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How to be an email survivalist

In the early 2000s it was the height of geek fashion to run your own e-mail server—then along came Gmail with two gigabytes of free storage and excellent spam filtering. Now even most people with their own domain names use e-mail provided by Google, Microsoft or their Internet Service Provider (ISP). You may even be using Gmail or Hotmail without knowing it: over the last few years many universities and other organizations have outsourced their e-mail to these services.

The recent revelations about PRISM and other communications surveillance programs ought to make people consider alternatives to commercial e-mail services. Running your own server, as I've been doing since 2003, requires some willingness to dig into technical details but costs nothing in functionality. I can access my e-mail from anywhere in the world using ordinary desktop software, smart phones or Web browsers, and the spam filtering is just as effective. Because latter-day developments like Twitter or Facebook require users adapt to their software, some people have forgotten e-mail is an open standard that dates to the dawn of the Internet. The price of being your own system administrator is an occasional day of technical pain while updating the host machine or the server software.

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