Don't trust your Optus webmail account

Some years back I lived with my sister. When she connected to the internet she joined Optus. As a resident in her house I was entitled to an Optus webmail account in my name. Over the years since then I have travelled far and wide and since returning to Australia have got my own house and taken out my own internet account, but not with Optus. I kept using my Optus email account all this time. It had a simple address which could conveniently be given verbally. As my sister stayed connected to the net by Optus there appeared to be no reason to cancel the account. Over the years it has served me well.

About a week ago I went to log in and received the message ‘Login failed - Username or password is incorrect’. I went to visit my sister and tried again in her house in case there was some problem with my computer. I got the same result. We contacted Optus by their support chat line. The consultant rang my sister’s number and spoke to her to check that the enquiry was authentic. He offered to open a new account for me. I asked if this would allow me to access the files from my old account. He said ‘no’. That was all he was prepared to do. If I asked any more questions he simply replied, ‘Is there anything else I can help you with today?’.

I also had a few blog pages connected to this account. When I checked them they had also disappeared.

I don’t know if Optus deleted my account on purpose or by accident but one thing is for sure I will never put myself in a position where I rely on them in the future.

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be careful with web mail, the ISP providers have limits on data storage and if you exceed their (unknown to you limit) they just wipe your storage irrespective of what you may have had on it, and require you to start all over again with a new email address, this has happened to me twice, 1st time the company told me I exceeded the limit I accepted that, but the next time same company i had only had it going for 6 months, at which time I changed ISP providers and have checked with them to make sure they will advise me first if I need to reduce my webmail storage, before an automatic removal cuts in. Now with web service email it is much better the data you can have far exceeds most ISP providers

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I am very sorry that this occurred to you.

Storing anything in the cloud has risks. Most cloud storage is backed up on multiple servers in case of failures but catastrophic loss can still occur. Email storage is no different to any other storage and if items are important, you should ensure you create backups locally. I ensure my emails that I really want to keep are moved to my local storage and then backed up with my normal backup routine.

Once even while moving from one internet service to another with the same provider ie wireless internet to adsl2 I was told my data would be safe. Using “Paddy’s Law” as my basis for belief I ensured I first downloaded all my yet unsaved contacts and messages (changeover day was before my normal backup plan day) before I allowed the company to do the transition. Once they had completed the change, I checked if the emails had been retained and to no great surprise they had been lost. Thankfully I had backed up and was able to recover my contacts & emails.

This is not to say that in the case of your emails that the service failed you, it did fail you and the reported response from them was a poor one but… No ISP/RSP or Webmail Provider service eg Hotmail, Gmail can absolutely guarantee the safety of your data. So to all, please Backup Backup & Backup. If you are unsure how to store emails locally ask your ISP tech support to help you, or search online how to do it. It isn’t hard and it can save you a lot of heartache and angst.

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I often feel like the dinosaur I am, but that is why I use a pop client (thunderbird) and manage my own backups. The cloud is wonderfully convenient but it is also magical between what happens behind the curtains and those pesky T&C that can ambush you.

For those not famiiar with the differences between IMAP and POP, the former is essentially like a web browser looking at your email on their server; the latter downloads the email to your PC. Of course with the latter you need to be managing your PC so it is more ‘collaborative’ with you having responsibility.

Thunderbird also has an option for POP whereby it downloads the email to your PC where you view it (and store it), but it also leaves it on the host server where you can look at it via IMAP or web access on another PC. That can be another level of data security.

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Thanks for your concern and advice. Any important files had been downloaded to my computer and backed up on a backup drive. My main concern is that anyone, any business, to whom I had given only this address has lost this means of communication.

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@ koalaphil, it seems to me that ISP providers who delete files like this without contacting you first have no understanding of the concept of public relations. Perhaps changing ISPs is the only way to get this message through to them.

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I wonder if Optus cottoned on somehow that you weren’t paying them as a ISP, but had an active Optus account (even though the email account was attached to your sister’s).

