This month Stuart Pearson looks at email: how it works, how to set up your own email account, and different aspects of sending and receiving messages.
The rise of electronic mail to the most widely used form of digital communication, especially in the business world, has been quite rapid. The predecessor to email, standard postal mail, now dubbed ‘snail mail’, has seen a rapid decline. This is due to the fact that email is perceived to be free and it is this perception that allows us to send information little and often – a method that would never be employed if we had to pay the price of a first or second class stamp for every email sent; we would simply send one larger message through.
With that in mind it can be seen how email has become a must-have form of communication in the digital age; in fact email is a requirement to sign up to most social networking sites. Internet Service Providers (ISP) will usually allow you to create an email address and use their servers, there are also a number of companies out there who provide email for you to use. They mostly offer the same service but some will offer virus scanning and spam filtering on the server side, which is good as it means that anything malicious can be prevented from ever entering your computer. However, this service should never be the only form of internet protection used and should be used along with your local anti-malware software as a belts and braces form of protection.
Once you have found the right ISP for you, it then comes down to choosing an email address. Different providers will have different rules as to which part of the address can be altered, it is usually anything prior to the ‘@’ sign. Some providers will also allow you to change the first word after the ‘@’ sign as well. Although it is possible in some cases to include a space in your email address it is best to avoid using one as there are providers, hotmail being one, which will not allow mail to be sent to an email address containing a space. It is best to stick to alpha-numeric values and hyphens ‘-’ or underscores ‘_’ as word separators. The second part of the address is usually made up of the domain name of the provider, for example Hotmail.com. Domain names are purchased by companies and individuals to make it easier for them to be identified on the internet.
Every server on the internet has a unique address, for example 192.168.2.1, might be a hotmail email server. If you can imagine the number of these addresses, it would be very difficult for us to remember every address for every website we would like to visit. Domain names were created as a way of making things easy to remember, I would like to visit Microsoft’s website so it is much easier to remember http://www.microsoft.com than http://220.127.116.11, both addresses will take you to the same page. In the background when you type in www.microsoft.com in your browser, a request is sent to a Domain Name Server (DNS) asking it to give the numeric address for that domain.
Once you have your mailbox setup on the server you will need to configure your email client. Configuration required will depend on your chosen mail clients, Windows clients will have Windows Live Mail, Windows Mail or Outlook Express depending on the version of Windows installed. Any Apple users will have the Mail
program on their computer/device. The details required to configure your client, be it on your computer, tablet PC or Smartphone will be the same and are as follows: