Email Basics

Lots of talk about email this week.  There’s a good reason:  we got hacked over the weekend.  Someone got into our server and used it to send out a bucket of spam.  Dealing with it meant shutting down the server for awhile.  In discussing this with our Help-U-Sell family it’s become clear that a little education about the basics of email is in order.

Email happens when you send a message from your internet connected computer (or device) up to your mail provider’s server.   The server then sends the message to the server that hosts your recipient’s email.  The recipient will receive the message when he or she accesses their mail from a connected device.  OK: Truth is it’s much more complicated than that, but that’s essentially what happens.

The question of the day is:  how do you access your email?  There are a couple of ways, you know.   You could use a local Email Client like Outlook, an internet based email client like Hotmail, Gmail, or AOL or you could use a more direct method, WebMail.  A quick poll today on our Power Hour call revealed that most of our Brokers use Outlook or Outlook Express.  These are full featured programs that do much more than simply send and receive messages.  But they are BIG programs that live on your computer and sap your computer’s resources.  Outlook, in particular, uses a LOT of memory . . . which is not a problem if you’ve got lots to spare, but make no mistake:  it’s a BIG program.  When a local client like Outlook retrieves your email from the server, it actually downloads a copy of the message and any attachments to your computer.  Even if you never open the message, it’s there, taking up space on your hard drive.  And remember, if it’s on your drive and you don’t have a backup copy, you are at risk of losing it if there is a crash or super virus in your future.  This is why, if you use a local client, you should always check the box when you set up an email account  for ‘leave a copy of the message on the server.’  You’ll have a remote copy if you ever need it.

Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail and the like are similar:  they can all be configured to go out and get your mail from various other servers.  But they also provide direct access to their own email accounts.  So if you have jamesdingman@gmail.com, you can configure gmail to not only pick up mail at that address, but also at, say, jamesdingman@helpusell.com.  Unlike the local clients, these services do not live on your computer.  There may be some app like interface that helps you get to them, but generally they are out there in the ‘cloud’ somewhere.  So the strain on your computer’s resources is reduced and you’re not filling up your drive with things unless you choose to download them.

Webmail is something different still, and we are fortunate to have it for your Help-U-Sell email.  Webmail gives you direct access to your Help-U-Sell mail much as, say, www.gmail.com gives you direct access to your gmail messages.  Again, it lives out there on the Help-U-Sell mail server, not on your computer, so it does not strain your computer’s resources.  It is sleek, lightweight and actually gets your Help-U-Sell mail a tiny bit faster than any other client because at least one step is eliminated in the process.  Help-U-Sell folks can check out our Webmail platform by going to:

mail.helpusell.com

and logging in with their OMS password.

I’ve been an Outlook user for decades and I admit:  I am a little spoiled by its depth of features.  I use mail, of course, but I lean heavily on the address book, Calendar and Task functions.  However, I can almost feel the strain on my system as it works away hour after hour.  And, what the heck:  I’m getting mail not just on my computer now, but on my phone and tablet and so on.  I’ve decided to convert to a non-local solution.  I’m using Gmail to retrieve my personal mail and Help-U-Sell Webmail for my business communication.  Since Webmail and Gmail are internet based applications, I can access them from just about any mobile device.  I think it would be a good idea for you to check it out and see if something similar would work for you.

By the way:  one of the things that made our mail server vulnerable to hackers was the simplicity of some of the passwords some of you are using.  Anything that uses your name, initials, birthday, children or pets names you are vulnerable.  The best passwords make no sense to anyone . . . but how do you remember a non-sense password?  Here is some guidance:

Use a Mnemonic.  Choose a phrase you will always remember and select the first letter of each word.  Use numbers when you can and remember ‘the’ can be ‘3’, and toss in a symbol or two ($ for s).  Capitalize the first letter and Bam!  you’ve got a great password.  For example (courtesy of Google):  ‘To be or not to be that is the question’ becomes 2bon2btitq.  ‘This is one very secure password I hope’ becomes Ti1vspih.  ‘Sell fast, save thousands, the experts next door’ becomes Sf$t3end.’

Please, Oh Please, examine and edit your passwords,  not just your Help-U-Sell email account, but for all of your accounts.  Reset them to something only you will understand and remember.

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