This is relatively easy for an ISP to do by seeing what IP addresses are accessing an account. If the same, non-Optus IP is accessing the account but an Optus IP is not (such as in your case), they may have an automatic cancellation in such cases. Maybe since a Optus IP had not been accessing the account, they may treat it as inactive through an registered/paid Optus user.

The Terms and Conditions don’t give clear grounds for cancellation of email accounts. The only information relating to cancellations appears in their fair go policy.

Optus is also clear on their website that if one does not have them as their ISP, email accounts can be deleted…for example, if one has Optus as their ISP and then changes to another provider, they will automatically delete the email account and any other data retained on their servers and attached to the user.

It appears that Optus doesn’t want to be a ‘public’/free email server.

Notwithstanding this, Optus would have seen the account was active (accessed by a non-Optus IP) and should as a courtesy, provided notification that the email account was about to be deleted. They possibly also shuld have indicated the grounds for the cancellation to allow a review/appeal process. They should have also indicated that if the account was ultimately cancelled, any valuable information is contained on their servers it should be removed before the deletion.

@PhilT is right about Thunderbird. It can also be set up as IMAP as well meaning that actions carried out in Thunderbird are mirrored on the Optus server (e.g. when email is deleted in Thunderbrid, it is deleted on the Optus server. We run Thunderbird as POP for the purpose of keeping/archiving some emails for future reference.

I would also be using email software, like Thunderbird, to store a copy of emails on the Optus server, as it likely the account could be cancelled unannounced again in the future. At least with the next cancellation, you will have a copy of the emails up to the date the email account was last checked before the cancellation.

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You may be able to pay them to forward the old address to a new address. I have done this with iPrimus and Telstra and costs me about $3.00 a month each. It is worth asking their Australian Tech support staff if they will do it.

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I get emails fro\ m Optus all the time about being close to my limit on my Webmail account I then go in and delete some stuff. I’m wondering if there is a way to make those over a certain date or those that are older than say 2 months delete themselves.

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Yes can be done using your email software. Optus provides guides here. The user guide of the email software will also give information on how to set up as well.

While I am not familiar with Optus webmail, it may have settings which allow one to delete emails automatically. Also, some ISPs also regularly clean old emails from their email server. Maybe check with Optus if this is the case and if the default automatic deletion can be modified.

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The lesson here is never use your isp email account. Always use an independent provider for email, isps come and go or you change isp all causes problems. My advice choose an independent email provider and stick with it.

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As I found out the hard way, the main disadvantage of using a POP3 email mailbox occurs if you have more than one device. I use a phone, tablet and PC for my emails. It’s all very well to be able to see the Inbox on all three devices, but the problem comes when you want to refer back to a Sent or Deleted message. To find them you need to go back to the device on which you sent or deleted the message concerned, and I found that to be a real pain.
So far, Gmail hasn’t had any major disasters that I’ve been aware of. Not so for Telstra Bigpond. About a year ago they lost all my emails, and those of at least 2000 other customers, for six weeks or so. I’ve experienced a few instances since then where devices didn’t synchronise my Inbox properly.
That caused some real ructions and demonstrated how vulnerable we are in that regard. I’m now in the throes of changing from a Bigpond account to a Gmail one, hoping to have better peace of mind.

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If you set the POP client to leave the emails on the server it resolves that. My partner has a POP client (Thunderbird) on the PC and also accesses her email from her iPad during the day. It is a setting in the account

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@PhilT That certainly works for the Inbox, but if your partner sends a message using one of the devices, can she see it on the other one? I think not.

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She cc’s herself on sent messages through IMAP. Managing folders does require discipline as the folders made w/IMAP are only visible on IMAP and same at the POP client so it is not totally transparent across them. FWIW there are setting in Thunderbird to put sent messages in a specified folder, and to auto cc and/or bcc them.

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If your ISP email account supports IMAP, technically if one sends an email from one device, it should be visible in the send box in another device.

