Email, which stands for electronic mail, became popular during the 1970’s in the government and large corporations. It then began to trickle down to smaller companies. As more and more people got computers at home with dial-up internet access, email began to filter into our everyday personal lives as well until it became a major form of communication. Although email is still a major form of communication in both the business world and our personal lives, email is not a popular with millennials (generation Y) as they tend to use text messaging and social media.
Even if our use of email has declined, it’s still a major form of communication. Yet, most people don’t really understand some of the important aspects of email. So with that in mind, here is everything (almost) you need to know about email. I say almost because this article would be way too long if I included everything.
The first thing you should understand is that email is not secure. When you send an email, it’s not encrypted or anything. It can travel through several servers before arriving at its destination. If one of those servers is infected with a particular type of virus, that virus could intercept your email. And because email is not encrypted, that email can be read and information can be harvested from it. That’s why we always say that you should never send sensitive or identifying information through email. This includes passwords, credit card information, account numbers, and stuff like that.
The second thing you should understand is that email isn’t as reliable as you might think. Mainly due to the constant battle against SPAM, many emails are rejected by the server on the other side of your email and never reach the person you are trying to contact. Even if your email is delivered, it could go into the recipient’s spam folder. Or, the person on the other end might not see it because it’s just one email among 100’s of others. You can request a return receipt, but that usually doesn’t work. If you send an important email, you can ask the recipient to reply and acknowledge that they got the email. Many won’t do this, though. If the email is really important, you might want to contact the recipient using a different form of communication to verify they got it.
A big problem with email that everyone knows about is spam. In 2009, more than 97% of all emails sent were spam. Thanks to many factors, that number has come down to around 70%, but that’s still really high. Never click on a link in a spam email. In fact, avoid opening them. Worse than spam is the spoof email. This is an email that pretends to be from a business and trick you into clicking on a link in the email. These emails can be very convincing. If you receive an email that looks like it’s from a business you do business with, the safest thing to do is to avoid clicking on links in the email and, instead, just go to the businesses website, login, and take care of it that way.
Email is the second biggest delivery mechanism for computer viruses. Second only to the web. When most people think about email and viruses, they think about attachments. Never open an email attachment unless you are absolutely sure it’s safe. And it’s hard to know because your friend’s email account could have been hacked. But when it comes to viruses and email, it’s not just about attachments. What’s more common these days is the email tries to get you to click on a link that goes to an infected website that infects your computer.
Now that we have talked about all of the problems with email, let’s talk about solutions and best practices.
If you have your email through one of the free providers (Gmail, Outlook.com, Yahoo, AOL, etc.) then you should enable additional security features which will help prevent your email account from getting hacked. First, you should have a strong password for your email account and you should use that password only for that email account. Why? Your email account is often the key to resetting the passwords on the websites you login to. If someone hacks your email, they can reset the password for your bank, for example, and get into your bank account. For information on creating a strong password, check out this article on our website. In addition, turn on 2-step verification. Different email services have different names for it, but basically, the first time you log into your email on a new device (PC, phone, tablet, etc.) you must verify you are who you say you are. The best way to do that is using your cell phone and text messaging. For more information on 2-step verification, check out this article on our website.
Along those same lines, we don’t recommend using email accounts provided by your Internet Service provider. There are many reasons for this which you can read on this article on our website. In a nutshell, these email accounts are unreliable and unsafe. Get yourself an email account on Gmail or Outlook.com and use that instead. And changing email addresses isn’t a big deal if you know how to do it right. Let us help and we’ll make the transition easy.
When you access your email using an app or email client, it can interact with your email server in two different ways. These are POP and IMAP. We recommend avoiding POP and using IMAP. IMAP keeps your email in sync on all devices. POP doesn’t. When you access email from a device like a phone or tablet, you use an app. These apps default to using IMAP which is good. If you use a program other than Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, or similar to access your email, then those don’t use IMAP or POP because that’s a direct connection to the email server. But if you use a program like Thunderbird, Windows Mail, Windows Live Mail, Incredimail, or similar to access your email, make sure you use IMAP.
And now for some email etiquette. Don’t forward a bunch of emails to all of your friends. Try to limit forwarded emails to 1, maybe 2 a day. More than that and you are basically spamming your friends. And when you send them an important email, they may not read it because they may assume it’s just another junk email you forwarded.
All businesses, no matter how small, should have a website and they should use email accounts for that website. When your business uses an email account that is on one of the free email services, it just doesn’t look professional. For example, if I owned a business called Fred’s Fill Dirt, I shouldn’t use an email address of firstname.lastname@example.org. I should use email@example.com.
And finally, what should you do if your email gets hacked?
Check out this article on our website.
I hope this article was informative, helpful, not too technical, and not too long.
If you have any questions about email or need help, reply to this email or give us a call.