I remember my first email account back in 1998, it was a POP account from my ISP, I accessed it on Outlook Express using dial up. Every day I checked my email with excitement, and when I had new one in my mailbox "Woo Hoo!". Those were the days.
Now email is so entwined in our life we can't do without it. We need email for work, paying bills, shopping, travel, school, and even to get the vaccine for the Zombie Apocalypse. If you have a business you can't do without it, it is an essential part of doing business.
Now I sort through a dozen email accounts that are 90% Junk, 9% necessary, and 1% very important and time sensitive.
The Topic of Spam
You can't have egg bacon spam and sausage without the spam.
If you just sang that, you are my people!
When we talk about email, the Topic of Spam is inevitable. You can't have email without it. I know people who totally stress about it, I just look at it as a necessary evil.
What is spam? First I googled it just to see how many articles are out there, I found about 794,000,000! Holy canned meat Batman! Sometimes I feel like that is the count in my spam filter. Basically spam is unsolicited bulk email (aka UBE).
What types of spam will I get? There are many! Advertising spam, chain letter spam, fake prizes spam, hoax spam, malware spam, porn spam, drug spam, spoofing spam, sneaky spam, PayPal spam, several types of phishing spam, scam spam, “Re: Spam” spam, spam, spam, spam, lovely spaaaaammm! And those are just a few!
And where does spam come from? Well, there's the spam that you signed up for, the spam that trolled you, and the spam from the underworld.
The spam you signed up for can sometimes be the most annoying. You sign up for it in many ways so technically it is not really spam. Sometimes it is very intentional but most of the time it is a side effect. Remember, you are either a customer or a commodity, nothing is free. If you are getting something for free, you are the commodity and in the fine print you are agreeing to receive the spam. Most of these you can opt-out of or block. But Be careful what you block. Once I blocked Avon emails, then when I wanted to order and tried to reset my password I did not get any of the emails.
The spam that trolled you comes from email harvesting and crawlers that find your email via public websites and social media. It's a balance, if you have a bushiness you need your contact info out there so your costumers and colleagues can reach you. And if you have your own URL crawlers will attack it looking for email accounts by running through common names. There are ways to minimize this kind of spam and you can block some of it, but for the most part you can't stop it without isolating yourself.
The spam from the underworld is the worst, they get your email from data breaches, hackers, and the dark web. They send you email that looks legit, but is designed to rip you off. Sometimes it is hard to spot so you need to be alert. They are relentless and annoying, and whatever you do NEVER click the link and NEVER reply. If it looks legit, independently find the website and use the contact info directly from the website, or if it is a bank, use the contact info from the back of your banks card. This is also the reason you should have a different password on every site you log onto. But that is another blog.
And yes, the term SPAM comes from the Monty Python skit in which men dressed in Viking costumes chant SPAM, SPAM, SPAM so loudly and repeatedly it drowns out everything else.
Need more spam in your brain? Click here for an interesting article about the history of SPAM.
How is Your eMail Served?
Well, there's egg and bacon; egg sausage and bacon; egg and spam; egg bacon and spam; egg bacon sausage and spam; spam bacon sausage and spam; spam egg spam spam bacon and spam; spam sausage spam spam bacon spam tomato and spam;
The types of email you are might be working with are:
- Webmail (web-based email)
- POP3 (Post Office Protocol)
- IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol)
- SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol)
- Exchange (Microsoft Exchange Server)
You can read all about them on Wikipedia and make your brain explode, so here is somewhat of an explanation in real people terms. Think of your email as a letter that was sent to you via US mail, your server is the post office, the internet is your PO Box, and your computer or device is your house.
Webmail a letter that is delivered to a PO Box, you go to the post office, open your PO box and read your email there. Then you can either trash it, take it home (download), or leave it there for later use. This is the mail you go to your web browser to get and if your internet goes down you have no access to it. Examples are Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail. To further confuse things, those service my offer POP or IMAP as a way to access them on your device.
POP3 (and SMPT) is a copy of your letter that was delivered to your house. This kind of mail can get messy. You can have copies delivered to several houses (i.e. your desktop, notebook, or mobile device), at the Post Office (server) keeps a copy. If you have your mail delivered to more than one house it has to be read, sorted, and trashed at each place separately. So, if you have it delivered to three places you have to deal with the same SPAM three times. YIKES! If you use POP3 it is a good idea to make one house your main hub and program it to clear your server every XX days so you don't max out the server. There is a setting when you set up the email that usually has a default number.
