickly and a search box allows a rapid search of all the emails stored within the software. Simply using a keyword can help locate an important email or the archive can be inspected manually via the folder structure which certainly in my case, reflects the same structure as my original primary email folders.

This software seems to be the real deal and there seems to be no restriction in its use. There is no request for money to unlock key features and there are several very useful facilities such as password protection of the archive, the ability to export emails plus a number of other facilities. It is fully functional and easy to use.

This is a very impressive and polished piece of software that works well, has not crashed and seems to have no restrictions. It does exactly what it claims and is a first class piece of software that exactly matched my requirements and worked well. I did not have to pay for it, so you can’t ask for any better than that.

 


Dr Harry Brown is a GP from Leeds and medical editor of the British Journal of Family Medicine