Email management definition and solutions

E-Mail Management topics covering definition, objectives, systems and solutions.

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Do not send a message to a large number of recipients in the To: or Cc: field. Doing so damages privacy by advertising everyone's e-mail address, and such lists are difficult to read. Occasionally, a long To: list can cause problems with e-mail clients.

If your users commonly send messages to a large number of people, ask IT to set up distribution lists. On an ad hoc basis, individuals should address the message to themselves or to another primary recipient in the To: header, and place all the other recipients in the Bcc: (blind carbon copy) header. An IT department may need to alter the standard e-mail client configuration to make the Bcc: header available.

Determine how much personal e-mail is acceptable on a work account. Many companies set rules about the nature of messages that employees can send or receive in their business e-mail account. The rules may be arbitrary, capricious or simply stupid, but with an increasing need for enterprises to keep every message ever received...well, how much personal mail is your company willing to archive?

Few companies object to an employee sending a quick message to a spouse ("Can you pick up the kid at daycare?"). Most don't mind if an employee signs up for an opt-in newsletter even if it's only vaguely related to his job. However, some end users (especially those without broadband access at home) sign up for everything: a twice-daily horoscope, Bible lesson newsletter, dating hints. Not to mention the unending "Gosh, have you seen this joke?" messages.

You may want to consider requiring your employees to keep personal e-mail to a nonwork account, so that your e-mail administrators don't have to deal with such things. If you do create a "no personal mail" rule, you must ensure that users can access their personal account from the office-or that corporate policy will be ignored.

Pay attention to message size. Many enterprise users unblinkingly attach huge files to e-mail messages, such as a 40MB PowerPoint presentation or a dozen photos. This slows down e-mail delivery at both client and server (particularly when the message is mailed to a company_all distribution) and consumes vast amounts of disk space. It's especially annoying when the attachment is of a personal nature, such as family BBQ photos that the sender didn't bother to resize.

Do not treat e-mail as though it's a file transfer program. If your users typically exchange large files, you should set up shared network directories, an FTP server, an online file repository or another appropriate medium. Instruct your e-mail administrator to throttle the file size of messages sent or received, and to refuse messages over the limit. If possible, configure user e-mail clients to identify the message size before it's sent, as an innocent user might drag and drop an attachment without any idea of the burden she's about to inflict on others.

Encourage users to use plain text for messages instead of HTML or rich text. Users-including CIOs-love to send pretty messages with snazzy colors and multiple fonts. They imagine that an attractive layout makes a message easier to read. That isn't necessarily the case, as the formatting in one e-mail client may display differently-or even be unreadable-on another. If it's important to preserve layout and formatting, send a PDF document.

This topic can get your e-mail administrator's shorts tied into a knot. Many feel strongly that e-mail always should be plain text, at least by default. HTML e-mail is insecure, since it does indeed work just like a Web page. Wrote one admin, "It's not only stupid, but wasteful, and strongly signals that the sender is an ignorant newbie."

Plain-text messages are also far smaller than any "pretty printed" e-mail messages. That's especially true for users who (for reasons I've never fathomed) use Microsoft Word as an e-mail editor. The resulting "Hi, Mom!" message is six times bigger than its plain-text equivalent. All that, just so you can say "Thanks" in a pretty red font.

E-mail is every company's "killer app." Even a temporary interruption in service can bring business to a standstill. It behooves any enterprise to learn to manage its e-mail efficiently - especially since poor peer behavior can have dire consequences.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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