Caring for your business email

A scheme to archive electronic mail shows the importance of protecting your business emails. PAUL WALLBANK

Paul Wallbank Tech Talk blog

By Paul Wallbank

Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum and Windows Live Hotmail are asking Australians to submit emails in eight categories that represent aspects of modern life. The launch of the Email Australia project had me reflecting on the importance of emails to business. 

For most of us, email is not only the main way we communicate but it’s also the way we keep track of our working lives. Many people use their email program as the main filing system for their business.

Some people don’t even bother with the filing and just leave everything in the inbox; spam, quotes, customer inquiries, anniversary reminders and divorce proceedings, the latter usually six months after the fifth forgotten anniversary reminder. The biggest inbox I’ve ever seen had over 420,000 messages in it.

As well as the risk of missing important messages in the mass of noise, a major problem with these monster inboxes is email systems become a touch flaky when the data files get too big. This is another reason for backing everything up.

Corporate networks overcome many of these issues with centralised storage of mailboxes, automated backup and limits on how much you can save in your email folders. Smaller businesses often don’t have these features and it’s one reason why growing businesses invest in a server.

If you don’t have a server, there are various tools and techniques available for backing up your email. Microsoft has a tool for backing up Outlook data files and there are various methods for backing up other email programs. We have a few listed on the PC Rescue website.

It’s best to include email in your daily or weekly backup routine. The backup should include all your mail folders and address books. It’s surprising how often people miss their valuable contact lists.

I like to see businesses burning a copy of email files to DVD at the end of every financial year along with all the other important business records to comply with tax office and other regulatory requirements. These DVDs should be stored in a secure, dark and cool place away from the office.

If you are an Outlook user that likes to work with an inbox containing 427,385 messages, you’ve probably found searching your inbox can be a slow and unreliable process. To overcome this, I’d highly recommend the Lookout program as a replacement for Outlook’s poor searching capabilities.

Sadly, Lookout was bought by Microsoft some time back and the tool was discontinued last year before being folded into the next version of Microsoft Search. However it can still be downloaded from the Major Geeks website.

If you are interested in contributing to the Email Australia project, submissions are open until 16 May and business contributions are welcome. I’m sure anyone that’s worked in a consumer facing role will have some doozies for the complaints category.



Paul Wallbank is a writer, speaker and broadcaster on technology issues. He founded national support organisation PC Rescue in 1995 and has spent over 14 years helping businesses get the most from their IT investment. His PC Rescue and IT Queries websites provide free advice to business computer users and his monthly newsletter has over 3000 subscribers.

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