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Have you lost email on gmail?

2012-12-10, fa: If you experience any lost email, first make sure to go through this troubleshooting guide

Recently I have been thinking about consolidating all my email accounts into a single one because I would like to be able to check all my emails from any computer, and check it quickly. The obvious choice was gmail, but there was an interesting incident that happened about two weeks ago which has made me a little skeptical about gmail as a possible choice. I was sharing a desktop session with a friend who heavily uses the whole gmail suite (calendar, gmail, etc.) and interestingly majority of his email suddenly disappeared! One second the email was there, and the next second it was gone. He looked around in the trash, the spam folder, and every other corner where it could have gone, but it was nowhere to be found. This was all happening in front of me… We searched on google groups for gmail and found numerous threads about lost email.

Thinking about it, I am wondering how many folks had this issue, but decided not to post on google groups (time is important). Have you had this issue? I am aware of a similar incident that was brought up about a year ago, and I am wondering if this is another wave, and in the end, whether gmail is reliable. Are you aware of any better alternatives? (Ideally free)

As with anything important, I am also researching my options of backing up my gmail account.