Year after year, one start-up after another comes along claiming it has the workplace alternative to email. And yet, email remains. For a variety of reasons that range from the technology’s open protocols to its inclusivity of community, email will remain the standard for communication for the foreseeable future.
Yet for all of email’s lasting strengths, it’s not without its annoyances. In America, more than 205 billion emails are sent and received daily (according to Radicati Group), making it unsurprising that employees have come to find the influx of emails they receive a productivity barrier at times. While we can’t really slim down the number of emails we receive in our work inbox, there are certainly actions we can take to curb email overload – and its effects on our sanity. Not to mention, a more manageable inbox makes it much easier for business users to help IT spot potential cyber-threats that infiltrate the network via an inbound email – a supplementary, but critical, benefit to a more organized inbox at work.
In the spirit of spring cleaning, there is no better time than the present to take on your email inbox. By implementing new plans and best practices, employees can finally get a handle on email and assist the business with protecting against outside attacks in the process.
- Create Rules…The Good Kind
Microsoft Outlook has 400 million active users, all of which are equipped with the powerful rule capabilities that the Outlook wizard offers. Why not use them? Assuming that an organization has a spam filter in place, most of an employee’s emails come from a legitimate sender and require some level of attention. But, that doesn’t mean they all need to clutter the primary inbox.
By designating certain conditions like “if an email comes from [insert CEO’s name] move the item to [read immediately] folder,” an employee can prioritize communication with certain individuals and even understand the context of a message without reading it. This becomes especially useful during times of business travel when email overload doesn’t stop, but email can only be checked intermittently, and time only allows for urgent requests to be acted upon. Similar rules, such as automatically filing away emails in which you are CC’ed, makes for a far more manageable inbox. Lastly, don’t under estimate the value of color coding an email. The eye is drawn to colors like red and green, for example, much faster than black, so it’s easy to tell at just a glance that you have an important message that must be dealt with right away.
- When All Else Fails: Hit Delete
Shuffling emails around into folders may help from an organizational perspective, but it certainly doesn’t do much to curb the sheer amount of emails we receive daily, and that inevitably builds up over time. The easiest and quickest way to solve this problem, while avoiding the annoyance of combing through years of emails to find the right one, is simply to hit delete. As a rule of thumb, there typically isn’t a need to still have an email in your inbox that hasn’t been touched in three years. Overall, a smaller inbox means less emails to scroll through when finding something, quicker email retrieval and less of a risk of data corruption.
Fearful that you will delete an email that you will need years from now? This is where IT comes in. In most organizations, IT teams will welcome the thought of employees deleting emails that aren’t needed, as it will free up storage space. Further, deleting emails that you may one day need shouldn’t be a concern for most, as most email servers have a built-in archive solution that IT can access to retrieve those accidental deletions. In addition, it’s not uncommon for an organization, particularly those that are regulated, to implement an additional archiving solution in order comply with eDiscovery requests. Aside from helping an organization remain compliant, email and information archiving solutions often offer added benefits in the form of rapid search and content retrieval for improved productivity.
All that being said, if you’re in doubt about your current archiving solution, before hitting delete, check with your IT department or email provider to double check that your messages are being safely archived.
- Keep it Simple, and Separate
You wouldn’t have a deeply personal conversation in your cubicle, so that your boss could overhear, would you? Probably not. Similarly, most business users would not want IT and their managers to read sensitive email communication between themselves and friends or family.
It’s a good time to reflect on a few recent news stories, including that of the embarrassing hacks of Sony executives’ inboxes and the revelation that Hillary Clinton used her personal email for State Department business, to understand why it is imperative to keep personal and work emails separate. The embarrassment of IT reading an off-color, out-of-context comment you made is one thing, but using a personal email account to send work emails could also violate a slew of corporate (or federal) policies. With IT unable to keep tabs on employees’ emails, the business is not only more susceptible to a data leak, but also hefty compliance violation fines.
- Think Before You Click
When it comes to cyber-security threats, hackers often have little preference as to how they make their way onto an organization’s network – whether it’s via an organized inbox or an unruly one. Instead, attacks like spear-phishing are underpinned by social engineering in which the attacker likely gets to “know you” as a person before sending a malicious link in an email. They may learn the name of your bank, for example, tricking you into filling in personal information after clicking on an inbound link for a fake financial services website.
The result is detrimental to both the business user, who may have just revealed personal information to a hacker, and the employer, because the hacker now has the access point he or she needs to unleash malware on the company network. Keeping hackers at bay often requires both an added security layer in the IT stack that can identify malicious links and creative employee education, so users know to think before they click. Coupled with a more organized, manageable email inbox, both IT and business users can keep data protected and hackers on the outside.
- Re-evaluate Spam Filters
As both a user and the person in charge of making sure pesky spam is not crowding employees’ inboxes, IT has the power to know when spam filters should be re-evaluated. There is no better time to do this than the spring when users’ inbox clean-ups (should be) underway, and they may be less likely to put up with junk mail in their inbox. In addition, quality spam filters give IT administrators the power to configure spam settings, to check the content of all inbound emails and ensure the good makes it in, and the bad doesn’t. This may even include blocking certain email senders as needed.
With spring upon us, now is the time to weed out the malicious and unused emails. Despite start ups’ best efforts, email will remain a core business function for years to come. As such, it’s important for business users to take a hard look at how they utilize email, both for the safety of themselves and their organization.
By Mounil Patel, VP of Strategic Field Engagement, Mimecast
Bio : Mounil Patel is the Strategic Technology Consultant at Mimecast. Previously he was Global Practice Director managing pre-sales and services for EMC’s Telco, Media and Entertainment division for archiving and backup products. Mounil also held IT management positions at Iron Mountain, Endeca Technologies and Phase Forward Incorporated. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Boston University.