PSA – Email Abuse

email_white with blackIt has been quite some time since my last post and today I feel compelled to spill the beans on some magic many in the business world abuse: Email.

I am sure you have seen or know someone in your office that abuses Email. Maybe it is the person that doesn’t proof read their Emails and has to send out a redaction Email a few minutes later explaining a typo, an attachment they never attached, or my favorite, getting day/month/year wrong of an upcoming event. The latter I find so common and it is interesting to note that those types of abuse usually create more confusion than had the Email never even been sent at all! In my many years of system administration and helpdesk, I have seen countless people abuse Email. I have spent weeks of my life trying to recover an obscure Email that is over 10 years old because it had information in it someone still needed. And don’t even get me started on exchange, pst files, and contact management. It sufficeth me to say, it’s nothing less than a nightmare. And if you work with a bunch of people who’s lifeline and archive methods include outlook, listen up.

Digital data is still inherently one of the most volatile mediums to date! Mankind is still discovering records from ancient civilization every year who’s data is thousands of years old. Paper, stone carvings, petroglyphs, and other medium stand the test of time. They can outlast floods, storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and so much more! Your digital data can barely survive the delete key on your keyboard. Think about it.

If your data is crucial, consider printing it out and storing it in a fire-proof/water-proof container. Is this more expensive that just “archiving it” in MS Outlook? Sure is! But ask yourself, how important is this data and what would you do if you lost it? If the data is unimportant, consider deleting it completely and ridding your inbox and consequently the Email server of it’s digital clutter. Digital Clutter, that is something I will have to address in another one of my PSAs, for now, know that DC is a bad thing!

Now, back to the abuse of Email. Email is not for archiving! Do not CC yourself so you have a copy of your own Email. Carbon Copies (CC) are for physical paper exchanges where usually signatures are required. CC’s and BCC’s should be used sparingly and only addressed to the people that the Email concerns. Do not use CC or BCC as a “remote inbox archive”! Not only does it multiply the Digital Clutter exponentially, it annoys the bejesus out of those who get your message and wonder “WTF am I being CC’ed on this?!”.

Another form of abuse that needs to be addressed is the “reply all” button. Comically addressed in a Bridgestone Superbowl Commercial in 2011, not paying attention to who the Email is intended for could cause serious trouble! Remember to keep your Emails clear, concise, and limited to a few words. No one really has the time to read E-novels.

One of my most frustrating methods for abusing Email is the “Bloated Attachment”. Email is for short memo-esk messages for co-workers and the like. Email is not a Digital UPS! There is more than likely never a good reason to have 900 Megabytes of photos attached to any email! Got lots of stuff to share? Send a cheap loadeed USB flash drive with all your data. Burn your data to a CD and ship it FedEx. Get a FREE account with dropbox and make your data public (not the best solution if your photos are risqué or incriminating in any way). FTP and SFTP servers are also simple and effective ways of sharing large amounts of data. Interested in FTP/SFTP? Check out Filezilla. Email is not a Pack-N-Ship technology. Most Email servers are only capable of handling 10 to 20 MB of data and it is unwise to allow anything larger. Doing so can cause long ridiculous Email queues and even prevent the sending of smaller more legitimate messages.

Do not embed HTML, pictures, or links into your Email. Those types of things can be compromised and abused so easily. It is best to send simple plain text emails so that your recipient can be confident your email is not a scam or malicious.

If the Email looks suspicious or you are not expecting it from anyone particular, leave it alone. If it contains links, Delete it!

On a technical note, please understand the Email uses several types of protocols, SMTP, POP, POP3, MAPI, IMAP and various forms of encryption when enabled. These protocols are “ontop” of the TCP/IP protocols. The TCP/IP protocol has built in guaranteed delivery. This means, Email will either always get to their intended destination, or reply with an error and details as to why the email was not deliverable. When you click the send button, after you took care not to abuse Email, give it some time to show up! And just because you haven’t heard back yet, doesn’t mean it hasn’t been received or been lost.

Email myth I need to bust right now. Emails do not get “lost”. At least not while they are in transmission. They can sometimes be bumped out of queue or accidentally deleted, but not without the help of human hands first. Email is far more reliable than USPS. Remember that.

With that all said, take care while constructing Emails. Take a course on Email etiquette or hold a company info session on proper Email conduct.

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