Posts Tagged ‘E-Mail’

Environmental Impact of Spam

Thursday, April 16th, 2009
Pollution By Another Means

Pollution By Another Means

McAfee Inc., a computer security company, has just released its study “The Carbon Footprint of E-mail Spam” in which it reports that spammers generated approximately 62 trillion junk e-mail messages in 2008 that consumed electricity sufficient to power 2.4 million U.S. homes for a year. This wasted energy, that computers consume while users are viewing, deleting or sifting through spam generates needless greenhouse emissions. Spam filters block out most spam from ever reaching their destination; nevertheless, because most e-mail is spam, people spend about 100 billion user-hours annually dealing with the spam that makes it through the filters to their inboxes. According to Microsoft, 97% of e-mail is spam.

What can we do? I like the suggestions put forward by Seth Goldin in his book, Small Is the New Big, in which he calls for accountability, as anonymous strangers have made our lives miserable. Anonymous e-mail messages that clog our inboxes would go away if it could be traced to those who send it. So he suggests a parallel Internet where the only participants are those who verify their identities. Google, he suggests, could sell its G-mail accounts for $1, requiring people to pay with credit cards to verify their identities. Then you would only accept messages from such verifiable senders. Let’s hope his suggestion is implemented by the tech companies; they would quickly build user loyalty as we are all eager to end this abuse of our time.

E-Mail Service Outage

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009
We often don't realize how critical e-mail is, until we lose access

We often don't realize how critical e-mail is, until we lose access

Last night, many users lost access to Gmail, the popular e-mail service offered by Google. According to Google, the problem is now fixed, but it is unclear what gave rise to the problem and if it will recur (this is not the first service outage for Gmail.)

For small businesses, redundancy is critical and as Gmail is free, it makes sense to use another free email service to send out important messages when the primary service is disrupted. I would be more likely to use such a free service as my secondary channel of communication, since many services will block such messages as likely spam. And then, of course, I have a third free e-mail service, as contingency for contingency!

Do Not Reply to All

Monday, January 12th, 2009

You need not share everything onlineThe State Department suffered a recent embarrassment when it was disclosed that the main electronic communications system of the Department was nearly knocked out owing to what was, in effect, an internally originated denial of service attack. The root cause was traced to the practice of State Department employees selecting the “reply all” option to e-mail messages with very large distributions. This resulted in both an internal shutdown of sensitive electronic communications as well as needless abuse of the time of those who were copied on messages that they did not need to receive. We had addressed this topic, from the latter perspective, in both the earlier and current editions of Prepare for the Worst, Plan for the Best: Disaster Preparedness and Recovery for Small Businesses (Wiley, second edition, 2008). The recommendation put forward in that book was to reduce the “info-stress” caused by bombarding employees with unnecessary communications. Use some discretion in targeting your oral and written communications and watch productivity soar.

But the State Department’s mishap is useful in that it reinforces a lesson about organizing your critical communications: this “reply all” practice interrupted critical communications in normal operations. Imagine how much worse the consequences would have been if the Department had been operating in a disaster recovery mode. That is another reason why you must streamline your communications. This incident was a nuisance to the State Department; it could be devastating to a small business, with far fewer resources to waste. And taking the State Department’s lesson one step further: be careful about how you store your e-mails online with file attachments, particularly when multiple parties within the company are copied on the same message. This redundancy puts an additional burden on your human and IT resources. Consider alternatives, such as the use of a wiki, instead. This will streamline your communications and reduce the risk of further disruptions.