Archive for Email

Business Email – Best Practice Tips

Business email Tips

If you Google a search term such as “emails not getting delivered” you will get a huge range of reasons why this can happen, but businesses need to try to minimise the chances of it happening, where they can.

For example, most people know that email companies have lists of addresses to automatically block, to try to prevent spam and other undesirable emails getting to customer Inboxes. What many people do not know is that email servers do not just rely on those lists – they use a whole range of tools to constantly filter out possible spam, including setting their own rules for what email is or is not to be stopped, and it is this range of tools that can cause problems.

It has been estimated that up to 10% of emails blocked by email servers can be genuine emails – yet they are still quarantined, put into the server ‘Junk’ folder or marked as Spam for a number of reasons.

This is one of the most common reasons for non-deliverability of emails.

Businesses need to use best practice to minimise the risk of the other party’s email servers treating their genuine emails as Junk and this includes reducing the reasons why email servers wrongly block legitimate emails.

Here are a few tips that may help: –

Do not attach dangerous file extensions to your emails

There are a number of attachments that when opened, can execute viruses or other malware and as such can be automatically blocked by some email services – even when attached to genuine emails. There are a number of such attachments but the most common are .doc and .docx, .exe, .vbs, .msi, .com and many more. Unfortunately, Office files that run what is called ‘Macros’ can also be potentially dangerous, such as .xlxm and .pptm, although this is getting less common.

So apart from being extremely careful if you receive any of the above attachments yourself, to avoid your email getting quarantined by attachment blocking, do not attach them to your emails wherever possible.

Also do bear in mind that if you have previously sent these attachments, those email servers may automatically continue to ‘distrust’ your email address until they are told otherwise by someone at their end recipients.

PDFs are a good way of emailing documents as they cannot execute malicious code and should not be blocked. Alternatively email a link to a cloud-based storage file which can be downloaded instead, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.

Do not email large files

Programs like Outlook can take fairly large file attachments but some servers may operate different rules and when dealing with large files (particularly when over 150MB) then you should be using a cloud solution such as Dropbox. By emailing a link to a particular file so that the recipient can download it themselves, you can avoid any attachment size rules as well as keeping your own email storage under control.

Bounce back error messages are good!

If you get an error message giving a reason why an email has not been delivered, don’t panic – because it is there to help troubleshooting. For example if a persons email account is full, you having misspelled the address or their server has queued the email, this helps to diagnose why you have got a phone call saying “I haven’t received it”.

Unfortunately many servers do not send bounce back error messages at all these days, to try to evade spammers, so in many cases you will not get any error message even when their email service refuses or blocks your email for whatever reason.

Enable DKIM and SPF to authenticate your email

If anyone sends emails on your behalf, they should be included in what is called your SPF record, which tells the recipient email server that they are authorised on your behalf.

DKIM signs your emails with an encrypted key and the other half of that key is provided by your domain. When the keys match, there is a higher likelihood that the emails will accepted as they have been verified as authentic.

Check your email doesn’t have ‘spammy’ characteristics

Email services use many ways to decide whether or not an email is spam and therefore be blocked or discarded. One of these is to treat any email with a ‘spammy’ subject address as suspect. For example, try to make the subject line relevant and readable. Subject lines with just “Invoice” or letters and numbers will trigger suspicion straight away.

Avoid using terms such as “stuff”, “hello”, “help” and use appropriate capitalization. Also avoid formatting in an email where possible.

Beware of the recipient!

There are times when the recipient of an email has not checked their Junk folder, or have marked an email as spam (which can tell their email service to treat emails as spam from then on) – or they can just be mistaken. Sometimes they may even be avoiding telling the truth!

The bottom line is even though 99.99% of emails get through without incident, there are so many reasons why emails can get held up at the other end that you have to try to avoid these blocks if you can. With the global email system set up as it is, everyone is at the mercy of how good (or bad) your recipients email servers are set up.

The important thing is when you have an undelivered email issue, get your email server logs checked as well as asking the recipient to check their Junk mail folder. They also need to check their own email service – it may be held up there, just not getting to the person that you sent it to. If their email service has deleted it for whatever reason, that fact should be in their logs.

