Customer Support - Email Use

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Email Guidelines and Etiquette

One of the great benefits of the Internet is that it enables users to send messages to each other at great speed. A whole new method of communication has opened up, both for business and personal use.

Electronic mail or 'email' is just like normal 'snail mail', though it is MUCH faster and generally less formal. Much of the terminology has been borrowed from its traditional equivalent, and many of the same rules of etiquette apply.

Reading this page will help you avoid some of the pitfalls and help you to use email more effectively.

An extended version of this guide in pdf format is available on request.


Your email address

Email addresses are divided into two parts, separated by an '@' sign. The bit before the '@' identifies the recipient, and the bit after it is the address to which it should be delivered.


Your email software may use optional 'Nicknames' or 'Aliases'. These are simply a way of making life easier for us by avoiding the need to remember long complex addresses. They can also be used to refer to several addresses, and this is especially useful as you can then use one Nickname to send a message to a group of people. When you type one of your Aliases as the recipient's address, the software will translate that into the real address(es) before sending the message. If your email software links in with an address book, then simply typing the reciient's name will locate them in the address book and use the correct email address. It's worthwhile double checkint though, as there can be confusion with name clashes or for people who use more than one address (e.g. home and work).


Using email

Email is fast, inexpensive and convenient, and also has the advantage of being non-intrusive, since the recipient can read and respond to messages in their own time. This is extremely useful when you need to communicate with people in different parts of the world where the daytime is rather different to your own!

The very speed and informality of email is both an advantage and a disadvantage. It is best for non-urgent queries and transferring information - though you should avoid sending very large files this way.

This can however lead to hasty or ill considered words, so use it wisely, and apply the same logic as you would when writing a letter or picking up the telephone.

Privacy and confidentiality issues are of course just as important as in traditional letters. It is very easy to keep vast amounts of email on disk for many years, and this can come back to haunt you. There are cases of old email being successfully used as evidence in court.

Since email is sent in plain text via an unknown route that may cross national boundaries, it is not considered 'secure'. It is certainly not good enough for sending Credit Card numbers etc.. Such information can only be safely passed through secure encrypted connections.


Some do's and don'ts

As with any form of communication, there are a few things to beware of, and some generally accepted rules of etiquette.


When it Doesn't Work …

Just like conventional mail, there is no unconditional guarantee that your message will be delivered or read. The most common cause of undelivered email is an incorrect address. In this case, the server will return the message to you with an appropriate error message. If this happens, check the spelling of the address very carefully for errors. If it is correct, then there is little option but to contact the recipient by an alternative method and verify the address. Getting the recipient to send an email to you will often reveal their address, and is a useful way checking that everything is working correctly.

Sometimes, email will simply vanish due to a server fault or other network problems. If this happens, try re-sending the message, and if the problem persists, your ISP's support team may be able to help.


Junk Mail & Spam

It is almost inevitable that sooner or later you will receive some junk email. These messages are mostly advertising or promotion material. Largely frowned upon, this junk mail (or 'spam') is best dealt with by simply deleting it. All reputable senders of such messages e.g from lists you have opted in to will have removal instructions in every message. Following the 'removal instructions' on other messages can sometimes compound the problem by handing your email address to another junk mailer. Some email software can be set up to automatically delete messages from certain addresses or with particular words in the subject or content.


Computer Viruses are here to stay and becoming more of a menace every year. Recent high profile ones have cost businesses many millions of pounds in time and effort. If you exchange data with other people, or are connected to the Internet, you should have - and use - one of the various Virus Protection packages available.

Email is one of the most common methods of spreading viruses. As well as infecting the victim's system, many viruses will secretly email themselves to other users in the victim's address book. The consequent vast increase in email traffic causes mail servers to overload and grind to a halt. This may well happen without the original victim knowing.

It is important that you have Virus Protection Software installed on your machine, and that this is kept fully up to date.

We use - and recommend - 'Kaspersky Internet Security' software. Other packages are available which will do the same job.

Hoax viruses

Just as irritating as genuine viruses are the hoax variety. These usually come up in the form of an email message, which warns of other possible emails that will perform some catastrophic action on being read. The reader is asked to pass the message on, thus creating a flood of email and wasted time. Even experienced system administrators have been known to fall for this trick. If you get one of these messages, check it out with a reputable source before passing it on.

The major Virus Protection vendors have comprehensive details of all known viruses on their web sites.

Even if you do not register your copy of any other software, you should register your Anti Virus software. This gives you access to all the latest updates. The Virus definition files (which tell the software what viruses to look for and how to eliminate them), should be updated at least once per week if not more often.

Tips for avoiding infection

Many viruses are passed on by completely unsuspecting people, so if you do get one from a friend, get in touch with them and tell them, so that they can check their system out.

Above all, don't panic! Stay vigilant and take sensible precautions, and the worst you will suffer is some minor annoyance.

Remember that having a good backup of your critical data is part of the anti-virus war. If all else fails and you have to completely rebuild the hard drive this may be your only copy.


And Lastly ....

Email is a powerful and flexible communication tool. Use it wisely and follow the guidelines on this page, and you should have no serious problems.


An extended version of this guide in pdf format is available on request.


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