The main disadvantage of IMAP, is the email software will mirror what is on the ISP email server rather than making a copy if it. This can be problematic if one decides to delete an email and then expect to find it later (as it will be deleted on the ISP email server as well).

Way to get around this is to say have a POP setup on a PC for local email storage and archiving/backup, and use other devices for sending/retrieving emails. Requires some diligence as well as one needs to remember to download/backup emails on their POP device and avoid deleting emails on the IMAP devices (so email is not lost forever). One can allow the POP email software to delete emails when downloaded (say after they are old) to ensure that the storage on the ISP email server is not excessive.

It also requires IMAP/POP ISP email server support.

I did this for a while but ended up going back to POP for all devices and sending copy to a personal (non-public) email account for those sent messages I wished to keep and view at a later date.

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Hi Grahroll. Could you expand on how you backup your emails that you want please. I have a pop client and back up my pst file regularly but recovering emails from such a system would be too difficult. Ok in a computer crash to recover all my emails but that is just one complete pst file overriding another.

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Here are some options:

http://www.itninja.com/blog/view/top-5-techniques-to-view-pst-file-without-outlook-application

I have use ad PST viewer a few years ago and it had limitation at the time that attachments (photos, docs etc) could not be viewed, only the email’s text. I haven’t tried pst viewers latley to see if this has changed.

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I use the export function in Outlook and categorise my emails so only backing up the colour/s I want. If you don’t know what this colour means then in Outlook right click an email and on the list of options click categorize and you will see the list of colours you can choose from. Once I have them backed up I select to view as Categories and unmark their colour/colours.

If you do use Outlook it varies by the version you are using to get exporting done. Each time I give a name to the backup .pst that allows me to recover particular dates and when you want those files back in you just import that file. If you want fine tuned help on it PM me and I can try to respond to your particular version needs. Outlook 2016/2013 or 2010 I am currently very familiar with but I can go back to my notes for older versions.

Thunderbird is a little different:

Click file
Click “Save as” then chose the folder you want to save to (can create a new one or use one already created) You can name the folder with the date or whatever allows you to remember eg 20180321.Emails or WeddingInvite.Emails
You chose the emails you want to save (highlight them, can choose one, multiple files, or all of them)
Click “Save”
Your separate emails will be saved to the folder you selected.
If you need to open one choose “File” > “Open” > “Saved Message…” (it will open last folder saved to, if you want a different folder just use the side menu on the folder view to select the folder you want) then select the email you want and it will open for you.

If you want to bulk save for offline use (first time) then

choose “File” > “Offline” >Click “Work Offline”

then choose “File” > “Offline” “Download/Sync Now…” > select what you want to save eg Mail messages then click “Select…” and in the next box choose email account/accounts you want to download/sync click “Ok”

then on the box you return to click “OK”. This will create your local files

Working in offline mode stops any issues from new mail messages arriving while doing this. After you have done these steps go back to “File” > “Offline” > Click the “Work Offline” which should have a tick beside it to return to online mode.

If you want to update these at any time just click the “Download/Sync Now…” option.

The local folder directory for this is the default one and can be found in %AppData%\Thunderbird\Profiles\ or by clicking “Help” > “Troubleshooting Information” and look for Profile section in the list and click “Open Folder”.

In the list if you use POP you will se PopMail and if you have IMAP you will see ImapMail. In these folders you will see a list of your accounts as folders and if you open one you will see each folder of your mail eg Inbox there named as eg in the case of the inbox Inbox.msf.

This profile directory can be changed to another folder of your choice if desired.

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Thanks grahroll that is very helpful and I was not aware of it. I have always been reluctant to do much with email backups because I thought the pst files were fairly inflexible. Sounds like not the case. I use Outlook 2010. I will try it out soon.
Once I get it sorted I will investigate if the Calendar can be simply saved and backed up. I have not used it because when I once did a test export/import it lumped all the Inbox, Deleted, Saved files into one big pst file and I thought the only way to reinstate them was to replace my existing pst files which was impractical.
Thanks again for your detailed reply.

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