Email, or electronic mail, remains one of the most important services on the Internet and has become an everyday necessity for direct communications, transferring documents, marketing goods and services and verifying identity. You need an email address to log on to social media, make a purchase online, or check your bank account. Email has become the de facto method of personal and business communication.
This email support and usage guide details the different types of email services available, the most common service providers and the steps required to obtain, set up and use an email account.
- Where you can sign up for an email account
- A step by step email setup
- Email username and password best practices
- How to check and send email via the web and on your phone
Popular Free Email Providers
Setting up an email address is simple and all you need is an internet connection of some sort. While Google’s Gmail is by far the most popular free email service, here are some others to consider before signing up for an email account:
This list only scratches the surface of free email service providers. While each service has positives and negatives, each service provider will let you send and receive email with relative ease.
Internet Service Provider (ISP) Email Accounts
Another option for email is to get an account from your internet service provider (ISP).
Internet Service Provides can be limited by region but here is a quick list of some of the biggest ISP’s in the US:
- Time Warner Cable
- Charter/ Spectrum
- Cable One
- Frontier Communications
Most ISP’s will offer 5-10 free email addresses with storage (anywhere from 2GB to unlimited) when you purchase internet service through them.
Let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of free email vs ISP email.
Free Email Compared to ISP Email
ISP email can be accessed through the same website where you manage your ISP account. This means that you have one less site to remember. Also, if you need to talk to someone about your email (if you have issues with it working or forget your password for example) you can call the same number as you would for any other internet support.
There are a couple disadvantages to using an ISP’s free email service. For internet service providers, email is something they offer for free as an add-on to the service. This means that their free email service may not offer as many features as some of the email services providers do.
Another thing to consider is what happens if, or when, you decide to switch ISP’s? If you move or decide to use a different service provider, you may lose your personal email. This means you’ll have to set up a new email address and inform all of your contacts that you have a new address.
Some advantages to using a free email service is that you can use it with any ISP because they are no longer connected. You will get more features with this service. You will also not be charged for sending or receiving email.
Free Email Advantages and Disadvantages
Pros: Free. Several enhanced features.
Cons: Extra website to remember. Limited technical support. Most technical support will be found through forums rather than talking to someone on the phone.
ISP Email Advantages and Disadvantages
Pros: Free with internet service. Technical support offered with service. Single point of access for ISP and email.
Cons: Less robust. Fewer features. Can be terminated if ISP is changed.
While there are some advantages in using either types of email services, the masses are moving towards the free email. In 2016 Google reported that they have over 1 Billion monthly active users.
Setting Up an Email Address
Registering and setting up most email services is relatively easy. Usually you’ll be asked to provide a few personal details, pick a username, which will typically be your own name, and secure your account by selecting a password. Different providers will have different registration processes but generally it involves filling out an online form. If you are using email services provided by your ISP, your account details might be used to create your username and a password may be generated for you in advance.
Choosing a Username
If you are asked to create a username, this will likely become part of the final email address that people will use to communicate with you. So put a little thought into it and ensure it is suitable as you might be using this email address for a long time. You want something easy to remember that makes sense. Something like fluffypinkunicorn79 may seem fun, but is it suitable for business communications? Your best choice is to use some combination of your first and last name or initials. This way, recipients of your messages will be quickly able to identify you.
If your first (or second or third) choice of username is not be available, keep trying different combinations or mixing in some simple numbers or periods until you find a username that works.
Setting a Secure Password
This is the single most important step of setting up your email account, or any online account for that matter. Having a good password is the most important step to safeguarding your email security.
Here are some general guidelines for a good password:
- Your password should be at least 8 characters in length (longer is better),
- Use a mix of upper and lower case,
- Uses spaces and symbols,
- Don’t use a common word, your name, pet name, etc.,
- Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts,
- Don’t ever write it down!
If that sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is. The idea is that you want a difficult password that will be hard to guess. The easier the password is to remember, the easier it is to hack (New York Times – If Your Password Is 123456, Just Make It HackMe).
While it is possible to create and memorize a strong password it can be exceedingly difficult. That is why another method was created, the passphrase.
Using a Passphrase for Added Security
A passphrase is a sentence that you use as a password. They are easier to make longer, remember and use with capital letters and symbols. Here’s an example of a simple passphrase:
Fred, my dog, is #1!