IMAP is a beautiful combination of the above. It syncs your POP3, SMTP, and Webmail so no matter how your read it all your devices match and you can read email offline.
Exchange is a Microsoft product that I have never used. It can do the above, depending on how it is set up. You may run into this if you have interoffice email. If you do, chances are there is a IT person at work to help you set it up.
Business & Organization Emails
Lovely spam! Wonderful spam!
Between the spam we get in our email, phone, fax, and us mail I sometimes wonder how much money it is costing us in manpower and who I can send the bill to.
When setting up emails for small businesses or organization I have a few tricks to make life easier. In addition to each person having their personal email I always set up an "Office" email and an "Info" email.
When I work with emails and businesses I set up a "Catch All" email box. I call it info@[business].com and only use it for a catch all. A catch all email is one where all the miss-addressed email to your domain goes. This will catch mails that go to deleted accounts and made up addresses spam bots send looking for real people. The sender does not get a bounce back. No one picks up the email and I go to the server (webmail) to do a quick check of what is in it and empty the box about once a month. This only works if you have your own email domain (URL).
When you are setting up employee's and officer's emails with their name, think about how common a first name is. Especially the three and four letter first names. Web crawlers will send emails to a list of "[common first names]@[your url].com". I like using first names for small offices or organizations and just deal with the spam. Many businesses use first initial and last name, which can reduce a little of that spam. However I have seen some hilarious email addresses when parts of names are combined, so read your address before saving. Don't be Thomas Brown unless your are a coffin maker, his email is email@example.com.
When setting up emails think of those duties that commonly change employees or officers but still get the same email, such as billing. All the businesses I set up get an "office@" email and this is where all the billing emails go. When setting up emails for an organization where officers often change I just use emails like "librarian@", "president@", "treasurer@" etc. the passwords can be changed as the people change.
I once took over the bookkeeper and office manager position at a subcontractor office to clean up after a Toxic Thana abruptly quit and did a lot of naughty things. She even deleted al her business emails, archived business emails, and address book. Fortunatlly she forgot to delete her sent email box, giving us somewhere to start. All the financial business came to toxicthana@. When a toxic person leaves your company you probably want to delete her email account, door plaques, etc. In this case you can't, because important business comes to her mailbox, and in a large company she probably has so many places to send an address change notice to that it will take months. In this particular case Toxic Thana had the same first name as me so I just took over her email. I set of the office mail and spend months getting all the billing emails reliably going to the new email. When we hired a new bookkeeper, I gave her an email with her name and transferred the office emails to her computer so she had two email accounts arrive in her mailbox, I explaned the difference and instructed her to make sure all billing emails keep coming to the office@ email. I still kept my email, no need to send a mass change of address out to all our vendors, which would be spam and would probably get spam filtered.
I set up a music organization that has section leaders and we wanted the emails available on the website. There were some issues to overcome, one was section leaders change and didn't want to bother with checking a second email, another was by listing their email on the website they would get likely get over spammed. I set up a forwarding only email for each section and listed them on the site. With a forwarding only email address, the server automatically forward the email to the person's email and the message will only be stored on the user that is set to receive the forwarded email. These are typically time sensitive emails that do not need saving. The sender only sees the real address if the section leader replies. WE do get lots of scam spam on them but it is easy to ignore.
My Elaborate Email System
Lobster Thermidor au Crevettes with a mornay sauce served in a Provencale manner with shallots and aubergines garnished with truffle pate, brandy and with a fried egg on top and spam.
When it comes to my email, I have a system that helps me organize all my irons that are in the fire. I have over a dozen email addresses, my friends think I'm crazy! But by doing this I can wear one thinking cap at a time and focus on just the one job at a time.
I have my primary personal email, my family account, my gmail needed for some of my apps, my 20 year old rarely used Yahoo mail, an email for each of my webs, an email for each of my titles, one just for Pampered Chef, and my work email.
I found an awesome aftermarket email app, Airmail, for my iPhone that makes it easy to sort, delete, and view all my emails, and syncs with my iPad. it has a one time purchase price and it is worth every penny!
My home MS Outlook email is my main hub, but I check my mail mostly on my phone. I answer long emails on my desktop though, the thumb/auto-correct has always been a challenge for me. When I start up my MS Outlook all my mail from all my accounts download to my desktop and clean out the servers. I have emails saved on my home computer from many years past. I used to try to clean it out but gave up on it some time ago. A couple times a year I do a mass delete and sort, usually on a rainy gloomy day where I have nothing else to do.
It is really not as overwhelming as it looks. In fact it takes the overwhelm out of my email life.