Why Spam is a Small Business Nightmare

Why Spam is a Small Business Nightmare

15 years after the world united to crack down on spam emails, we’re still struggling with overloaded Inboxes and estimates of the extent of global spam, range from 60% to over 80% of email traffic. All that unwanted email continues to flood the internet, much of it targeted towards small businesses, and the impact goes wider than you might think.

Here’s the full breakdown of how modern spam works and how it’s hurting your business.

What is spam?

Generally speaking, spam is any unwanted message that lands in your email, comes via text, social media messaging, or other communication platform. It might be sent to your main business account, eg your ‘contact us’ email, or direct to your employees. Most of the time, spam is annoying but relatively innocent messages from another business inviting you to buy/do/see something. They’re newsletters, reminders, invitations, sales pitches, etc. You may know the sender and have a previous relationship with them, or they might be a complete stranger.

Occasionally, spam may even be part of a cyber attack.

Why you’re getting spammed.

Maybe you or your employee signed up for a newsletter or bought a raffle ticket to win a car. Perhaps you got onto the mailing list accidentally after enquiring about a product, not knowing that simply getting a brochure sent through would trigger a spam-avalanche. Often there’s fine print that says they’ll not only use your details to send you their marketing, but they’ll share your details with 3rd parties so they can send you messages too. That single email address can be passed around the internet like wildfire, and before you know it, you’re buried under spam.

Sometimes, and more than we’d like to think, your details are found illicitly, perhaps through a hacked website for example, like the recent LinkedIn leak. More often though, your email is simply collected by a computer ‘scraping’ the internet – scouring forums and websites for plain text or linked emails and selling them as prime spam targets. It’s easy to see how individual office employees receive an average of 120 emails daily, over half of which are spam!

Spam is not just annoying.

We all know spam is annoying, but did you know it’s also resource hungry? Your employees are spending hours each week sorting their email, assessing each one for relevance and deleting the spam. Too often, legitimate emails from clients and customers get caught up and are accidentally deleted. Add in the temptation to read the more interesting spam emails and productivity drops to zero.

On the other side of the business, your email server might be dedicating storage and processing power to spam emails, occasionally to the point where inboxes get full and real mail is bouncing out. While most spam is simply an unwanted newsletter or sale notice, there’s also the risk that any links may be a cyber-attack in disguise. After all, one click is all it takes to open the door to viruses, ransomware, phishing or other security emergencies.

How to reduce the spam.

Normally, spam is filtered out locally by your antivirus security software (depending on your choice of software of course) and all email servers have the capacity to use in-built filtering software before you get it – one of the most common software packages being called ‘SpamAssassin’. On top of that, there are third-party anti-spam companies which you can use to add further filtering, where typically the third party gets all your emails first and processes their filtering on them, before it even gets to your server.

Also the 2003 Can Spam Act is a global set of anti-spam laws that was set up that requires all marketers to follow certain rules, like not adding people to mailing lists without their permission, and always including an ‘unsubscribe’ link. This why many companies send you an email to confirm that you want to be added to their mailing lists, even when you have asked for it in the first place.

So firstly, make sure you’re not accidentally giving people permission to email you – check the fine print or privacy policy. Next, look for the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email. Unfortunately, not all of them include the link, or they hide it somewhere impossible to see.

The worst spammers use that ‘unsubscribe’ click to confirm that your email address is valid/active and then sell it on, so don’t automatically go for the ‘unsubscribe’ link – look at the email first and decide before clicking.

If you need help with your anti-spam protection, call us on 01455 209505.

4 Reasons to use Anti Spam Filtering in your Business

Anti Spam for your emails

Remember when spam was obvious and it was easy to identify and ignore? Those were the days! The impact on your business would have been minimal, as spam was more an annoyance than anything else.

Spam has matured into an aggressive threat, marked by sophisticated attacks and rapidly evolving techniques. It’s not just random electronic junk mail anymore and it’s putting a costly strain on your business resources, as well as global resources as spam email accounted for a whopping 85% of all email in January 2018 (source: Cisco Talos).

Unfortunately built-in spam filtering from your server or security software may not be enough to fight the spam threat effectively.

How Spam Impacts Your Business

Spam now contains malware, with hackers sending cleverly disguised emails to your business. Once clicked by an employee, it infects your computer system (virus) or steals your private data (phishing) or even both. The malware can then spread across the entire computer network and beyond, including to your clients and vendors.

