Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Getting the most of your email

Getting the most out of your email

In this blog, I am going to discuss how email works and what is a good way to utilize email.

How does email work?



Imagine that there is a post office box on the internet and it has your email in it. You can go to this post office box and get your email (and now your post office box is empty). Or, you can go and ask for a photo copy of all of your email (in which case, the originals are still in your post office box). On the internet, this post office box is called a POP (Post Office Protocol) server and it works essentially just like a real USPS post office box.

There are also mail boxes on the internet. You drop your email in a mail box and it gets sent to someone's post office box. This mail box is called an SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) server. Again, it works pretty much just like a real USPS mail box.

In the real world, you read your mail at the kitchen table. On the internet, you access your email through an email client. There are a couple kinds of email clients.


Some clients run natively on a computer. Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Live Mail are examples of this. Outlook goes to your POP server and retrieves your email and lets you view it. Outlook is fast and powerful. However, if Outlook takes the email from your POP email box then you can only view it on that one computer which is running Outlook. If you are tech savvy,  you can run Outlook on several machines and tell each of them to keep a copy of your email. Still, a native client forces you install a client and limits access to email to that computer on which you installed the client.


Other email clients are web based. Google's Gmail, Microsoft's Hotmail, Yahoo and AOL all have web based email clients. These clients run on the internet and can be accessed using any web browser (for example, Google's Chrome, Microsoft's Internet Explorer or Apple's Safari). You can also access your email from any device which can access the internet... your phone, your iPad, your laptop or your desktop. Better still, since the email is on the internet, you don't have to worry about your email being found on only one particular machine.

BigIron.com has it's own web based email client. You can access it at http://webmail.bigiron.com/.

If you're like me, you probably have several email addresses. A personal address and a business address, for example. Most, but not all, email clients will let you consolidate email from several email boxes. This lets you get all of your email from one source. 

How to get the most from your email

There is no best way to use email. But, for what it's worth, I am going to describe how I do it.


I use Google's Gmail, mail.google.com, for all of my email. Gmail is free and powerful and it works exceedingly well with my Android based phone. Because I use a web client, I can access my internet from any phone or iPad or computer. There is nothing I need to install. I just go out to the web and read my email.

I have many email accounts. For example, I have a personal account, johnweeder@gmail.com, and I have a business account, john.weeder@bigiron.com. I access all of them through one single Gmail account. I use my personal account as my master email account.

The key is that I can tell Gmail to pull email from each of my POP email addresses. It's a bit like telling someone to go to the post office and get email from several post office boxes. I will walk you through the process of setting Gmail up to retrieve email from other accounts.

Start by selecting Settings from the options menu.


Now go to the Accounts and Import tab. There is a section labeled Check mail from other accounts. As you can see, I am pulling email from 4 other accounts in addition to my johnweeder@gmail.com account. To add another POP account, click on the Add a POP3 mail account you own button.


Enter the email address you wish to retrieve email from.



Now for the tricky part, you need to enter your user name, password and POP server address. For BigIron.com, your user name is your full email address. Hopefully, you still remember your password. The password is case sensitive. The POP server address is pop.emailsrvr.com. For Stock RA, the POP server is mail.stockra.com. I am not sure whether the Stock RA user name is your full email address or just the name portion of the email address (sometimes this varies). That's pretty much all there is to it. The options screen will show the last time the POP email was retrieved and whether there were any errors.


You may want to tell Gmail to leave a copy of your email on the original server. This can be useful if you use other email clients to access your email. Generally, I don't do this but you sure can if you want to.


Sometimes it is frustrating when it seems you have typed everything in correctly and, yet, still your email is not working. The first thing to check is that your email POP server information is actually correct. I have a nice web site, https://www.wormly.com/test_pop3_mail_server, that I use to do this. Just enter your POP server information and click the button. If everything is correct, you will get an "OK" response.


When I send an email, I can choose which email address it comes from (sometimes I forget...).

Well, that's it really. All of my email comes to one account and I can access it pretty much anywhere.


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