If you are a solo or small firm attorney, Gmail is a great way to save money and ensure that your e-mail is available anywhere.

Gmail is great because it is constantly improving. For example, they just added a 2-step verification system to increase security. The downside is that if your e-mail is only stored in the cloud you are vulnerable to data loss.

Setup an IMAP account to backup your data on the ground.

If the cloud goes down, so does your e-mail

This past weekend 150,000 Gmail users discovered their accounts were empty—chats, e-mail, contacts, etc. Fortunately, Google backs up the data on tapes, and has restored all the data to the account.

If you are an attorney, however, going 3-4 days without access to any e-mail can be devastating. For the most part, you generally know the status of each case you work on, but if you left a bunch of things to respond at the end of the day—those could be gone in a puff of smoke. Lawyering is stressful enough without losing your e-mail—be prepared for potential data loss.

Create a backup—it is easy to do

Google allows Gmail users to set up IMAP accounts—which means you can use an e-mail application like Mail, Outlook, etc., and it will synchronize that account and your cloud account. If the cloud goes down, all your e-mail is still saved in your e-mail application.

Even if you prefer Gmail’s web interface over Mail or another e-mail application, you can still setup the application, and leave it running in the background to make sure it is synching and downloading all your e-mail.

There are other backup options, but they either require paying for backup service, or relying on another application to download your e-mail. I am not a huge fan of relying on an free application on the internet to backup my work e-mail.

In other words, setting up IMAP on an application is probably the cheapest and easiest way to create a backup. It is also the best way to avoid a potential catastrophe.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/trackrecord/232869383)