Three common email problems and how to solve them

As computers become more a part of our life, so the issues that go along with them become more apparent. Even though they're meant to help us, the IT that we rely on can often get in the way of us doing our job. Also, because we rely on them so much, they have replaced many of the old ways of doing things, so we now have nothing to fall back on.
One of the technologies that has made arguably the greatest difference to our lives is email.

The first email clients were cumbersome affairs, often bolted on to existing MRP and ERP systems, and commonly viewed through green screen terminals and hence hard to use.
These systems didn't really take off, and it wasn't until the common usage of PCs, and then the expansion of graphical user interfaces such as Windows and Mac did email really start to have an effect in organisations.

And then came problems

Setting up email on your computer is actually a fairly simple thing to do.
If you're in a fairly large organisation it's probably already done for you and you probably connect to an exchange server where everything is all set up and ready for you to start emailing.
However, if you're in a smaller company then the chances are you're using some basic method of connecting to your mail server such as IMAP or POP3. They sound complex, but really they're not.

All of your mail will be stored on a server somewhere. The most common way this is achieved is via the same server that your website is stored on. 

This means you'll have an email address like "fred@mywebsite.co.uk".
So far, so good, but often you'll have problems with your emails that you just can't fathom, so here are a few things to try.

Wrong Email Password

This is quite a common problem and one that foxes many people.

If your email has been working fine, then why should it now pop up asking for a new password when, to the best of your knowledge, you haven't changed your password?

Most systems won't ask you to change passwords regularly (although really, they should), so why should it be a problem?

Very often it's because another problem has occurred unrelated to passwords which has caused this box to appear. You see, sometimes it can appear if there's a problem with the server, or your network has failed for some reason. The network or server failure might only be for a few seconds, but if you're collecting emails at the time, this box could appear:

As you can see, it offers a password box, and that's where the problems start.

In most cases, leaving it a minute and then pressing OK will result in emails working as normal, however often people will attempt to remember their password and type it in. They get it wrong, the password is remembered by Outlook and then any further attempts will fail.

How to solve it

Firstly, if the box appears and you haven't changed your password, simply leave it a couple of minutes and then click "OK". More often than not the problem will go away.

If you have a regular problem with your network, it might be that you simply need to talk to someone about upgrading your router, or even checking with your Internet provider.

If you find you've changed your password by mistake, then the only way to solve this is to talk to the person who handles your email. This could be your web host, or even you! But all you have to do is change the password on the server, and make sure it's the same as the one you type in - and you should be good to go.

Connection refused

Connection problems abound in the Internet world and unfortunately, they're notoriously difficult to trace, however there are some very common problems that can be resolved with a little bit of investigation.

One such problem is the constant checking of emails.

Years ago we had an issue with one client who normally would have no problems with emails, but then started getting constant connection problems. 

It was a typical small business set-up. They had just three users and a web server which also handled the email, and one day she kept getting a "connection refused" error.

When she returned from lunch, email would work for a while, but then would stop again with the same error.

Then we had an idea.

We asked if she could view their own website - and the connection was refused there, too.

When we checked with their host, it turned out that she had been constantly hitting the "send&receive" button, which had checked email so often that the server thought it was some kind of attack and automatically refused any more connections.

After 30 minutes, connections were allowed again.

The simple fix here was a procedure. Only check email every five minutes, and don't keep hitting the "send" key!

Files too large

These days we love to share pictures, and as digital cameras and phone cameras get better and better, the files they create get bigger and bigger.

Email systems have managed to keep up in many cases, and most now allow for large file attachments, but we have to keep in mind that email was never really meant to send files. It's just a transport mechanism for text, so there's a lot of work to convert images between different formats so your mom can just click and view on the other end.

However, a few pictures at high quality can result in them not getting through to the recipient.

It might be because the receiver has run out of space, or it could be that your mail system simply won't allow you to send entire photo albums.

So what's the answer?

What of the easiest systems to use is "Wetransfer.com". 

Simply upload all your files (or pictures) and enter your friend's and your email. Add an optional message and the files will be sent. 

The free system allows 2GB of files, which is plenty for most people's needs, but if you send lots of big files regularly, you can upgrade to the paid-for version and send up to 20GB, which would be most of the contents of your digital camera's memory.

Any others?

There are, of course, many other problems that beset people when using something as simple as email, so feel free to let us know what problems you've had!