EMail

You wouldn't think we'd even need to list this, but a surprising number of businesses aren't using it yet, or aren't using it effectively.

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EMail has become an absolute essential for business, both internally and externally through the Internet. Unlike snail mail (U.S. Postal Service) email can be at its destination in seconds, for a cost of nearly nothing - worldwide.

An EMail message is very easy to respond to, as the return message will be automatically addressed to the sender of the original message.

"Attachments" are commonly added to email messages and are carried by them to the destination. These attachments may be text documents, word processor files, runable programs, pictures, or any other type of computer file. They are specially coded for transmission and decoded (uuencode/uudecode) at the destination by the mail reader or a subsidiary program. Handling attachments is the most confusing part of using email and many people have difficulty with them, but it's something you have to learn to deal with.

Caution: since Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel documents can support virus infections, email attachments of this type have become a favorite for spreading viruses, so avoid these programs or be very careful. If you are also using Microsoft Exchange mail you company can be wide open to rapidly spreading virus infections. ActiveX, Java and JavaScript attachments are also becoming a problem.

Caution: normal email is not a legal document. Even a signed fax is a lot better, so be cautious about basing critical business actions on email messages. There are verification services that make it possible to use email as a legal document.

Larger companies commonly have a proprietary internal mail system (cc:Mail, Exchange, Lotus Notes Mail, etc) with a gateway to Internet mail. The mail server connects to an Internet service provider periodically to upload outgoing mail and download incoming mail, translating between the proprietary format and the Internet mail format. Using the Internet format internally is becoming more and more popular, as is simply using Internet mail as the company's internal mail system as well.

There are two types of mail services on the Internet: SMTP/POP3 mail (Internet Mail), and Web Mail. Popular "free" services like Yahoo Mail and Microsoft's Hot Mail are Web Mail. The mailboxes provided by ISPs (Internet Service Providers) are SMTP/POP3.

Web mail can be fully accessed (send and receive) from anywhere you can get a Web browser onto the Internet, but is otherwise limited. Security ranges from poor to extremely poor, and you are severely limited as to the size of attachments that can be included with an email message. You can have only your own personal mailbox under the providers site name, and you cannot move to a different service without changing your email address.

SMTP/POP3 mail is generally quite secure, and can handle very large attachments, depending on the rules of your service provider (10-Megs is a common limit). ISPs offering SMTP/POP3 usually also offer domain mail services which allow linking of your own domain name (such as aaxnet.com) to their mail services, and offer multiple mailboxes for businesses. We, for example, have aax@aaxnet.com, vend@aaxnet.com, rose@aaxnet.com and other mailboxes. With domain mail you can move to a different service provider without changing your email addresses.

SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) is the server you send mail out through, and POP (Post Office Protocol) is the server where your mail is held when it comes in. They may both have the same name, for instance ours are both named mail.aaxnet.com. When you go to read your mail it is "fetched" from the POP server. In other words, it is copied to your local hard disk and then erased from the POP server.

SMTP/POP3 mail accounts allow you to log from any service to read your mail, but you can only send mail or respond to mail using a mailbox at the service you are logged in through. For instance, if I have logged in through our JPS account, I can read and respond to mail in our aax@aaxnet.com mailbox (or any other JPS hosted mailbox we have), and I can read mail in our Mindspring mailbox (aax@ix.netcom.com) but I can't simply respond to messages in that mailbox, I must respond with "new message" from the aax@aaxnet.com account, or I will get a "We don't relay" message and the response won't be sent. If I log into our Mindspring account I can read and respond to mail in the aax@ix.netcom.com box, and can read mail in the JPS hosted aax@aaxnet.com mailbox but have to respond to it from the aax@ix.netcom.com address. This is all because of security measures put in place to limit spammers.

Email is read and responded to using a "Mail Reader" program. Most popular Web browsers (Netscape, Opera, Internet Explorer) have a mail reader "built in". There are many "stand-alone" mail readers, the most popular of which had been Eudora (which Microsoft copied when the did Outlook) but our favorite (by a long shot) is PMMail, an OS/2 program now also available for Windows95/98/NT. The biggest advantages of stand-alone mail readers is you don't have to load some big ugly Web browser just to read mail, and some of them are a lot easier to use and have more advanced features.

©:Andrew Grygus - Automation Access - www.aaxnet.com - aax@aaxnet.com
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