Email: What the Postman Saw

Email is now an important part of doing business for many. It's largely replaced fax and paper based communication for many companies, and website have gone along way to doing away with printed brochures.

Making sure that you have an effective setup for receiving and replying to emails is going to be a key part of your online strategy.

Mail Forwarding

Perhaps the simplest form of email handling, mail is redirected from your domain to an existing email address, such as with your Internet Service Provider (ISP) or Webmail service such as Google Mail or Hotmail.

Catch All

A catch all means that email sent to any address at your domain (i.e. bob@domain.com, sue@domain.com, dfkghpow@domain.com) is forwarded to a specific email address, such as with your ISP.

The biggest downside of this is that you will receive a large amound of SPAM mail which you will not be able to effecctively filter. Unless you already have numerous email addresses or variants, you would be better off avoiding this method.

POP Mailboxes

The purpose of a mailbox is to store and hold your message until you collect them. This is almost certainly the way in which your ISP currently handles your email. POP stands for Post Office Protocol, and its just the technique by which your email program (Outlook, Outlook Express, etc) downloads the emails from your mailbox to your computer.

Mailboxes can be created for each of your users, or if you have many users, you may wish to download all mail to your own mail server, although this is likely to only be of value to larger organisations (25+).

Webmail

Web mail allows you to access your emails through a web browser interface. Users of Google Mail or Hotmail type services will be familiar with this type of facility. Most ISP's also now off webmail access to your ISP email.

The advantage is that you don't need to download the messages and store them on your computer, and that you will be able to access your messages from anywhere that you can get internet access. This is ideal for business users who travel or perhaps whilst on holiday.

However, the webmail interfaces are usually very basic, and do not provide the same facilities to organise mail or synchronise address books that a dedicated email program will provide.

Spam Filters

SPAM is unfortunately a fact of life and difficult to avoid. When you have your first email address the chances are that you will not receive any Spam, but it doesn't take long for mailing lists and the like to fall into uncsrupulous hands, or for the Spammers to be clever enough to guess your email address.

Although you can get Spam filters as part of the Internet Security suite of programs for your computer, the best approach is to filter it out at the Mail Server, before it has chance to reach your computer. You are much less likely to receive malicious and potentially harmful Spam in that way. The Mail server based filters are more likely to be constantly updated to make sure you have the latest protection. There is no harm in providing local filtering as a backup, as no Spam filter is 100% effective or accurate. Indeed, sometimes mail will be retained as Spam when it is legitimate, for which you can often configure to reduce the number of these 'false positives'.

Auto Responders

An auto-responder is useful for when you are out of the office for extended period such as holiday. It allows you to configure an automatic response to each and every email that you receive, informing the sender that you are away.