Survival in the 21st century pretty much necessitates having an email address. We use them to drop a quick note to a friend, to make professional contacts and to receive the latest deals on flights home. But not all emails are created equal. And where exactly is it anyway?
Whilst of course you read your emails on your phone, computer or tablet – or possibly all three – the fact you can pick up your messages in more than one place obviously means there are master copies somewhere. Actually your email is “hosted” or housed in a bunch of secure computers someplace on the planet. Depending on who controls those computers – called servers – you may have an account that is locked to your current internet provider or that is independent of your provider.
Though there are advantages to both, more often it is advantageous to go with an independent email address that will move with you. Providers like Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo all do this, and it’s free (in exchange for part of the screen being occupied by ads of course)
If your email address is provided by your work or your internet provider, chances are it will disappear when your circumstance change. Many employers store old emails for a period of time after an employee has left, but you will not be able to access those files. Similarly, many internet service providers store previous clients’ email addresses and emails as long as the client retains some service through the company, even if they downgrade to just a phone service. Though these back up files exist, chances are you won’t be able to access them and you certainly won’t be able to access them easily after you retire from the job or move to a new house with a different internet provider.
To avoid the problems of the disappearing email address, it’s easy to create an email at one of the internet based sites. You can have one email address forward all emails to the other if you prefer to just check the one address. Or you can use them for two different aspects of your life such as professional and personal contacts. In either case, you should make sure a copy of your important emails goes to the internet-based email before you move jobs or houses.
Whether you are using a provider-based email or an internet-based email, your emails are being stored on a server. The only time your email is not hosted on an outside server is if you use an email “client” like Outlook or Thunderbird. These clients have settings that allow you to choose if you want to have your email stored in the cloud (aka on some servers someplace) or on your home computer.
Many people are concerned about the security of personal information stored on a cloud server belonging to somebody else, and it’s right to be aware of what you are consenting to in this case. But before you jump immediately onto the home computer train, remember that your computer can (and likely will) crash and die eventually. The hosting servers have backups, so when any individual computer dies the network remains in place and you don’t lose all those bad jokes your uncle sent you.
You can use a client like Outlook to read your email on your computer. The email you are reading could be either the provider-linked kind or the internet-based kind. By using a program like Outlook or Thunderbird, you can download your email in batches and read while you aren’t actively connected to the internet. You can write your responses and queue them up for delivery once you get reconnected.
These programs are convenient for sitting at the beach writing back to your grand-niece, or if your connection is metered or throttled in any way. Or simply unavailable – such as when travelling. You can even use them on a plane, with your device in flight-safe mode. However make sure your settings have your email sending as soon as the computer connects, so you don’t find your messages sat in the outbox weeks later! Look under “Setting” or “Options” in the menus to find out when your program sends out fresh emails.
If you like to check your email from a desk, you might prefer to skip the email client and read your emails directly on a website. This is what sites like gmail, yahoo and Hotmail do best. These email providers have user-friendly sites that allow you to view and respond to emails in a similar way to programmes like Outlook. To use these sites, you have to be connected to the internet, just like you are using any website.
There are many ways to read and write emails. As you consider what option suits you best, take into account backups, access to the internet and your personal mobility, as well as which kinds of devices you are most likely to want to read your messages on.
Beyond that, find a system you like and that you’re comfortable with, and where you can secure a username you want as well. Unfortunately with millions of worldwide users, it’s going to be getting on for impossible to find firstname.lastname at any of them, unless you’re very uniquely named. If you don’t fancy being JohnSmith724481@whatever.com, it might be easier to choose something different to identify yourself.
There are of course ways to get a far more personalised address for email, and we will have a look at that next week
Costa Connected, for Costa Blanca News, June 5th 2015
Casslar Consulting SL