What’s The Deal With Email?
How does it work and how do I get it up and running on my device?
Email is ubiqutous. We all use it. Plus it’s been around a really long time.
Maybe it’s even a little too ubiqutous – it’s one of those things we all use every day, without really considering how it actually works. And why should we? No small business owner has the time to delve into any subject they don’t need to. We’ve got enough going on!
But email can figure really significantly when it comes to having a new website designed, or re-designing an old site. Also, an understanding of the bare basics of email can help when it comes time to start using that brand new email account you got with your website hosting.
So, here’s the deal (without the un-necessary detail!)
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Understanding email addresses
An email address consists of two parts. The bit before the @ symbol is the user name. Everything after the @ is the domain name.
You can choose any user name you like, provided it is not in use by any other addresses at your domain name.
Just like a traditional letter with a name and street address on it, this information will be used to direct the email to the correct recipient.
What is a domain?
A domain name identifies a website and is used to locate it on the Internet. Domain names must be purchased and renewed yearly. You can choose any domain name you like, provided no one else already owns it.
What is a mail server?
A mail server is a computer system that handles the sending or receiving of emails. There are different mail servers for sending and receiving.
Sending mail servers check the email address and search the Internet to locate the correct receiving mail server.
Mail servers use sets of rules called ‘protocols’ to communicate with each other.
What is email hosting?
Email hosting is server space dedicated to storing your emails. Often email hosting is packaged and sold together with web hosting.
What is webmail?
‘Webmail’ describes accessing your email account directly on the mail server via a web browser (such as Chrome).
Webmail allows you to view your email from any device by entering the URL (web address) of your webmail and logging in.
However, without an internet connection, you will not be able to access your webmail account, including any old emails, contacts or drafts you might have saved.
Webmail is already configured and ready to go as soon as your email hosting account is set up.
What is an email program?
Email programs or apps are software that a user installs on their computer or device. This software allows their device to download emails from the server so that they can be saved on the device itself, and accessed via the program’s interface.
An email program allows you to access old emails, contacts and drafts without being connected to the Internet, although new emails won’t be sent or received until the connection is restored.
In order to use an email program you must first install your chosen software on your device, and then give it access to your mail server.
The process of setting up or ‘configuring’ your email program varies depending on which one you choose, and normally involves entering your email address, password and protocols and port numbers for both incoming and outgoing mail servers.
I want to use an email program. How do I set it up?
If you decide you want to use an email program (also called an email ‘client’), you will need to provide the email program with the information it needs to connect to your mail server and access your email.
This is done by creating a user account within your email program, and adding the correct configuration settings.
At Powdermonkey Design, we will send you these settings (as well as a link to access your webmail) after your email accounts have been set up and tested.
The information that needs to be added in order to configure an email program isn’t particularly human-readable. It also needs to entered perfectly in order to work. Which can mean things sometimes get a bit tricky!
If you have tried setting up your email user account on an email program or app and it is not working, there are a few steps you can take to try and troubleshoot it:
1. Start with your webmail
Because your webmail accesses your email directly on the mail server, it is the best possible starting place for troubleshooting. If you are able to send and receive emails using your webmail, then your email hosting account is working.
2. Double (and triple) check all the account settings in your email program
It is well worth casting a really close eye over all those pesky numbers, letters and symbols to make sure there’s not a digit out of place. If they appear to be character-perfect and your email program is still not working, try re-typing the account settings and re-saving. Email programs can be tricky beasts, sometimes corrupting the data entered in these fields, despite it looking A-OK at the user end.
3. Re-create the user account within your email program
This one is just like the old ‘switch it off and then on again’. Sometimes deleting the user account you are trying to create within your email program and starting over can kick things into action.
4. Check the online help resources
Don’t be afraid to take advantage of the online troubleshooting resources provided by your email program’s developers. These can usually be accessed via a ‘help’ menu item within your email program. Searching on Google will also yield a range of great tutorials that can provide assistance specific to the email program you are using.
5. Try a different email program
There are a bunch of different email programs out there and you might just find that simply changing it up works wonders. For example, I once had all sorts of trouble configuring Outlook to send and receive my emails, but found that Thunderbird worked first time.
6. Call in an IT professional
If all else fails, contacting an IT specialist for assistance will solve the problem quickly and painlessly. With software skills and knowledge over and above that of the average punter (web designers included!) IT professionals are experienced at diagnosing and solving problems on a wide range of programs and platforms. Many are also set up to log in remotely or make on-site visits, making problem solving on your device quick and easy. Plus, making contact with an IT specialist is an investment in the future – because every small business should have a relationship with a good IT person!
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