Email Etiquette – Proper usage and tips
September 1, 2009 | By Damon Armour, ITS Security Officer
Email is a primary and an official communication tool at Augusta State University. Whether faculty and staff are communicating internally or globally with vendors and colleagues, email is a primary form of communication in our world today. Communicating with email requires proper habits and etiquette to be effective. The goal of this article is to point out some common tips on improving our usage of email in our work and personal lives.
Know your audience or recipients prior to hitting the "Send" button. Many email users, at least once in their lives, have hit the "Reply All" button on a message intended only for a select group or an individual. Email can be a large drain on time if individuals are forced to review messages that have no bearing on them. There is a very fine line on what is considered pertinent information and what people consider spam. Be considerate and courteous to those who may not be interested in a topic or an opinion.
Email in most cases is not a secure method of communication. At ASU, email does not have any security built in to protect the message or the intended recipients. The possibility exists for others to intercept the message or read the contents as it travels the network, on or off the campus. If your message contains any information that could be deemed sensitive, working to find a secure method of communication is required. Data that should not be exchanged through email includes social security numbers, credit card numbers, bank account information, to name a few. There are methods (software/hardware) to secure email messages through the use of encryption. The encryption piece would work in tandem with your current email client. In most cases, this would require the use of a thick client versus a web mail system. If individuals on campus see a need for encrypting emails, contact me at email@example.com, and options can be discussed.
Email is not intended to be a file transfer system. Sure email is a fast and effective form of communicating with others no matter their locations, yet limitations exist on the quantity and size of attachments that can be handled. Each email system and provider has its own policies on how to limit the use of attachments in email. At ASU, our email guidelines limit attachments to 10 files with the maximum size of the email at 20 megabytes. In many cases when a threshold is exceeded, the message will just be returned to the sender. Keep in mind these settings when attempting to send messages out to people. The recipients' settings might not be the same as yours. Also, keep in mind that attachments can take up a great deal of your inbox storage space. Most providers, including ASU, limit the capacity of mailboxes. Messages that are in your "Sent Items" are also included in that tally.
There are alternative solutions to sending files to people across the world. There are many online storage solutions/legal file sharing applications. Most attachments tend to be focused on photographs, and sites such as Flickr (www.flickr.com) and Facebook (www.facebook.com) offer ways to share your albums with friends and family. Just as a reminder, any information that could be deemed sensitive should have secure methods of storage, even on the Internet. ASU provides methods for personnel to access their data here on campus. Replicating sensitive information and taking it offsite can cause an information leakage risk to the individual and the campus.
The final tip for this article is a restatement from past articles on the use of email: Maintain separate work and personal email accounts. Your ASU account should be used solely to fulfill the duties assigned to you on campus. By maintaining that separation, keeping track of what is relevant to the individual is much easier. Also, by controlling your work email for work-only purposes, spam can be greatly reduced. Another useful tip related to this is to keep a personal email address that you use to communicate with those dearest to you. Keep a separate personal account to deal with third-party entities, such as shopping sites.
Email is a powerful and practical form of communication today. In the future, electronic communication is only going to grow. With the advent of Web 2.0, online applications such as Facebook and Twitter (www.twitter.com) have expanded our communication capabilities by being fast and effective. While responsibilities still exist with any form of communication, especially dealing with privacy, being a good Netizen requires us all to do our part to treat others as we would like to be treated.
Questions or comments can be directed to Damon Armour at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you need assistance with any technical questions, contact the ITS Help Desk at 706-737-1482.