No. of Recommendations: 4
Allow me a rookie question. What are my options for aggregating all my email for use on any device? Does it have to be web-based, or can I open an email file from a desktop used as a poor man's server?

What would you experts recommend?

It sounds like you want to have your own email server that fetches mail from all your email addresses and then serves it up to your own devices.

Preferred advice: Don't try it. Instead do this:
1) Look at your existing email accounts and see what connections they offer: IMAP (preferred), POP3, MAPI, or web-only. Make a list of each group. Ideally, you'll only have accounts that support IMAP.
* Start phasing out the web-only ones.
* Look closer at the MAPI ones and see if they support ActiveSync; that's effectively a poor implementation of IMAP. If not, phase them out too because apparently the only source of compatible software is Microsoft.
* Check out which of your IMAP-supporting accounts can be set up to grab mail from other POP3 servers on your behalf, and arrange for them to grab the mail from all your accounts that don't support IMAP but do support POP3. I'm pretty sure Gmail will do this for a small number of POP3 accounts.
2) Check your email clients and for each one verify that it can connect simultaneously to multiple IMAP accounts. Replace the ones that can't. On Windows, Thunderbird can. Since the publisher recently discontinued enhancement of it, it's likely to be the best client for years to come (as they won't be adding pretty-but-unneeded new features that open up new security holes, but will be releasing updates to fix security holes).
3) Configure each of your email clients to connect to *all* your IMAP accounts - and to leave mail on the servers (except when you delete it).


Now, if you really really want to consolidate all your accounts on one mail server that you run, it's complicated. (And I warn you, I haven't done this in years and then only on Linux. The job comes in parts:

a) Getting all the mail TO your server. The critical Linux/Unix program you want, that is part of a standard installation package, is "getmail". It will connect to POP3 and IMAP servers. Without a Linux box... I'm sure there's a way.

b) Running a mail server. You want to run an IMAP server unless ALL your mail clients are fully MAPI compatible (which basically means they are running Microsoft Outlook or Microsoft Exchange - not Outlook Express). Again, there's one that comes with most Linux installations; it's called "imapd" (and don't forget to configure "inetd" to allow incoming traffic to it). Again, there's probably something that will do the job if you don't have a Linux box.

c) Allowing machines to connect to it. If you're only talking about machines on your home network, you're done. But if you're talking about being able to access your email from your phone while you're not at home, then... well, your home network really needs to be behind a firewall (anyway), so either you get a fixed public IP address (usually costs more than one that your ISP can change any time and also might not be a public address) and configure your firewall to forward incoming requests on port 143 to your IMAP server (and then anyone in the world can poke at it); or you get a Virtual Private Network. What these do is have each computer form an *outgoing* connection to some publicly-accessible server, which then links them into a single network theoretically protected from outsiders. The question then is how much do you trust the provider of the publicly-accessible server, because any device that gets into your VPN looks to other devices in the VPN like it's on your firewall-protected home network... and does the provider offer software that supports all your devices including the IMAP server?

(I use Hamachi frequently for computer-to-computer connections to play Dungeons&Dragons; it supports Windows and Macintosh. But I turn it off when I'm not in a game session. There is also NeoRouter which does Win/Mac plus Linux and Android but not iOS. There are quite a few others.)
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