A TALE OF TOO MUCH MAIL

After we wrote about using Gmail to filter out spam messages, we heard from Greg, a reader who was receiving a stunning 25,000 email messages a month. Most of that was spam, of course. (According to GmailSymantec, 78 percent of all email is spam.)

Gmail has a great spam filter, so Greg transferred all his incoming email to a Gmail account (they’re free). Almost immediately, his incoming spam dropped to near zero. Unfortunately, his outgoing mail also dropped to near zero. Greg is in the furniture business and he started getting phone calls from angry customers saying how come he hadn’t emailed them the information they requested.

Here’s what happened: It turned out his inability to send email had nothing to do with his Gmail account or its spam filter but was caused by his Internet service provider. Because he’s in business, Greg maintains his own email server. That’s a computer dedicated in whole or part to handling his email. When he transferred the enormous amount of incoming mail from his server to his Gmail account, the watchdog software maintained by the service provider identified him as a spammer. After all, from the software’s point of view, he was sending almost a thousand emails a day, and he must be a spammer. So they cut off his outgoing email — to protect us.

We talked to someone at Google, the creators of Gmail, about this problem and got some helpful information. Our contact said that unfortunately Google has no control over the email server (which was Greg’s own computer) or his Internet service provider. What they do have, however, is a service that lets companies run their web domain and email accounts on “Google Apps,” at Google.com/a. (Click on the blue box, to find the business stuff.) This has several benefits, among them industrial strength spam and email control.

Businesses that use Microsoft Outlook can continue to do so. Their email address can be their company name.  If it’s a small business, like Greg’s, there is no charge by Google and they can use up to seven gigabytes of email storage and filtering; they don’t count spam as part of that. Larger businesses can use up to 25 gigabytes for mail for $50 per user per year. They also get free tech support.

We are Gmail users ourselves, and even though we get a lot of mail, and save more than half of it,  we still use only two gigabytes of email storage. Incoming spam is moved to a special storage area at Google, and is automatically dumped every 30 days. If it were not dumped regularly, spam would accumulate like a city’s garbage and completely overwhelm the system. If you suspect something useful recently came in and was mistakenly identified as spam, you have 30 days to rummage through the trash and try and find it. If you think you know the subject, you can simply do a key word search.

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