Electronic mail, or e-mail, is the most frequently used service on the Internet for many reasons. Using e-mail, you can:
Every second of every day, over 2.4 million e-mail messages zip around the world.
- Send a message anytime, anywhere and the recipient can read it at his or her convenience.
- Send the same message to multiple recipients.
- Forward information without retyping it.
- Send messages fast, usually taking no more than a few seconds to be received.
- Attach digital files to your messages, including electronic documents, video clips, music and photos.
- Send messages around the world as easily as to someone down the block.
- Communicate from any device: computer, tablet, smartphone, even some watches.
E-mail has revolutionized the way people communicate. Whereas once it took days to send a letter across the country, now you can send a note to someone across the world in a matter of seconds. That means correspondences can now happen in near-real time, businesses can collaborate from any location, and families can keep in touch from around the world.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a benefit to using e-mail at work?
Absolutely! While nothing will replace a good face-to-face meeting, e-mail is a great way to get questions answered quickly. Let’s say you are working on a presentation and you have questions about several parts of your business. Rather than circling the entire office, hoping every person you need to talk to is there (if everyone is even in the same office), you can simply shoot an e-mail to all of your project stakeholders at the same time. Then they can respond to the questions that apply to them, and maybe even help out with some that don’t. If someone isn’t available right then, they can get back to you when they are free. No need to track them down.
Another benefit of e-mail at work is that you always have a record of what’s been discussed. In fact, many e-mail programs now allow you to group messages from a single conversation, so you can quickly follow any back and forth discussions.
Does it take longer to send e-mails over greater distances?
The time it takes for an e-mail to be delivered has more to do with the mail servers than the actual distance. This is because things move very quickly between two points on the Internet. While it may take slightly longer to send a signal across the world than next door, that time difference isn’t noticeable. On the other hand, if a mail server is busy or running slowly, or if it has extra security checks in place to reduce spam or scan for threats, it could take longer for your e-mail to be received. In fact, it’s entirely possible that sending an e-mail to your next door neighbor could take longer than sending an e-mail to someone on the other side of the globe.
If e-mail is so fast, should I be concerned if I don’t receive an e-mail within a few minutes?
Probably not. Several factors can cause e-mail delays. If your mail server is experiencing heavy traffic, it may take longer for messages to reach you. If there is a technical problem, or if your mail server is undergoing system maintenance, the message could be delayed. It’s also possible that the sending server is experiencing delays. Unless it’s an urgent e-mail, give it an hour or two. If you haven’t received it by then, send a message the sender to double-check that 1) it was sent and 2) your address was typed correctly.
Can I attach anything to an e-mail?
Most mail servers place some size limits on attached files, to prevent a single e-mail from clogging their resources. These limits are usually fairly large, so unless you are sending large video files or several photos in a single message, this shouldn’t be a problem. You can learn more about attachments in our Sending Attachments article.