An autoresponder is a program that runs on a mail server and replies to incoming e-mail automatically.
Autoresponders are most commonly used in office settings, where it may be necessary to let your business partners or coworkers know that you are out of the office and may not be able to respond to their emails in a timely manner. Many companies also use autoresponders to confirm they have received your message, for instance when you sign up for their mailing list or send them a support request.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I set up an autoresponder?
Many email programs will allow you to set up an autoresponse message, usually under a heading such as Away Message, Out of Office Reply, or Vacation Responder. It can usually be found in the settings menu, and will allow you to specify a time and date range, during which the message will be sent in response to any incoming email. In some cases, your email program may keep track of who has already received the autoresponse message, so if someone emails you multiple times while you’re away, they will only receive it once.
If you host your own website or email service, you can usually also set up an autoresponder through your web hosting control panel. It will usually be listed under the email tools, either included in your general email settings or with its own autoresponder icon.
When would I use my hosting company’s autoresponder instead of my email program’s?
The autoresponder in your email program is ideal for short-term responses, such as when you will be out of the office for a day or are going on vacation. If you need a long-term solution, using the autoresponse feature from your web host will be more useful. For instance, many web providers use something called a catchall email address, which is used whenever someone sends an email to that domain that does not match any of their users. For instance, if someone emailed Random_Person@learnthenet.com, that would get sent to our catchall address, because we don’t have anyone here named Random_Person. We can then use an autoresponder to send a message back saying the address was not recognized. That way, if you misspell someone’s address, you’ll know it didn’t get through and can double-check your spelling.
Are autoresponders only for business use?
No. While businesses and website owners tend to be the biggest users of autoresponders, anyone can take advantage of their convenience. For instance, if you’re going to be on vacation, you may want an easy way to let your friends and family know, so they don’t worry when you don’t respond to them in a few days. However, you should use this cautiously, since it’s not a great idea to tell everyone who emails you that your house is empty!
For more safety tips like this, visit our Stay Safe section.