email-communicationEmail is a double-edged sword. You cannot work without it, yet the daily, incessant flow of emails drives you up the wall. Well, if you can’t beat email, there’s still a lot you can do to make your email work for you. Here are a few tips to implement both on the client and server side of your email infrastructure.

Client-side stuff

Here’s six ways you can make email work for you using things you already have built-in.

Folders

Inbox Zero may sound like a great idea, but it’s probably not practical for most of us. Leveraging folders to keep your inbox manageable is though, and having a good folder hierarchy can really help with the sorting of things by customer or topic, sorting based on retention policy, and good organization in general. Here’s a pro tip for you: right click any folder in Outlook to sort subfolders alphabetically. It’s an easy way to keep your folders arranged so you can quickly and easily find what you need.

Rules

Folders are nothing without rules to leverage them. Create rules to sort mail from specific users or from specific distribution lists (DL) into folders for later reference. Not every email needs to be reviewed or replied to immediately, and you are probably CC’d on dozens of messages a day, and you may only need to review the thread once.

Conversation view

To help cut down on mailbox overflow, make sure you have Outlook set to sort in Conversation View. This keeps all messages with the same subject together, so you can view one and see the entire thread. This is a great way to cut down on the total number of messages in the inbox.

Ignore the conversation

Do you find yourself on the CC, or in a DL, that suddenly gets flooded with a noisy thread? Have you ever considered removing yourself from a DL just to stop the madness? Use Outlook’s “Ignore” option to automatically delete all the messages in a thread you just don’t care about. Right-click a message, click Ignore, and the message and all subsequent replies go to the bit-bucket without bothering you again.

Alerts

Here’s a great way to cut down on distractions. Turn off Outlook’s notifications pop-ups so that you don’t have your concentration broken every time a message arrives. Instead, set up rules with alerts for the really critical stuff, such as emails from your boss or best customer, or things marked urgent. That way, you can check the non-critical stuff when you get to a break, and only get notifications from the things you really care about. Right-click a message, create a rule, and in one window you can flag any message from a specific sender to display an alert or play a sound.

Polling intervals

Here’s another pro tip for you. If it is really that urgent, someone will call you on the phone. So, rather than having it feel like there’s a chainsaw in your pocket, turn off push and poll on your smartphone, and only check for messages manually, when you feel like you want to check in. You’ll notice the difference when you’re out to dinner and not checking email every few minutes!

Server-side stuff

There’s a lot more you can do on the server side as well. Here are seven ideas to help you out:

Email filtering

Nobody likes to root through spam, clean infected machines, or reset passwords after accounts have been compromised. Email filtering is one of the most effective ways to reduce phishing attacks, prevent malware infections, and reduce the amount of junk mail you must wade through, and an email filtering system will protect all of your users equally well.

Email archiving

Speaking of things you don’t have time to do, recovering data from corrupt PSTs and restoring deleted messages from backup are two of every IT admin’s least favorite tasks. Email archiving can eliminate the need for PST files, and also reduce the tendency to delete messages that users might actually need. Implement email archiving both to save yourself time, and to give your users more of a self-service approach to data recovery.

Email retention policies

Retention policies can hold messages for set periods of time, and also delete messages after a set period of time. Use them to support the company’s document retention policy and to automatically perform spring cleaning. No more monthly emails to employees asking them to delete old messages to free up space.

Email disclaimers

We don’t always remember to add the disclaimer text, or to figure out which signature you need to use. Take advantage of standard disclaimers so you don’t have to remember what to do for a particular message.

Email data loss prevention (DLP)

Data leakage is a big problem that is growing bigger. You don’t go a month without reading about a company that accidentally leaked sensitive financial information or sent customer PII somewhere they should not have. The time and effort required to clean up such a mess is massive, and nobody has that much free time so the impact from one accidental email being sent to the wrong place can last for months. Data loss prevention solutions can prevent phishing attacks from succeeding, thus avoiding a public relations nightmares, legal action and loss of reputation.

Email data mining

There is a wealth of information contained within your email system about how your company interacts with its customers, its vendors and internally. Some email archiving solutions can mine the data to reveal patterns and trends, thereby provding deep insights into just how your company communicates, email flows and so much more.

Email faxing

So many vendors, customers, and organizations still rely upon faxing. It’s a technology that is here to stay, but those old analog fax machines can be given a nice retirement (recycling) by adding fax capabilities to your existing email systems. Fax to email/email to fax solutions let you use your email system to send and receive faxes, without the time wasted standing in line for the fax machine or searching for that misfiled fax that someone grabbed in the stack of paper in the output tray. You will be amazed at how much time and money you can save simply by enhancing your existing email system with a simple faxing solution.

Email is one of the most heavily used and important applications on your network, and it’s probably the only one that everyone uses. Help it work both harder and smarter for you. These tips show you the way.