The very fact that your employees must pause and examine every single link and attachment adds hours of lost productivity and occasionally, spam is so convincing that only an expert would be able to visually identify it. Employees are also more likely to miss an important email, either not seeing it arrive at the same time as a spam attack or becoming overwhelmed with the sheer number of emails.

How Anti-Spam Filtering Can Save Your Business

1. Block threats:

The spam filter’s purpose is to block the spam from ever reaching your employees’ screens. The threat is automatically identified and either held securely or immediately deleted. This is the best way to avoid activating spam malware, as it’s so easy to click through links in an email that seems authentic and important. The effects of that one spam click may be instantaneous or may lie hidden for months. Removing the email before it becomes a risk is a much better option.

You should get a spam filtering solution that provides you with your own control panel, which allows you to identify any spam that gets through as well as being able to check for any false positives (although this should be minimal with a good filtering system).

2. Filter legitimate emails:

Real mail needs to be able to stand out and avoid the trash. Anti-spam filtering has sophisticated recognition abilities which block spam only and allow real mail to land safely in mailboxes.

3. Meet data regulations:

Many businesses are subject to strict privacy and data storage regulations, some more so than others. To continue operation, they have to meet conditions including always using spam filtering to reduce the risk of data breach.

4. Protect your business reputation:

You can see how uncomfortable CEOs are when they hold press conferences to admit a breach. They must acknowledge that they failed to protect client data, or that users may be infected with a virus. Not only do they then face financial loss, their business reputation takes a nosedive. Anti-spam filtering can help to prevent these types of scenarios from happening to you.

Filtering has come a long way in recent years, with complex algorithms identifying and catching spam before it becomes a risk to your business. Real emails can now pass safely through without the classic cry of ‘check the spam folder’, and businesses can work with greater productivity and safety than ever before.

You need email, but you definitely don’t need spam or the chaos it brings to your business.

We can block spam and keep your legitimate emails flowing. Call us on 01455 209505.

Is it Worth Having Your Email Server On-Premises?

Is it worth having your own in-house server?

There’s not a business around who doesn’t use email on a daily basis. Whether for sending internal memos or communicating with clients and customers, email is a core necessity of any modern business.

What many modern businesses are doing though, is dropping the in-house email server and moving to a cloud solution. Here’s why you should do the same.

Reduced network problems

Your network operates in a delicate balance, and when one piece breaks chaos soon follows. Connected systems and processes tend to fail, dropping productivity as all focus shifts away from normal activities and onto rectifying the fault. It becomes a mad scramble to get the network up again, especially the email servers.

The last thing you want is for all your client/customer emails to bounce back or not get sent at all!

While it’s good to have confidence in your on-site administrator, the assumption that any crashes will always happen during business hours has caused many regrets and out of hours panicked phone calls that could be avoided. When you move to a cloud solution, you’re able to say goodbye to onsite servers and all the accompanying drama, making your remaining infrastructure easier to maintain.

Lower hardware and maintenance costs

Maintaining your own Exchange servers is no doubt costing a tidy sum from initial purchase, hardware repairs, maintenance and license fees. Add in the cost of scaling your server to keep up with your business growth, and suddenly keeping your email in-house starts to make less financial sense.

Instead, consider what it would be like to have predictable costs for your email hosting that covers everything, including the latest technology and round the clock administration. Many solutions offer on-demand plans, so you only pay for the options you want.

You’re still in control

One of the main arguments for keeping your own Exchange server is to make sure you have complete control over your email; you’re able to limit physical access, no 3rd party has access to your critical data, and you always know where your data is.

While control may have been the deciding factor in the past, the fact is cloud solutions have evolved so much that these arguments are void. Physical security at data farms, for example, goes far beyond that of your locked server room and digital access is strictly limited to those you specify.

Greater protections

Cloud solutions provide automatic protection against many threats, including fire, power outages, burglary, viruses and flood. While your own in-house server has anti-virus running and a backup plan, it’s still incredibly vulnerable.

Backups get forgotten, virus definitions don’t get updated in time, and you’re very lucky if your own server can survive fire or flood intact. Moving your email hosting to a cloud solution removes all that risk, with inbuilt regular backups and usually with an uptime guarantee that lets your business get on with essential tasks.

Having a cloud email service takes all the hassle away from you and puts it onto the email company.

