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Articles

Managing Your Email

article by: Matthew Fair

Managing email successfully has become a very important part of every business and for many, it has become a huge, almost impossible, problem.

General Management

Software

Managing email effectively requires the right software for the right type of user. I have found several email clients that work very well and offer a variety of options and customizable features. (Def: an email client is software that allows you to compose and read email).

  • Microsoft Outlook
    www.microsoft.com
    Probably the most expensive of all the popular email clients, Microsoft Outlook provides a complete set of email features with calendar, task lists, and the add-ons to allow you to synchronize your information with a handheld device. The email client is efficient and allows you to use multiple email accounts and set rules on your mail to help organize and categorize you mail effectively.
  • Mozilla Thunderbird
    http://www.mozilla.org/products/thunderbird/
    This is a free email client that manages email very well. It also has some very cool tools to help you limit the amount of spam you have to deal with.
  • Outlook Express
    www.microsoft.com
    Also free, Outlook Express gives you many of the same features that are found in the full Microsoft Outlook but without the calendar, task list, memos etc. Outlook Express is ideal for novice users who still need to be able to use more than one email address.

Principles

Once you have the right software and have become comfortable with it, you can start developing a system. The following are a few ideas that will help you to define your system:

  • Never ever delete messages from clients, suppliers, and colleagues. If you are running out of space to store email you can always archive your messages onto a CD or some other device. Here at Inter Kingston, we only delete messages from unwanted (spam) sources. Otherwise, we save each and every message. I have messages going back as far as 1997 and unless I run into problems with my software crashing I'm likely just going to keep it where it is. If I do run into problems I'll archive a portion of it and save it in a separate file just in case.
  • Use several folders to manage your saved messages. For our business we prefer to give each client or perspective client their own folder. This makes it a lot easier to focus in on a specific line of messages. If your business is B2C, you may find that method completely ridiculous so it might be better to organize your email by the type of the request.
  • Develop a system that you can live with. The bottom line is to find a method that will allow you to successfully respond, file, or delete as many messages that arrive in your inbox in a single week. When you leave your office for the weekend your inbox should be essentially empty and ready to start fresh on Monday. A difficult task, but if you can get in the habit of routinely finding a way to do it you will notice a remarkable sense of relief and an accompanying boost in business performance.

Viruses

The majority of viruses enter a computer via email and therefore it is extremely important that you keep both your anti-virus software and your email client software up-to-date. There have been several vulnerabilities exposed that allow a virus to execute malicious code on your computer without even opening the attachment. These vulnerabilities can be patched by downloading and installing the free upgrades provided by the software manufacturer.

Spam

Spam has become a real problem for anyone who has an email account and busy entrepreneurs usually have 2 or more accounts. Spam wastes a lot of valuable time and computer resources, so finding a decent solution to stop spam is usually well worth the cost. As mentioned above, there are several email clients that have special features to help control spam and save you time. However, many of them require a considerable amount of effort to initiate and maintain. Spam filtering provided by your ISP or by an in-house spam filtering appliance can be very effective and will limit spam without the effort and usually at a reasonable cost. Ensure that you have the ability to make significant changes to the filters settings. There is nothing worse than having legitimate email filtered into the great abyss. A good ISP or in-house device will give individuals the ability to easily fine tune the existing filters to meet their individual needs. Our web hosting provider recently installed a spam firewall manufactured by Barracuda Networks. The device has been an absolute life saver for us and many of our clients have made extremely positive compliments of the new system.

Go Mobile

Being able to send and receive email when you're out of the office can really help to keep you ahead of your inbox. Most ISP's and web hosting companies, as well as in-house email servers have built-in "web email clients" that will allow you to read and respond to email simply using a web browser. This means you don't always have to have your laptop with you. And for your employees this will mean they can check in and get caught up on their email during the weekend without adding extra software or IT infrastructure! Now that's beautiful!

Wireless

When you receive an incredible amount of legitimate email and there is just now way you can manage it, it's time to get a wireless email client like a RIM Blackberry. With a wireless email client you can receive and respond to email from anywhere at anytime. Imagine how impressed your clients will be when you find a way to respond to every message they send almost instantly. That kind of customer service will be rewarded 10 times over.

Matthew Fair is a Web Developer and Owner of Inter Kingston Web Design. interkingston.com