GMail, and web-based e-mail in general, blows.
Use a proper client, i.e. Mail, Outlook, Thunderbird, etc. (Or, does anyone have an experience with Google Gears/Offline Mail?)
GMail supported client list and configuration instructions here. (You first have to enable IMAP in Settings>Forwarding and POP/IMAP).
There are a litany of reasons why I prefer clients over web apps, but, if anything, having all your e-mail redundantly saved and available on your computer when GMail goes down should be reason enough. GMail is reliable 99.8% of the time, but if the bitching on the internet lately is any indication, it seems to only go down when you LIKE, REALLLLLLLLLY, NEED IT!!!
The cloud isn’t…quite…there…yet.
I’m also over hearing about how you “lost your phone and need all your numbers back.”
More helpful hints:
If you have an iPhone: simple. Sync your contacts with iTunes. And MobileMe does this over-the-air automatically. I lost my phone in a cab a few years back, and the peace of mind from having all my numbers backed up on my computer at home and also available on the web made me a buyer for life.
If you have a BlackBerry, here’s a link to Google Contacts Sync for BlackBerry, or just sync with BlackBerry Desktop often. Coming soon for Mac. (There is a third-party vestigal BlackBerry Sync app for Mac called PocketMac that was historically spotty, and is now being replaced with a proper release from RIM).
If you have another phone and a Mac, pair the phone via Bluetooth, fire up iSync in the Applications folder, and sync with Address Book.
I imagine there are utilities for Windows that do the same. Search versiontracker.com
Again, sync your info often, or whenever you add new numbers/e-mail addresses for people, and be done with the whining when you lose your phone or the heart-wrenching moment at the AT&T/T-Mobile store when the service rep who told you he can “just get everything off your SIM card” looks up and says, “Oh, wait, you never backed up to your SIM card? Sorry…”
It’s 2009. You probably all have Macs at home. This is too easy to do to have to deal with this anymore.
Do it. Now. Go.