How much email do you have stored on your computer? Use Outlook? Exchange? Thunderbird? If so, then there's a pretty good chance you're storing your emails on your hard drive. Which is fine, but you probably don't want to rely on it. If you set up a gmail account, you can use this as an online email backup. You can set your mail program to automatically forward any incoming email somewhere else. If you're more technically inclined, you can forward mail to your new gmail backup from the server, before it even hits your local inbox. If you're even more technically inclined, you can alter your domain's MX records and let gmail handle all your mail, then reconfigure your local mail to retrieve from there.
Did I lose you with that last sentence? That's probably the high water mark for technical this week, so don't feel too bad.
Of course, there are other benefits to duplicating your email into gmail. Like being able to read your email over any Internet connection. Or search your emails way, way faster than your local email program can manage. You can configure gmail to send messages as if they were from your primary account. What's more, if you use gmail's SMTP server, you'll get a backup of your sent messages too.
You've probably figured out by now that I really like gmail. But you may be able to achieve the same thing with Yahoo, Hotmail, or any of the other web-based mail apps out there.
Of course, after a while you might decide that you like web-based email more than your usual mail program. I'll talk about living without local apps in the next post.