Email is of course one of the most important methods of communication today. People often do not realise how much they rely on it until it goes wrong. Email failure in business could be a major disaster, losing you customers and simply looking unprofessional because you have not replied to a vital message quickly.

There are two main ways you can get your emails on your computer.

1. Web mail where you use your internet browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox etc) to log on to your ISP email service. In this case the emails and your contact list remain on the server of your ISP until you delete them. You can get at your emails from any computer anywhere in the world.

2. You can use a program such as Outlook Express (Windows XP or earlier), Outlook, Windows Mail (Vista), Windows Live Mail, Incredimail, Mozilla Thunderbird etc. These programs download the messages into your computer and remove the message from the ISP server (unless you have set the program to leave the message on the server).

The most common problems I come across with email are:

1. Forgetting your password. People often get their computer to remember the password with the result that they forget it. If the computer forgets it one day, you are stuck! With many ISPs you can reset the password via the internet or you may have to phone them up.

2. If you are using an email program to download your messages, I sometimes find that the mail server name of your ISP has been incorrectly entered, especially when setting up a new computer.

3. Again when using an email program, saving too many old messages slows the program down and may make it unstable. This is particularly true of Outlook Express and older versions of Outlook. Delete old and unwanted messages and make sure that you also empty the Deleted Items folder.

4. Spam email … messages you don’t want. About 85% of all email traffic in the world is spam. Most of us are plagued with it. For example, emails from a bank you don’t even have an account with. Needless to say, the email doesn’t come from the bank and will often carry with it an attachment that is infected.

Some security programs have a spam filter that if you are using an email program will automatically move most spam to a separate folder. It does not stop it arriving. Unfortunately you may also find that some of the email messages you want also get filtered off and it is important to check the spam folder.

If you use web mail spam is still a problem but at least you don’t have to download it into your computer. All you see is the “From” and the “Subject”. Many ISPs have a spam filter, but again this may filter off some emails you want, so check the spam folder.