Email Hosting Unravelled

Some Business Email Fundamentals

Use Your Business Domain Name

The public email address on your website and business documents should always be an email address which ends with your website name (eg info@yourwebsite.com.au).

Why?

  1. This email address belongs to the business, unlike Gmail, Bigpond and other cheap/free email accounts which never actually belong to you and can be removed by the operator (or disappear, if the operator goes out of business).
  2. If your business is sold, the public email contact address, which customers are familiar with, will still be valid.
  3. Your email address is also a constant reminder to customers of your website address.

Before the @

Unless you 'are' the business (like Bill for SuttonNet), you will probably use a general name like info@ for general enquiries, not joe@yourwebsite.com.au.

Joe might leave the enterprise, or change jobs within it and no longer be the frontdesk contact.

You don't want customers' enquiries heading to a little-used or closed email account.

Personal vs Business

We recommend that you do not use your business website email address for personal email.

If you leave or sell the business:
  • you don't want to have to change your personal email address, and
  • you don't want the new owners collecting your private emails or reading earlier ones ('Hi Grannie, I just sold my business to some idiot...').

In particular, do not use a .com.au email address for personal email.

.com.au domain names can only be registered/renewed under certain conditions, which include operating a business which is relevant to the name.

By changing your business focus, even if you don't sell up, you could lose the right to retain that domain name and thus lose your personal email address.

Email Hosting or Not?

Some webhosting providers do NOT host 'yourdomain' email addresses. They expect you to use free/generic email like Gmail, Hotmail.

Don't be caught by surprise. Ask the right questions before you sign up for new webhosting.

Be wary of very cheap hosting deals. They are less likely to include email hosting; email uses plenty of server resources and it's timeconsuming to support. Email hosting is a big commitment for a webhosting service.

Manage Your Business Email

Top Tip!

Watch out for email accounts belonging to (or forwarding to the accounts of) staff who have left or are away.

Be particularly careful with basic contact addresses like info@, sales@, enquiries@: who normally receives them? What happens when that person is sick or or on leave?

SuttonNet can set up permanent or temporary redirection of email accounts for you. This is usually part of our webhosting service, no extra charge.

Forwarding and aliasing are set up on our servers via the Plesk control panel.

If you don't have access to Plesk, contact SuttonNet and we will set up email forwarding or aliasing for you.

Forwarding

Forwarding emails to another email account can be useful in various circumstances, eg:

  • if you want to temporarily send emails to another account, while a staff member is away
  • if you prefer to receive all email at an email address that you already have set up on your computer.

A forwarded email can be identified in your email inbox by the 'sent to' address shown on the email.

You can forward email to any email account.

If the original email account's mailbox is full, forwarded emails will still arrive at the target email account.

The original email account can be set either to also collect emails while forwarding is switched on, or not to collect any emails.

If you always forward emails to another account, disable the first email account's mailbox to minimise your hosting costs.

A disabled mailbox has been (permanently or temporarily) turned off via the Plesk control panel.

Aliases

An alias is another option for managing emails.

With aliasing, there is only one email account but it has several names: eg

  • deidre@suttonnet.com.au an alias of deirdre@suttonnet.com.au
  • info@yourwebsite.com.au an alias of joe@yourwebsite.com.au.

Aliases can only be set up within the same domain (ie the address is exactly the same after the @ sign).

Email Hosting ABC's

SuttonNet's server accommodates all the email accounts which are directly associated with your domain name: eg info@yourwebsite.com.au.

We do not host any of your email accounts that have an ending different from your own domain name.

Mail Server

You may come across references to mail servers.

An incoming mail server holds email accounts, and receives emails sent to all the email addresses which are on this server.

An outgoing mail server sends emails from your computer towards the right mail server to receive them. It doesn't send emails directly to that mail server: the email might go through many connecting computers before it arrives at the right address.

The mail server used by all your '@yourwebsite.com.au' email accounts, is a part of the SuttonNet servers.

Email Account & Mailbox

Remember that SuttonNet's mail servers only contain email accounts directly associated with the domain names that we host: eg murgatroyd@suttonnet.com.au but not suttonnet56@bigpond.com.

An email account is a set of folders on a mailserver in a particular account name (eg info@yourwebsite.com.au on the SuttonNet server) which can hold various files (= emails).

A mailbox in email parlance is rather like a letterbox, but it collects emails instead of paper mail.

A mailbox has to always be connected to the Internet, or else emails would sometimes have nowhere to go and they would get lost. Hence your mailbox is not located on your computer, but on our servers which are connected to the Internet with nearly 100% uptime.

