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What Does Your Email Say About You? Free Is Fine But . . . (Part 1 of 3)

If you are looking to streamline, upgrade or change your email communications you would probably want to know what all the options are – right? Starting with this post, we’ll explore the email landscape, so to speak, identifying the different kinds of emails, how they work, what they cost and the pros and cons of using them.

We’ll start the series with a look at free email services, the ones that most people primarily use for personal communications.

Free Email Services
The top free email providers I would recommend are Yahoo and Google’s Gmail.

> Google GmailThe upside of using Gmail is it is conveniently tied into the rest of the Google-sphere (Calendar, Docs, Drive, YouTube, Analytics, etc.) and so many people I know love it.  I have tried it, but I still find its interface counter-intuitive and confusing.   Maybe it’s just me, because I know so many people LOVE it. 

> Yahoo Mail – I have used Yahoo Mail for years and years and years.  I was a pretty big fan until the recent redesign (becoming more like Gmail), server outages and hacking problems.  Regardless, I like the format and think they have a pretty terrific search function.

> If you still have AOL, MSN or Hotmail as part of your email address, it means you probably haven’t been hacked and that you are perfectly fine with the service.  If you are looking to upgrade,  I wouldn’t advise using one of these as they can be viewed as technologically out of date.

> If you are using or choose to use a free service from your Internet provider or Mac (think Optonline, Bellsouth, me.com, mac.com), their services typically work well  (though their interfaces sometimes seem clunky) but remember you are then tethered to those provides and would lose your account if you switch providers.

Not matter which free service you might use, I implore you to do three things now (and on a regular basis) before crisis makes you realize “shoulda, coulda, woulda”:

1)   Back up your contacts – Just because you have a “contact” list within your email service, doesn’t mean that you have access to it if your account is hacked or shut down unexpectedly.  Backing up your contacts on your hard drive or in the cloud will allow you to have an easy-to-retrieve file from which you could upload your contacts and stay connected to your peeps.  This is especially important if you are planning to create a new email for business or professional purposes.

2)   Save important emails outside of your email program – Given that these free services offer practically unlimited capacity and pretty decent search options, many us have started treating our inboxes like filing cabinets (Hello, 16,000+ emails in my inbox!). Again, should your free email service ever become inaccessible, say good-bye to all of those images, documents, letters and important information that you meant to save.

3)   Change your password frequently – This is a regular habit of mine and I believe has helped keep my account free from hackers. (Though now I ‘ve probably jinxed it – right?)

Conclusions about using free email services . . .
Upside: Free is free!
Downside: Free is great but it’s not so great, when your account has been hacked or you get completely locked out of your account due to server outages.   Free usually means that customer service requires hours of navigating through ineffective help support FAQs (none of which are relative to your problem) to finally find a functioning help request form that takes 24 hours response time.  This is not good for your mental state or stress level when one of your major sources of communication goes kaput!

Coming up next in the “What Does Your Email Say About You” series:

  • Personalized/Business emails – What are the options?
  • Third party email services – What do they do and why do I need them?

Please share in the comments:  What email service do you use and why?  Have you had a nightmare email story? Do you have an email tip or trick you’d like to share?