As email is a critical tool for your business, isolating your systems from risk may be one of the best decisions you make all year.

We can help you with your email server needs, call us today on 01455 209505.

Office 365 – important changes for Outlook users in October

Outlook users of Office 365 need to use 2010 version or newer

Anyone connecting to the Office 365 email system using Microsoft Outlook needs to be aware of important changes that are taking place at the end of October 2017.

From 31st October, Microsoft are changing the protocols that allow connection between the Outlook email program and Exchange – moving to a more secure ‘MAPI over HTTP’. They state that they are doing this as MAPI is more efficient with data transfer and allows more secure authentication, compared to the previous method.

Unfortunately, Outlook 2007 (and earlier Outlook versions) do not work with this new protocol and Microsoft will not ‘upgrade’ them to make them compatible. This means that anyone using these versions of Outlook with Office 365 will no longer be able to access their emails after 31st October and will need to move to a more recent Outlook version, to continue to access their emails through Office 365.

Also, any newer versions of Outlook must be up to date with their regular updates, to ensure that they work correctly after the 31st October.

Here are the Office version numbers that are the minimum needed to keep the connections working after the changeover (information supplied by Microsoft as at 28.9.17):–

Office 2010 – 14.0.7164.5002
Office 2013 – 15.0.4779.1002
Office 2016 – Subscription: 16.0.6568.20xx or MSI: 16.0.4312.1001.

To check the version of Office 2010, open Outlook, go to Help > About Office Outlook.

To check the version of Office 2013 or later, go to File > Office Account > About Outlook.

For further help give us a call on 01455 209505.

Increase Your Business Email Impact with Smart Strategies

Be smart with your email

Most small businesses rely on email as their preferred form of communication – email is the go-to format we’d be lost without. It is no surprise – it’s quick, simple and provides a paper trail. But its convenience doesn’t always mean relaxed. In fact, poor email communication can hurt your reputation and cost you customers.

Here’s how to be smart with your business email:

Are you using a free email service?

Most businesses use a domain name – that is a web address where their name can be used for either a website and/or email addresses. If you are using a free email service instead of an address with your business name, will that put off any customers? What impression may it give? It is very easy to set up a domain name and have a professional looking email address – and it is much less expensive than you think.

Manage your inbox

Your inbox is only for items you still need to access. Once you’re finished with an email, you should delete it or archive it. If you were to imagine your inbox as physical letters, you’d never let it grow to a 6-foot high stack of chaos. Instead, you’d either throw them out or do the filing. It’s not hard to identify which ones to keep for reference, so create inbox folders to sort them accordingly. As emails arrive and are actioned, move them to the relevant folder or the delete bin.

Write professional messages

Stepping across the line from casual to careless is easy if you skip the basic elements of good business writing. Grammar will always be important and the sentence structure of your language hasn’t changed. All email programs include a spell-checker, many of which draw attention to errors immediately, so there’s really no excuse. Typing in all CAPS is seen as yelling, and breaking your text into paragraphs makes your message so much more readable. One last thing before you click send, quickly glance over your email to make sure your tone is appropriate and no mistakes have snuck through.

Embrace the subject line

Many emails are missed because the subject line was empty or meant nothing to the receiver. Writing these attention-grabbing nuggets can be tricky, but if you simply summarize the message, it will be better. Just remember to keep them under 5-8 words so they fit on mobile displays.

The subject line is also checked by anti-spam filters, so it is even more important to have one that makes sense to the receiver.

Be smart with attachments

Keep attachments small – under 2MB – as they can clog up the email server as well as your email program and other people’s. For larger attachments, share the file location as a link using cloud storage. When you’re sent an attachment you’d like to keep, save the file and then delete/archive the email.

And as always, be careful with unexpected attachments, especially from unknown senders. It’s more important than ever to scan all attachments with an antivirus before opening.

Keep your CC/BCC under control

The carbon copy (CC) and blind carbon copy (BCC) let you send the email to additional stakeholders, more as an FYI than anything else. As a rule, use BCC if you’re using an email list or privacy is an issue. But before you add extra people to the email, make sure the email IS relevant to them. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a pointless email chain!

If you want help to make your business email better or need a domain name and email account setting up, please call us on 01455 209505.