Imagine your email account as somewhat like a butler, and somewhat like a postman. Depending on your email settings (instructions to the butler/post office), the account will:

  1. let a particular email in, and send it to the mailbox on the server
  2. refuse it admittance altogether
  3. allow it in to the account's mailbox, but send a copy elsewhere (forward it to a different email account), or
  4. if this mailbox is set to 'disabled' ('The Master is not at home'), forward all email to another specified email account, and never allow any emails into this account's mailbox at all
  5. once the mailbox is full, the account 'butler' will refuse entry to all emails that arrive.

You view and/or download emails from the mailbox onto your own computer or your phone, using your own email software (Thunderbird, Outlook Express etc).

Manage Your Mailbox(es)

To make room in your mailbox for new emails, your email software needs to regularly delete all emails from the mailbox. That is not the same as you seeing your emails arrive on your computer or phone.

Empty all your mailboxes for all your email accounts frequently.

Deletion is usually done automatically via a setting in your email software. But occasionally you might have to empty a mailbox manually.

Just because you have seen email in your inbox, do NOT assume that it has been deleted from the mailbox and has created room for more email to arrive.

Our servers are not backup or storage units for clients' emails.

What would happen if:

  • our clients didn't keep emptying all the mailboxes which their businesses have on SuttonNet's servers, and
  • we didn't limit mailbox sizes?

Answer: Emails could accumulate to the point where they slowed our clients' websites down. 

Full Mailboxes

If a mailbox is full, it can't receive new emails.

Worse, the server can't send you an email to warn you, because your mailbox is full. So you won't know that you are missing incoming emails, until that crucial one you're waiting for doesn't arrive.

The person who emailed you might receive a message back: 'email can't be delivered':

  • If not, they will think you have received their email... and wonder why you haven't acted on it.

  • If the sender does receive a warning message, they might re-try later; but they will get nowhere if you still haven't emptied your mailbox. Or they might just give up, and never contact you again.

Just like with paper mail, a few large items can fill your mailbox quickly.

'Large' in email terms often means attached photos, especially photos which are high quality and/or not compressed. Take extra care to empty your mailbox (ie download your email) often, if you expect emails with large attachments.

Email Software/Packages

Your own computer/phone uses a software package for downloading emails from their mailboxes on the server (whether it's SuttonNet's server, or a huge mail server with Bigpond or Google).

Many email packages now have a default delay setting for managing mailboxes on the server. This ensures that mailboxes do not immediately delete all emails after they have been downloaded.

This very useful setting allows people to receive and deal with emails over several days on different computers and by phone: eg you can read an email first on your work desktop computer, and reply later via your tablet.

Great, eh? But there is a hitch.

The delay may be set to 5, 10, 14 days etc, or even 'never delete emails from mail server'. The longer time settings can cause problems with mailboxes overflowing. You may need to reset to a shorter timespan.

Email Settings Can Cause Trouble

Some email protocols, eg IMAP, are notorious for poor default settings when it comes to deleting emails from mailboxes.

'Never delete from mail server' might be fine if you have email accounts of 'unlimited' size on huge servers, and if those servers don't also host websites that need to respond fast. I have my doubts about it as a long term strategy, though: even digital storage is finite in this world.

There has to be some delay in deleting emails from your mailbox after you have first read them. But if the delay is overlong, your SuttonNet mailbox will fill up and reject new emails.

So if your email software has a very long delay set for email deletion from the mail server, change the setting to a time period which:

  1. works well for the amount of email you receive
  2. won't mean that you lose all your emails if you are on holidays or off sick. Allow for extra-long weekends such as Easter; you probably won't arrange for others to collect your emails over that time. You don't want to lose all your recent emails because of a public holiday.

If you don't reset this delay: don't be surprised if you miss out on important emails, and get an invoice from SuttonNet for extra support, dealing with your overflowing mailboxes!

Outgoing Emails

Outgoing email, even from email addresses associated with your website info@yourwebsite.com.au etc), is usually handled by your ISP (eg Bigpond), not by the SuttonNet servers. Most ISPs insist on this, so that they can watch for and block spamming.

If you are receiving email but can't send it, there is likely to be a problem with:

  • your settings on your computer,
  • your ISP, or
  • the network along which digital information travels.

If you can't get any help from your ISP, contact SuttonNet. It might just be a case of knowing exactly what to tell them. Some Internet providers have been known to try to avoid responsibility for problems, and fob off complaints onto the email hosting provider.