E-Mail Trouble? Here Are Some Things To Check

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Have you ever wondered whether someone got your email? You send a message, you wait to hear back, and…nothing. Did it arrive, or did it get lost along the way?

One of modern life’s greatest conveniences and frustrations, all in one, is email. When it works, it’s near-instant communication. But when it doesn’t, you’re left hanging.

How is it possible for such an important form of business communication to be so unreliable? Sadly, spam is to blame – I long for the good old days of reliable e-mail! As companies work to combat junk e-mail, chances are your mail may have some problems getting delivered. Fortunately, a little knowledge will increase the odds that your message gets through.

Bad Address
A common problem is simply an out-dated or mistyped email address.

With hard-to-remember addresses, frequent job moves, and changing internet service providers, your contact list should be updated regularly.

If you send something to a bad address, you usually get an error message sent right back to you. This is called a “bounce-back message” because the email was sent (“bounced”) right back without getting through.

Check for typos in the address line; if it looks right, pick up the phone instead. Be sure to update your address book with the new email.

Blacklists
A more serious problem occurs if your address is added to a blacklist. These are lists managed by a variety of spam-prevention services that flag people, websites, and servers that are known spammers.
Many anti-spam programs rely on these lists to filter out bad email. If you are caught on one, you will undoubtedly have problems delivering your message. Since different email servers rely on different lists, you may find most email gets through and only a few people have problems. Get on a big enough list – or several lists – and the number of issues will increase.

Even the innocent get blacklisted. For example, a spammer may “spoof” your email, making it appear that you are a spammer even though messages come from a completely different source. If you start getting bounce-back messages as mentioned above, that make it appear you sent large batches of obscene or get-rich-quick emails to people you don’t know, that’s the most likely cause. There’s no way to prevent this; wait a couple of days and it will usually subside.

Greylists
A less serious but equally frustrating list is the greylist. Many large organizations will use these to filter email from senders they haven’t seen before.

As long as your message isn’t spam, this will more likely delay your message than completely block it. However, if you need quick response and the email doesn’t arrive for a full day, it creates a significant communications obstacle.

When the delay is a one-time occurrence and your next message gets through, there’s no need to do anything. Keep in mind you may encounter delays with several recipients; it’s only cause for concern if you run into multiple delays with the same person, or even the same company.

Other Spam Filters
There are a number of additional triggers that can flag your message as spam. Excessive use of the word “free,” for example, is commonly associated with spam messages.

Google “spam checker” and you’ll find a variety of tools (free!) that will scan your message and tell you how spammy it is. Use these tools when you have an email you plan to send to a large group.

Info Overload
Human error is also a factor. With the sheer volume of email coming into our computers each day, it’s challenging to keep email organized.

If your message has been missed, it’s always a good idea to follow up with a phone call. Perhaps it didn’t arrive, but more likely it came in at a busy time and was accidentally overlooked.

A Convenient Excuse
If you take all these precautions and still your email doesn’t get through, and there’s no bounce-back message, you may be the victim of a convenient excuse.

If your email isn’t rejected, isn’t in any spam filter, and yet doesn’t show up despite a “careful review”…and all your subsequent tests work just fine…well, let’s just say technology may not be your problem.

10 Easy Ways To Eliminate E-Mail Overload

E-mail driving you crazy? Every time you delete one, do fi ve more show up? Are you fi nding it impossible to answer every e-mail you receive? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re not alone!

Some people are even declaring e-mail bankruptcy — they dump every e-mail in their inbox and start over. If that’s not an option for you, then here are 10 tips to reduce e-mail overload.

1. Get a good spam filter.
Even if it saves you just 10 minutes a day, that adds up to over 59 hours a year.

2. Cancel subscriptions to unwanted mailing lists, and opt-out of LEGITIMATE e-zines.
But be careful! Trying to opt-out of spam e-mails will only alert the sender that they have a LIVE address. Also, make sure you are careful to check the “unsubscribe” or “opt-out” box when purchasing items online.

3. Ask your friends to remove you from joke groups or chain messages.
Simply explain your situation and, if they are good friends, they’ll take you out of their message group.

4. Don’t post or publish your e-mail on websites.
Spammers will steal it and put it on their lists.

5. Don’t respond to every e-mail you receive.
Yes, it’s okay NOT to respond to some e-mails. If it’s a group e-mail, don’t respond with “okay” or “:)” — it’s not necessary unless the sender is specifically asking you a question or requesting a response.

6. Be succinct.
Restrict your messages to a few sentences. If you can’t, pick up the phone or talk in person. This will avoid the back-and-forth of e-mail conversation.

7. Take advantage of subject lines.
If possible, put your question in the subject line, or your message. If that’s not possible, make your subject line very descriptive so the recipient knows what your message is about. Here’s another tip; create a set of codes with your coworkers and place them in the subject line to help them process and prioritize messages. For example, use “FYI” for informational messages. Use “AR” for action required and “URG” for urgent messages.

8. Block time to answer your e-mail and fight the temptation to check your e-mail every few minutes.
You will save yourself a lot of time and be far more productive.

9. Respond to messages when you open them so you only read them once.
If the e-mail requires an action step, schedule the action step and delete it from your inbox.

10. Set time aside in the morning and the evening to process your inbox.
Shoot for a completely empty inbox. File messages you need to keep and set reminders for messages that require you to follow up.

Now, here are some tips to keep from adding to the e-mail overload of others…

1. Be courteous when forwarding an e-mail: summarize the thread and why you are sending it at the top of the e-mail.

2. Don’t copy someone on a message unless it is necessary. And explain why you’re copying them. Recipients won’t need to guess your intentions. This means less back and forth messages.

How To Keep Hackers Away From Your Data

No one wants to have their network “hacked,” but what exactly can a hacker do? Plenty, and you are right to be afraid!

One common way for hackers to access your network is through spyware or viruses, which are malicious programs written to imbed themselves into your network to gather private information, steal financial data, access passwords, e-mail addresses, and spread themselves to other users.

But one of the most common ways for hackers to access your system is through e-mail, or spam e-mail to be more specific. Even if you have the latest anti-virus software installed, hackers are very clever at getting you to circumvent your anti-virus software through phishing e-mails.

Phishing is when a hacker sends you a legitimate looking e-mail from a trusted source — like PayPal, your bank, eBay, or any number of other legitimate business websites. These e-mails will tell you that your account is expired or will be closed if you don’t go to a designated website and update or verify your account information.

Although you may have seen these e-mails before, be very careful! Hackers are brilliant at making not only the e-mail seem legitimate, but also at making the website you go to look like the real thing.

If you fall prey to their scam, the site will gather your private information (usernames, passwords, accounts, etc.) and then use that to access your bank account or to charge your credit card.

To protect yourself, install a spam filter and NEVER open or respond to any e-mail requesting account verification. Instead, call the company. If it is a legitimate request, you can verify that with them over the phone.