I’m going to do something different this week. This post is going to be more technical and will offer advice, yours to take or ignore as appropriate to you. To those who are technically less able, you might like to show this to whoever looks after your computing needs. They, of course, may already know what I am going to expound on.
Email. Everyone uses email these days, and to a large extent society would find it difficult to get by without it, in spite of such newer technologies such as text, messaging, and the likes of Facebook.
Actually, having just written that, it occurs to me that many, many people around the world do not have access to the Internet and all that goes along with it. My apologies to them forgetting about that simple fact. We are so used to Internet technologies that they seem to be ubiquitous, and they really are not.
Anyway for those of us with email, it appears simple. We type our message, we put the recipient’s email address into the correct field, and hit send. Oh fudge! We forgot to attach the photo! But as usual the simple interface and workflow hides a mess of technology, some of which date back to the nineteen eighties or before. Yes, Amanda, well before you were born.
These technologies are changing all the time and it’s amazing that the changes don’t affect us much more of the time than they do. One that is happening slowly now, however, has the potential to make life difficult for email users, and that is that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are moving away from providing email themselves and are making email users choose specialist email service providers, like Gmail, for their email service.
You see, in this world where most Internet traffic is SPAM, and emails may contain viruses and other nasty surprises, it is a horrendously complex and expensive task to maintain an email system that protects customers from even a fraction of the horrible stuff out there, while still letting legitimate email through. So ISPs are looking to get out of this area of technology and let someone else do it.
Most people in the past and still today have obtained an email address from their ISP with their service. The address might be something like “firstname.lastname@example.org”, where “fred” is the assigned user name and “mylovelyisp.com” identifies the ISP’s email system. An ISP might have a Web site whose name is “mylovelyisp.com” but that is an entirely separate thing.Embed from Getty Images
People often have to use their email address when signing up for things on the Internet, and this is purely so that they can send you SPAM (AKA “targeted mailings”), so the email address is spread all over the Internet. This can cause problems when you change ISPs, or your ISP merges with another one, an you no longer have that email address.
All your email now goes to a bogus address at your old ISP and quite often just gets dumped, so your email invite to your auntie’s third marriage never reaches you, and you’re fond of the old coot. Some of these issues can be alleviated by getting your old ISP to forward your email to you at your new ISP, but it might cost you money. Your old ISP won’t want to provide services for you when you are no longer signed with them, obviously.Embed from Getty Images
ISPs want your custom, but they don’t much want to maintain an email system. Some outsource their email issues to a specialist provider, which costs them money or will redirect your email to your choice of email service provider, such as Gmail.
When a big ISP ditches its email service entirely, as some are starting to do, the customers scream. Naturally. Some may already have emails from their previous ISPs to their current ISP, and this is unlikely to be forwarded correctly in the future. Also, many of their contacts will be using their current email address. Imagine explaining to Granny that your email address has changed and that she can’t use the old one. Not all Grannies are Internet savvy, though a surprising number are.Embed from Getty Images
I saw this situation arising a long time ago, when my very first ISP was taken over. The new ISP thankfully provided email services so it wasn’t a big drama, but I decided to get my own Domain Name and circumvent all the issues. So I signed up with Domain registry and got my own Domain Name, “cliffp.com”. I use it for email and for my WordPress site.
The next question is where I would like my email stored. The Domain Name registry would host my emails if I wanted as part of my Domain Name purchase, or I could store my email in a Gmail account and direct my emails, those to “email@example.com”, there. (That’s NOT my real email address, by the way.) The Gmail solution would be perfect for most people. I did something slightly different, but that doesn’t matter for the purposes of this post.Embed from Getty Images
So, I could stay telling people about my new email address of “firstname.lastname@example.org”, while the old email address was still working. So I have time to persuade Granny and all my other relatives to use the new email address. I also have time to go round all the places where I’ve used my ISP based email address to subscribe to things, or register for things, and change the email address. That online bookstore that I use has my email address, and I can sign in using the old one and change to the new one.
The big advantage is that things will never need to change again, unless Gmail were to disappear, or the Domain Name registry were to go broke. If this did ever happen, I would only have to change things in one place, rather than all the various places that my email address has propagated to over the years.Embed from Getty Images
So whenever I hear of an ISP shutting down its email services, I feel sorry for those caught up in it, hey, there’s a much better way to do it. Set it up properly now and you will not need to change things every again.Embed from Getty Images