Mysteries of Life: Just Where Do E-mails “Hang Out”?

(Is There a Waiting Room “Out There”?)

Have you ever wondered about the true mysteries of life? Like, “Why does spam get through spam filters, but the important e-mail gets stuck there?” Or “What happens to e-mail that just mysteriously gets “delayed” for days, weeks, or even months?” (By the way, the record holder for my missing in action (MIA) e-mail is three months.)

E-mails, Hotel California Style

Now today was a day where MIA e-mail suddenly reappeared. My favorite was where I received an e-mail (let’s call it “e-mail C”) from a colleague asking me to sponsor a charity event. That e-mail, which I didn’t mind getting, came within minutes of being sent. The one (let’s call it “e-mail Q”) sent about an urgent client issue three weeks ago also came yesterday—immediately following right behind e-mail C. So was e-mail Q just loitering around the Internet? Is there a “chat room” for malingering e-mails? Picture it: these e-mails decide to jump off their prescribed Internet path from the sender to inbox, as if to say “I think I’ll hang around on this router for awhile … or maybe hang out in some virtual waiting room.” Maybe the spam filters are like a virtual doctor’s office where you have an appointment and you wait … and wait … and wait. Or maybe there is a part of the Internet for e-mails like the Eagle’s song Hotel California, where they can check out anytime but can never leave!

I surely don’t know where the e-mails go. It is a mystery to me. My website host suggests it is spam filters that have been tightened; but then, wouldn’t they just disappear to never reappear? And the spam certainly seems to have no trouble getting through; it’s just the important stuff that I miss. I just don’t know. I can get all kinds of outrageous offers and, shall we say, solicitations, and my other favorite: the blank e-mails from service providers that strip out the content when someone replies. Yeah, I like those too. I’m beginning to lean toward … alien abductions …

E-mail Management: Real Impact

E-mails are an important, often a critical, aspect of how business communication takes place. Whether you are in the office or on the road, being able to rely on your e-mails to arrive and be delivered makes a huge impact on your marketing, your business image, and your blood pressure! Unfortunately, there are many disruptions that you just can’t prevent or control, so here are some tactics to deploy to keep your communications on track, or at least tracked.

  • Use the bcc (blind copy) option and send a copy to yourself at an alternate e-mail address (not on your business domain). This enables you to have an idea if the e-mail is actually transmitted from your e-mail server.
  • Respond consistently to all e-mails received. If you are a consistent e-mail responder, when your clients, colleagues, and others don’t receive a prompt response from you they are more likely to give you a call to see if you got the e-mail.
  • Check your spam filters and other setups consistently to see what is getting caught—and what isn’t.
  • Manage your white lists with your spam tools to make sure your clients, colleagues and other friendly e-mails are not going to get blocked because they aren’t on the list.
  • Talk to your e-mail host/provider and understand the rules. If you are using a non-business level e-mail provider, you may be running into limits set by the provider for attachment sizes, types of files, and number of e-mails that can be sent and received in a service period.

Spam Filters and…

Back to the mysteries of life: the management of spam. You can pick your tool or tools, but whatever you do, keep in mind that you don’t want to make it too difficult to communicate with you. For instance, a colleague who shall remain nameless put so many different spam tools in place, that by the time you responded to them all, you forgot why you originally e-mailed. Get one really good tool that you can manage and that works, not two or three that sort of work.

One More Thing: Contacts and Communications, Proprietary and Confidential IP

E-mails are records of communication between you and your clients, colleagues, and everyone else. The electronic records of your communication are important to your business and often contain information that needs to be maintained as private. Because of the content of e-mails, your business should be aware of the level of security, the storage, and other aspects of your e-mail system from hosting to backups and other controls/oversight. In the electronic age, e-mails are part of your business’ information systems, the contact lists, and other communications may be some of the most important proprietary information your business has. What steps has your business taken to have records of correspondence and to protect the integrity and security of your business contacts? Think about establishing policies and procedures to ensure that business correspondence is backed up electronically and as necessary with traditional hard copies. Business contacts and communication history needs to be “owned” by the business, so when employees aren’t utilizing a company e-mail system for communications, make sure you have the ability to capture the information and the rights to contacts and ideas as appropriate. Be sure that proprietary and confidential information is just that: proprietary and confidential to your business. Don’t let one of the mysteries of life be wondering “where did my e-mail go?” because you don’t have control of the e-mail trail, and not because of the mysterious “workings” of the Internet.

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