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This is part one of a two-part post that addresses ten common questions I hear regularly from new clients, usually in connection with setting up their secure client portal, called Clio Connect, which allows all of our clients to securely share encrypted messages & documents with us, and to collaborate on tasks, calendar events, and even view and pay their bills. In a lot of ways, it’s like Dropbox, but far better, and infinitely more secure. And just like Dropbox, all we need to allow a new client access to our portal, is their email address….

1. How many email addresses do I need?

Most people should have at least two email addresses: one for business or work, and one for personal matters. Even if you are self employed, you should still have separate business and personal email addresses/accounts, for reasons that should become clear by the time you finish reading this short post.

2. Why do I need a personal email address if I already have one for work (or school)?

Almost everyone who works for a company is assigned an email address, which is supposed to be used for company business. Some companies have strict policies about specifically what is and isn’t permissible to send using their email system, while others do not. Even if your company has a lenient policy that permits reasonable personal use, you should still avoid using your work email account for personal matters, whether it’s sharing pictures of your new Apple Watch with your sister, sending a great new quinoa recipe to your training buddies, or checking in with your dog walker about scheduling. Just because you are allowed to do it, doesn’t mean you should. Here’s why: any email you send through your work account becomes the property of your company, which has to follow regulations (both internal & external) regarding the preservation of this and all of its electronically stored information (ESI is the lawyerly sounding buzzword). Additionally — and perhaps more importantly — even if you think that nobody from your company would ever look at your email, you have to assume that they will; you do not have any expectation of privacy in any of the data you transmit (or receive!) through your company email server/host.

3. What is email “hosting”?

Although we tend to think that email just exists in the cloud, that’s not really true. Although it is true that email is transmitted through the cloud, email is data, and data has to live somewhere. The place where that email data lives depends on where/who is providing its hosting. Think of it like when you travel to see relatives. You get in your car, or on a jet — when you fly through the clouds — until you get to your destination, where you stay with your host, whether that be your relatives’ home, or better yet, a Westin or W Hotel (just my personal preference). If you work for a large company, they probably host their own email system, which is stored on servers maintained by your company (think of a server as basically just a really big computer without a monitor, which functions more like an external hard drive than the PC at your desk). If you use a public webmail service, such as Gmail, iCloud mail, or Yahoo!, for example, then your email is hosted by them, and stored on their servers.

4. What should my personal email address be, and who should host it?

The answer to this question is a matter of personal preference. If you’re an Apple person, then naturally you might gravitate towards iCloud Mail, which was formerly known as MobileMe (and .mac before that). If you’re a Microsoft person you might prefer Outlook.com, which is a free web-based mail service based on the popular desktop email/calendar application used by many big & small businesses alike. Yahoo! mail seemed to be all but dead a few years ago, but since new CEO Marissa Mayer took over the company in 2012, Yahoo! has held on, and seems to remain relevant, at least for now.

5. Is it okay to delete emails?

Yes and no. Technically speaking, there’s no law that says you can’t delete email routinely. Most companies have policies regarding destruction of email, but nowadays, even the email that you delete from your PC or mobile device is still archived on the company’s server(s). As for your personal email, you should definitely delete spam or anything suspicious of containing phishing or malware links. Most people delete list or junk mail as well, and there’s usually no problem there. But what about the emails you exchanged with a seller on Craigslist a few months ago — why should you or shouldn’t you delete those? There’s a very good reason you should not delete these kinds of emails, and that is because you may need them later, in case there is a dispute over what representations were made concerning the item(s) sold.

To be continued….

Header image courtesy of Sean MacEntee (via Flickr)