As good as this passphrase is it still has one flaw. You will probably use it again, simply because it’s hard to remember 5-10 passwords or passphrases. For this reason, the best practice is to use a password manager.
Use a Password Manager for Maximum Security and Convenience
A password manager or vault is a service or program that saves the passwords for all of the sites where you have accounts. That means you can use a very strong password for every site without having to remember it because the password manager does that for you. The only password you have to remember is the one for unlocking your password manager, and if you use a strong passphrase you should have no trouble remembering it without writing it down. Password managers offer extra conveniences such as one click login where the software fills out and submits login forms for you. The better password managers can also secure your personal data, such as bank account details, credit card numbers, address details, etc.
Here’s a quick list of the most popular password managers:
A password manager will make all of your accounts more secure and require you to remember less. A win win!
Sometimes an email provider may ask you to verify your account so they can ensure you are a real person and not a robot intent on spamming their services. They might send a verification code via a phone call or text message, this conforming your identity by using your mobile device. Choose your preferred option and then wait for the code to arrive. Once you receive the code, post it back into the account registration form or follow the instructions provided by the specific ISP or service provider. This is usually the last step of the registration process. Once done, you are ready to start using your new email account.
Using Email on the Web
For both free email accounts and those provided by your ISP there will be a “webmail” option to use your email. This means that you can just use the browser that you use to go on the internet to check your email.
Each email provider will have their own address where you can go to log in and use your email. For example, for Gmail that address is https://mail.google.com. Check with your own provider to see what the address is for your email account.
To access your email all you need to do is go to the address, type in your username and password (or use your password manager) and log in.
To compose (or write) an email simply click on the compose or new email button. The label will vary from service to service.
Typically a screen is displayed in which you can type your message and provide details on who the message should be sent to. In most basic form you should see at least input fields for To, Subject and then an empty box for your message. You simply need to type the email address of the person you are emailing, a subject line (which is optional) and your message.
You can address your message to recipients in one or more of three ways known as:
- To (the message is intended for the personal attention of the recipient),
- Cc (the message is copied to the recipient for informational purposes), and
- Bcc (the message is copied privately to the recipient for informational purposes and without other recipients being aware).
Add multiple addresses by separating each with a comma. Every person added to one of these three “lists” will receive the email message. Each recipient will also be able to see the addresses of everyone else who received the message, excluding the addresses of recipients added to the Bcc list.
The difference with Bcc is, that while each recipient will receive the message they will only see their own address. It will appear that you sent them the message individually.
Best practices is to only include the main person with whom you’re emailing in the To field, but include anybody who should be aware of the message, “in the loop”, in the Cc or Bcc fields. By separating To from Cc & Bcc you assure yourself that you are sending emails to the correct people.
Once you’re done with your message, just click the send button and it will be sent. Emails arrive at their destination almost instantaneously, so your message should get there only moments after you send it. Some mail systems allow you to create notifications so you are informed when recipients have opened your message and, presumably, read it.
Smartphones are becoming more and more common for people of all ages. This means that many people access the internet, and their email, via their phone instead of on a traditional computer. You can use the browser on your phone to log into your email but there is an easier way—use an app.
If you are using an Android Phone there is a built in Gmail app (the OS Android is developed and maintained by Google the same company that runs Gmail). You simply need to open up the app and put in your username and password when prompted. The app will stay logged into your account and notify you when you receive an email. You can also use the app to send and read your emails.
If you have an iPhone (or if you are using some other email provider), you can see if there is an app for your provider through the iTunes App Store.
If you have an Android phone check the Android “Play” Store.
Go to the store and search for your email provider to see if there is an app. Then install the app and set it up using your username and password.
Sending email with an app is similar to using an web based email service.
For example to send an email with the default Android Gmail app, first, open the app. Then you will see this screen:
To start a new message simply click on the pencil icon in the bottom right corner. This will open up the composition window.
The From line will be automatically filled with your email. Just tap on the section you would like to fill with your finger.
On the To line there is a small down arrow at the right side.
If you tap on the right arrow the section will expand to show Cc and Bcc.
These fields work just the same as they do on the webmail version.
Once you are done with your message you just need to click the arrow at the top of the screen to send your message.
By now you should have a working email address that you can use to send and receive emails. Get out there and use it to sign up for a social media account, buy something online, or just to talk to your family and friends! Enjoy!