The Disadvantages of Gmail
By David Nield
Gmail has attracted millions of users worldwide with its speedy and secure email service that's accessible from any computer with an Internet connection. However, it's by no means perfect, and there are reasons why you might prefer other email services. If you're thinking of leaving Gmail, you can export your messages using another client and the POP or IMAP protocols.
Keeping all your emails stored on the Web offers you easy access from multiple devices -- but if you lose your Internet connection or Gmail suffers downtime, you can be left without access to your messages. Using Gmail also means you're putting your trust in Google rather than your own hardware when it comes to protecting the security of your messages and providing adequate backups should something go wrong in one of its data centers. While Google is one of the most reliable and well-known cloud service providers, outages do happen.
Gmail is a free service supported by targeted advertising that may use information from other Google products (such as Search) or the contents of your emails. Gmail also takes note of which messages you open and which you send to spam. Any email scanning within Gmail is done by automated tools and does not identify you personally, but some users may consider this a step too far in terms of privacy.
Gmail leans heavily on other products offered by Google, including Google+, Google Calendar, Google Drive and your Google Contacts list. If you regularly use alternative products -- such as Microsoft SkyDrive or Outlook Calendar, for example -- it can be more difficult to integrate these services with Gmail depending on your workflow, though some integration is usually possible in most cases.
Labels, not Folders
Rather than using the traditional folder-based system for managing emails, Gmail offers labels that can be applied to multiple messages. Each message can have multiple labels that are then used to sort your email and configure IMAP access. If you are more comfortable with the standard folder-based system or you have an existing setup that makes use of folders, you may find Gmail's approach confusing and counterintuitive.
Search is listed as one of Gmail's strongest selling points, but the feature does have its limitations. For example, you can't sort through your messages by size, something that is relatively easy to do in most desktop clients. It also offers less flexibility than Google's Web search by not offering spelling suggestions or matching plural versions of your keywords.
An information technology journalist since 2002, David Nield writes about the Web, technology, hardware and software. He is an experienced editor, proofreader and copywriter for online publications such as CNET, TechRadar and Gizmodo. Nield holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and lives in Manchester, England.