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Email and It’s Intricacies.

Email. Everyone uses it, and no one knows how it works, which is ok, considering not many people understand the physics of microwave ovens, but they can still heat their food. What should be understood, however, is that like a microwave, email may be easy to use, but so many parts have to be working perfectly in order to do its job. I’ll attempt to explain how. Email is like a teeny tiny download that your computer, using an email client (the program that lets you view your emails, be it outlook on your computer, or gmail on the web) will download and keep handy. Basically when you compose an email, you’re creating a tiny file to send to a server, and other users download that file from that server in order to view it. Of course when you send the email, the “To:” address bar sends a little instruction packet with your file telling the email server who gets to download this email, but it’s important to note that while you may send the email to a specific person, the email is still sitting there on that server and anyone with sufficient rights or access can view it at their choosing, even if you tell it to delete. 

Email requires several things. First, it requires a server to send and receive the emails. Second, it requires someone to host that server, and by host, I mean enable that server to find the other servers all over the internet. Server hosting is a whole ‘nother shebang, but for now we’re going to skim the topic by stating that the server needs to have the right instructions (called records, of which there are a few types: MX is used in email) to send the files to the right places. Essentially your email would be like a car on the highway, with specific instructions on where to go. The servers (yours and the other servers on the internet) are like the road signs. At each intersection or lane change, the road signs, our servers, tell the little email car which way to go. What does this all mean? It means that if someone doesn’t have the right records, or if the servers have the wrong domain names hosted, or even if only part of some of the records exist, then your email is going to have trouble getting where it’s going. In some cases, you may even be able to receive and send emails at your office, or at home on your desktop, but not on your cell phone or tablet. Each one of those devices has a specific way of packaging and sending emails, and your email host needs to have all those records available. If not, then your email is lost in translation, so to speak.

Email is far more complicated than this, but for the quick and dirty, essentially this is how it works.