Helping to Control Spam in your Email

Getting rid of Spam in your Inbox

‘Spam’ emails get into everyone’s email Inbox and are a fact of life these days. Whether its “Russian Brides” or something else, Spam emails are annoying, especially if you regularly get a large number every day. It is not surprising that there is so much, as current estimates put Spam between 60%-80% of global email, depending on which report you read.

What many people do not realise, is that a lot of Spam emails are caught by your email company and discarded before you even get to see them – although some email companies filter out Spam much better than others do.

Having said that, there are ways to help reduce the number of Spam emails that you get – here are a few of them: –

Mark as Spam before doing anything

This is the most important thing. More often than not, we see that customers tend to delete the Spam emails, then carry on reading their ‘proper’ emails as normal – all this does is just delete it, so it doesn’t help you the next time they send an email from that address.

What you need to do is to mark the email as Spam, before deleting it. This tells your email company or email program what to do if this email address sends another email – that is get rid of it before you get it.

Email using Webmail

If you are using Webmail (getting your email through the email company website), mark the Spam email (usually on the left-hand side) and click on the Spam button, which may be marked as ‘Report’, ‘Spam’ or something similar. This identifies the email as Spam and tells the email company that you don’t want any more emails from that email address. The email company should automatically send any more emails from the same address, straight into the ‘Junk’ folder instead of your Inbox.

Email using an Email Program or App

Many email programs include a facility to mark an email as Spam. For example, if using Outlook, right-click the email(s) and select ‘Junk’. You will get options as to what to do, e.g. selecting ‘Block Sender’ (blocking just the email address) or ‘Block Senders Domain’ which will block all emails from the name after the ‘@’ symbol. Note that Outlook diverts emails into the Junk folder – they will still be coming from the email company.

Most email programs will have a similar method of diverting spam that has been received.

Many (non-free) security software programs include an anti-Spam facility, whether it blocks an email that it knows is spam using its own built-in spam filters, or “training” the program by marking the Spam emails and it blocks them for you in the future, in a similar way as above.

Businesses – hardware and online filtering

If you are a business with a business-class firewall, a Spam filtering facility can be included in the appliance, depending on the hardware device chosen, so speak to your I.T. person about this.

There are also ‘Cloud’ solutions that can route emails from your email company through the Cloud filters before you even get them – there are many solutions to choose from.

Third Party Anti-Spam programs

There are a large number of ‘Anti-Spam’ programs which say that they help in blocking and removing Spam – they are essentially adding another filtering layer for your Inbox. Having said that, you do need to check for compatibility with your email program or app, so research is essential, especially as some of these programs are more reliable than others..

As with all things, make sure that you have regular backups, in case the worst happens, but if you do nothing else make sure that you mark your emails as Spam, before getting rid of them.

If you would like help in battling Spam in your Inbox, give us a call on 01455 209505.

Orange Email – the End of the Road

Orange Email is closing

It has been on the cards for some time but one of the UK’s big internet companies, Orange, have announced that they are closing a number of their email accounts – so-called ‘legacy’ accounts – from 31st May 2017.

Why are they closing the accounts?

Over the years, internet companies have been bought and sold, including to competitors. Generally speaking, as the companies have been bought up, the new owners have kept the email addresses from the old company going, so as not to cause too much hassle for customers because of the changeover. After all, changing your email address is a process that no-one wants to do very often.

Unfortunately, these legacy email systems make little or no money for the new owners so the costs of running them are not recouped. Also, email technology has changed and improved over the years and few companies want to invest in upgrading their systems supporting the legacy products.

What email addresses are closing?

Here is the list of the email addresses that are closing: –


What you need to do – Home users

When you decide to create an alternative email address, bear in mind that it may be preferable to open an account that is not dependant on your broadband company as this will give you flexibility later on, should you wish to change.

We recommend (as does Orange) that you consider opening a Gmail account with Google. This free service has some of the best anti-spam in the business and has much more flexibility than the service that you had before.

What you need to do – Business users

If you are using one of these addresses for your business, you need to get a new address now so that you can warn your customers and suppliers as soon as possible, as there appears to be no facility from Orange to forward your customers to your new address, after the closure date.

As mentioned in a previous Blog article, it is best to use your domain name for your business emails – and this is actually cheaper than you may think.

