Email was the overwhelming choice in a recent poll that pitted it against RSS as a way of distributing blogs. It seems that email is in the ascendency, but it still is not perfect. Let’s review some of the problems associated with email:
- Attachment limitations: Many email service providers restrict the total size of attachments. Whether you have a bunch of small files or one big one, it is not unusual for an email to fail due to attachment size. Innovative programs like Google Docs permit document sharing and offer a partial alternative to emailed attachments. However, not all document formats fit into the Google Docs scheme, so the problem still persists.
- Overload: The volume of email in your inbox can be crushing, leading to feelings of being overwhelmed and perhaps resentful. The problem is that the non-spam portion of the email can be valuable, and really does require time to read and answer. Some users create mail rules that shunt emails from certain recipients into separate folders where they can be looked at later. What would really help would be software that could be configured to offer an intelligent response to some emails automatically. Research is being pursued along these lines, but progress is slow.
- Malware: There are bad people out there, and they look for ways to inflict damage on your computer. They can bomb your email address – overload it with a massive number of junk mailings, as a kind of denial of service attack. They can send you spam – unwanted and unsolicited commercial email, selling you everything from baby diapers to porn. For this reason, some email users do not accept messages from persons not already on their address list. Of course, if you throw away email from a sweepstakes telling you you’ve won $10 million, you might regret this anti-spam technique. Viruses and worms come lurking in malicious email messages. There are now effective malware programs on the market that can help protect your email from this form of attack.
- Spoofing: This is when an email message is acting the imposter, indicating it came from a source that, in reality, had nothing to do with the email. For instance, you might get a message supposedly from PayPal asking to collect personal information and to contact center workforce management, when in fact it is spoofed mail sent by a thief. When in doubt, delete a suspicious email before it can do some real damage.
- Privacy: Attackers would love to get their hands on your address book, often perceived to be the most valuable thing on your computer. Encryption helps to some extent but cloud computing means that copies of your email may be floating around the Ethernet forever.
There are various methods to tame email, but the cardinal rule is NEVER put something into email that you don’t want read by the general public. Paranoid? Perhaps, but prudent in today’s world.