Work Email and Private Email

I don’t talk much about email yet it’s something I deal with everyday. It’s something I know very well and yet it’s the most abused, most wrongly used and most boring way to communicated in the world…next to sending a fax. For all of you reading this Email as we know it is dead and most likely you are using it wrong anyway. Not to say there is no place for email, there is, but let’s be honest the generation that is entering the work force today does not use email much and communicate without using email and without using the phone. That said we need some rules.

We are all users of email. Both at work and at home. Still not saying it’s right to use it but you are using it and stop lying to yourself…you are doing something that is not acceptable on it.

Some people use email like crazy and others use it on a very limited basis.  After talking and teaching users for many years you find out users all use email differently. They even have ways to use the client or email that you, the instructor and admin, have never thought of.  Every time I lead a class I learn something new about user behavior. I also learn that email is a really bad way to communicate yet some people refuse to change. (Companies have to be willing to change and offer a better solution. More on that later.)

Keep in mind the guy telling you Email is dead is a guy who earns a living making sure email works. So I get it. I am in fact looking the gift horse in the mouth. I am not going to say Email is going away any time soon but it is long over due for an overhaul and how we mine data from it, not to mention how we interact with other email users vs. using a social platform. (Again more on that later)

One of the oddest is users who think that the email account provided by the place they work is a free for all and should be used for everything.  When I say everything I mean it. They assume that personal pictures, personal events, parties, Facebook notifications, LinkedIN notifications, and anything else that has nothing to do with work are perfect for the corporate mail box. You would never have your personal bills or letters sent to your office so why do you think it’s OK to send email to work as well?

There are a few things users seem to forget and it’s OK, but all users need to understand a few things too. When a piece of email arrives in your mail box it’s been filtered. It’s been looked at and reviewed and analyzed to make sure it’s safe.  It is read, scanned and reviewed to make sure that there is nothing in it that could create problems for the company like viruses or malware. Some companies have very sophisticated methods of doing this that track things for legal reasons, record them to a cold storage for latter use by legal and HR and others just pass them and filter them via an email filtering appliance. Either way the company is going to do what it has to in order to protect it’s self from every  threat via email.

Personal Mail
Personal mail should never come to work. It should always go to a personal account. This is especially true about private mail or mail you would not stand on the chair in your cube and read aloud to everyone. I tell everyone I know. If you can’t read the email aloud to your manager it should not be in your mail box. Chances are if you are ever in question of anything the first thing the company is going to start doing is reading your email and asking you questions. Don’t give them extra fodder by having all of your personal email show up at work.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t like HR or Legal departments that look for problems. If you work at one of those companies my first suggestion would be to run. Keep in mind HR and Legal are both departments that are there to protect the company! Period! They are not there to help you the employee in fact most companies fail at create a work environment that is “good” for the employees and makes them feel safe at work.

This is nothing on the scale of the NSA or CIA but the data is being recorded and it can be reviewed, you need to keep that in mind. If you are getting reminders about your yoga schedule or the next book club meeting and are also under investigation these types of email are not going to help you, it’s only going to make them look harder.

Many of us get “bulk” email from places we shop. This is fine just make sure you are sending that to a private account. Most corporate mail filters will block those kinds of things because they are not business related and are in fact spam. This is not new. The best thing to do if you are expecting a flyer from Target and you don’t get it is to make sure it’s going to your personal account. If you call IT and ask, “Where is my Target Flyer? Is it trapped in the mail filter? Can you whitelist it?” then you should be laughed out of the building and also have your email taken away from you for a few hours. Mail filters know what these look like. Know they should stop them and do. Don’t ask for them to be released so you can read them and plan your next shopping excursion.

Pro Tip: Don’t call IT and ask they your private SPAM be allowed to pass through the mail server. Clearly you have too much free time and are using up valuable disk space for your Target flyer to save $1 on eggs and milk.

Financial Information
I should not even have to type anything. Any and all financial information should never be sent via email but if you insist make sure it’s going to a private mail box. I feel dumb for even having to type that but I will tell you there are people who send all the their banking, 401K, or trust funds.

That said some companies will create your 401K account using your work email. First thing you do is change it to your personal email. This should be the first thing you do as you do not want anyone from IT, HR or Legal looking at your financial information do you?

If you are let go and need to access your 401K information and it’s linked to a mail box at a company you can’t access anymore how is that going to help you? Your 401K is yours, not your companies. When you leave the 401K goes with you make sure the account is pointed to your personal email account!

Disk Space
Disk space is expensive. I say this and of course users will tell me;

“I can run down to Best Buy and get 2 TB of disk space for $100! You can’t tell me disk space is expensive.!”

I have had an actual Director level person from a company in California tell me this to my face as I was explaining why we have quotas on mail boxes. Consumer level disk space is not the same as Enterprise Level disk space. They are worlds apart as far as reliability and costs. 2 TB of disk space in Enterprise Data Centers can cost well over $10,000. You consider that there are companies with no cap on mail file sizes, meaning you can have as big a mail box as you want and some are 15 – 20 GB which translates to money for the disk, the power, the guy on call to replace the disk, and the backup that is running every night to keep up with the retention policy. This can get expensive quick. That 2 TB of disk that cost $10,000 just shot up to $30,000 a year. So when you are a user and crying about disk space just keep in mind the costs behind the email you are putting in your mail box. When you add photos of last weekends camping trip in 10 separate emails using up 1 GB of space you just ate up a good chunk of money in disk and all of it’s associated systems.

I have had systems with 10 TB of disk for email storage cost will over $500,000 and that is just for the disk.

Social Networking
I am all for using social networking at work. I can tell you there are people I trust who are technology experts that I would rather contact on Facebook than any way else. Plus it gives them a place to read and respond vs. putting them on the spot and calling them or sending them a meeting invite. Social Tools are out there and by no means should be looked down on in the workplace, yet they are. People to this day are getting told not to spend any time on Facebook, LinkedIN, Twitter, or other social sites. Rather they should save that for when they get home.

So as a mail admin how does that tie back into email. While you can keep your social information private and sort of locked down if you get notifications to your corporate email you in fact are just asking for trouble. Keep in mind it’s being filtered, stored, read, and reviewed at some level at some point.

I hate to sit around and say user social media and then exclude it from your work mail box but that is exactly what I am saying. Like a good MDLT, keep the social email at home and the social web stuff can happen anywhere you like.

Job Sites
Like the financial stuff this should be obvious but to some people it’s not. If you are working and looking for a job NEVER  link your job searches to a work related account. Job sites at times look very spammy and others don’t but with out fail job information will be coming into HR from any of the sites and if they miss an email not the admin has to go looking for this missing email and suddenly the HR person standing behind the IT person looking for the missing mail searches for all the mail that has been quarantined from Monster.com and your name is in there and you don’t work for HR! This is not going to go well. Send all job related information to your personal email.

Porn
I have to cover it and you would be surprised how many times in the last 15 years I have seen it although not in the last 3 – 4 years. Porn is all over the internet. But NEVER NEVER NEVER send porn or let anyone send you porn to your work related email account. This is a huge no no. If you get it delete it and have the person stop doing that immediately. I have seen a few “porn rings” in email mailboxes and it’s scary the amount of email that is going around vs. legitimate work related email. Don’t do it, not even once. It’s not going to be seen as funny or a one time event and you will get caught and you will get asked to leave.

NOTE: I am not speaking to any situation about where I work this is an overall view of email over the last 15 years of being a messaging admin.

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