If you need help in creating your new email account, domain name or transferring Emails and Contacts to your new email address, give us a call on 01455 209505.

Why you should not use a free email address for your business

Don't use a free email address for your business

The message is clear: email is king. Many companies, clients and customers choose to communicate primarily by email and it is a fundamental part of marketing strategy…unless you’re using a free email like Hotmail, Gmail, or even your internet provider. If that’s the case, then you’re losing business each and every day.

Does it look professional? Probably not.

How people perceive your business is what makes your business. Imagine if banks used free email accounts – you’d never feel comfortable giving them your personal details let alone any money. Without that professional touch, you’ll appear temporary and maybe less permanent. It puts your credibility into question and sends the message that you’re not serious about doing business – or worse – that you’re prepared to cut corners.

It may misrepresent your experience

Newer businesses often start out with a free email address. The address tends to communicate that they may be new and have less experience, and are perhaps even testing the waters in a new direction. They may not be proven yet and are firmly within the hobby-zone.  Continuing to use the free address once your business moves into the professional arena means you’ll struggle to build momentum and any experience will be negated.

It’s forgettable or inappropriate

Your business success hinges on being memorable enough to gain referral custom and results from your advertising. Unfortunately, free email addresses are by default filled with hard to remember clutter, for example – or
Neither of these roll off the tongue, is appropriate for business, or can be remembered without a high likelihood of typing mistakes and bounce back.

Branded email addresses such as make running a profitable, scalable business much easier.

It’s not permanent or safe

When you use a free email address you are at the mercy of the email provider. They may close down operations or cancel your account for any reason – and there’s little that you can do. These types of accounts are also often hacked and leaked, as well as having poorly performing spam filters, if any. When a better internet or email deal comes along, you’re still stuck using the old address because it’s printed on your business cards, car lettering and flyers.

With your own domain name, you own it and can move it to a new business-grade email service easily. You’ll also have complete control over the addresses within your domain, resetting passwords and creating/closing accounts at will.

Most importantly, it costs less than you think to have branded email.

Give us a call at 01455 209505 to set up your own branded business email service.

Live Mail – time for an alternative?

Windows Live Mail

We see that many customers have Windows Live Mail, which is a very popular free email program that took over from the venerable old Outlook Express many years ago. However if you are still using Live Mail, its usefulness is becoming more limited so it may be a good time to look for an alternative email program.

Firstly, last year Microsoft made changes to their email systems which made Live Mail incompatible with their email infrastructure. This meant that the Microsoft email systems such as Hotmail,, and no longer worked with Live Mail.

Unfortunately, in January of 2017 Microsoft also stopped supporting the Live Mail program altogether, which meant that Live Mail no longer has the benefit of security or any other updates.

Those of you who are using different email accounts to the above may find that Live Mail is still happily collecting your emails, so you may feel that there isn’t an issue yet. The problem is that without security updates, the program itself is going to be more vulnerable and as email is one of the main conduits for viruses, malware and identity theft, it may not be a good idea to ignore the lack of updates for long.

Also, with no further updates Live Mail will effectively begin to become less reliable as more email providers update their email systems that Live Mail cannot support. Likewise, we are certainly seeing an increase in Live Mail issues and the question needs to be asked – is it worth fixing?

Alternative email programs

Windows 10 has a built-in app called ‘Mail’ (although some people consider it to still be a maturing product)  however if you are not using Windows 10, then you will need to look elsewhere. Clearly Microsoft would love customers to use Outlook, which would also mean a subscription to their Office software suite.

Alternatively you can access emails online such as from and certainly many people do use the very popular online ‘Gmail’ service – but not everyone wants to use an internet browser for email, especially those that are comfortable using an email program.

Alternatives programs are available, such as the email program ‘Thunderbird’ which is one of the most popular free email programs around (from the makers of the ‘Firefox’ internet browser). There are other free programs such as ‘Operamail’ (from the makers of the ‘Opera’ internet browser), ‘Mailbird’ and others, but when choosing your next free email program do bear in mind that some programs are free because they add advertising or market research tracking, so some are better than others when it comes to privacy.

Luckily whichever email program you decide to choose,  Live Mail stores emails in the industry standard .eml format, which means that it is fairly easy to transfer the emails from Live Mail into another program.

If you would like help in moving to another email program, please call 01455 209505.