Why don't I get CTC emails?

The emails get sent - honest.  But several people claim they don't get them, or that they get them intermittently.

There's nothing special or different about the Portsmouth CTC emails.  In fact, when people manage to track them down, they usually find emails from other people have gone astray too.

This note will hopefully help you find out where they are going and how to make sure they arrive OK.

It describes:

  • Some basic principles
  • The main reasons for emails going astray
  • What you can do about it
  • What we can do about it
  • Some specific step-by-step instructions

The basics

So let's start by getting some terminology straight.  It's important as you'll see later.

Here's how you get your emails...

IncomingEmails

Emails arrive from the Internet to your Email provider where they get stored waiting for you to pick them up.  You use a device (such as a PC, tablet or smartphone) which connects to your Email provider via an Internet Service Provider to pick up your emails.

For example:

  1. Emails you send to Andy@PortsmouthCTC.org.uk go to our Email Provider: 1&1.  I use BT as my Internet Service Provider to read them.
  2. Someone with an address xxx@virginmedia.com probably uses Virgin as both Email provider and Internet Service Provider.
  3. If you use Gmail from a smartphone, then Google is your Email provider and the company you pay the phone bills to is your Internet Service Provider.

There are two basic ways to read your email:

WebMailAndProgram

Click either link for more detail...

You use a web browser such as Internet Explorer or Chrome to get your emails.  A typical Webmail page looks something like this (click to see a larger image):

Webmail page

Nothing is stored on your device.  Instead your emails are stored by your Email provider.  You need an active internet connection to read your emails.

Note the 'Spam' folder on the left hand side.  Some Email providers filter your emails for malicious or unwanted emails.  Any they think you don't want get sent direct to your spam/junk folder and never arrive in your inbox.

Your web browser doesn't filter emails so there's only one place to look for spam emails.

You use an Email program - for example: Outlook, Outlook Express or Windows Live Mail - to read your emails.

A typical email program looks something like this (click to see a larger image):

EmailProgram

Emails are stored on your device so you don't need an internet connection to read them.

Note the 'Junk E-mail' folder on the left hand side.  All good email programs filter your emails for malicious or unwanted emails.  Any they think you don't want get sent direct to your spam/junk folder and never arrive in your inbox.

Unfortunately, it can be more complicated.  Your Email provider might also be filtering your emails.  This works one of three ways:

  1. Your Email provider does not filter - instead it relies on your email program to do that
  2. Your Email provider looks for unwanted emails and it puts a flag on any it finds.  Your email program can read the flag and send the unwanted emails to your email program's Spam/Junk folder
  3. Your Email provider has its own Spam/Junk folder so unwanted emails can end up in two places: your email program and your Email provider.  You'll need to use Webmail (see above) to see your Email provider's Spam/Junk folder.

There's nothing to stop you using both methods simultaneously.  For example, you can use Webmail to pick up your emails if you don't want to take your PC on tour with you.

So where are the CTC emails going?

There are two main problems:

This is the most common problem.  Our emails are being detected as 'unwanted' emails and are getting sent directly to a Spam or Junk folder.  You are receiving them, but they never appear in your inbox.

If you read your emails via Webmail, there's only one place to look for a Spam/Junk folder.  It will appear as a folder in the Webmail page.  Sometimes it's always visible (like the example above).  Other times you might need to click a triangle or a menu option to see it.

If you use an email program, there are two places to look: your email program will have a Spam/Junk folder and your Email provider might have one too.  You might need to click around to see your email program's Spam/Junk folder.  You'll need to use Webmail to see your Email provider's one.

You might be picking up emails through multiple devices.  For example:

  • You might have more than one PC at home
  • Maybe you have a tablet and a PC
  • Perhaps you use a smartphone, tablet and multiple PCs (like I do)!

Typically email programs install themselves using a protocol called POP (Post Office Protocol).  By default, emails are copied down to your device and automatically deleted from your Email provider.

So, depending on which devices you have switched on, your emails could be going to any of them and might never appear on any others.  That can get very confusing, especially if you have multiple Email providers!

What can I do about it?

You can:

You can usually tell a provider/program to trust emails coming from our domain - portsmouthctc.org.uk.  That will stop any emails from addresses ending in @portsmouthctc.org.uk from being treated as spam/junk.

That's the best option because it trusts all our emails in a single step.

Second best is to trust individual email addresses such as andy@portsmouthctc.org.uk - you'll need to register each email individually.

We provide some specific instructions later on but typically you either:

  • right click an email from Portsmouth CTC and choose menu options that allow you to trust the email's domain or address; or
  • use menu options to set up a rule that sends all incoming Portsmouth CTC emails to your inbox.

If you use an email program, it might have a rule to respect spam flags set by your Email provider.  If that's the case, you might need to do some fiddling to make sure your trust rules are executed before the spam flag is checked.

First you add the email addresses - such as andy@portsmouthctc.org.uk - to your email address book.  There's often an option to do that if you right click a Portsmouth CTC email.  You'll need to trust each email address individually.

Then you use an 'options' page/screen to tell the provider/progam to trust all email addresses in your address book.

You'll also need to make sure you aren't also choosing to add all new recipients to your address book otherwise you'll automatically trust any recipient that gets through your spam filter.

You tell your provider/program when it mistakenly sends an email to a spam/junk folder.  You just tick a 'Not spam' option when reading an email in your spam/junk folder.  That's arguably the simplest method, but it will take a while for the filter to learn your intention and there's plenty of scope for it to 'misunderstand'.

In the options for each email account you will usually find a way to 'leave emails on the server' rather than delete them as you read them.  If you set up all your devices to do that, you won't get emails disappearing when devices read them.

That way every email will be visible on every device.

Your Email provider will probably impose a limit on the amount of email it will store for you so you'll need a way to delete emails from your Email provider as you process them.  Typically you'll have one or more of the following options to delete emails held by your Email provider:

  • A delete option in your program
  • An option to delete when you move an email from your inbox
  • Use Webmail to do the deletion

Alternatively, you could switch to a protocol known as IMAP...

IMAP stands for Internet Message Access Protocol.  It's a more recent protocol than POP and the main difference is that it is designed to allow multiple devices to work concurrently with emails held by an Email provider.

If one device moves an email to, say, a CTC folder all the other devices will start seeing it in their CTC folder too.  If one device deletes an email, it will be deleted for all the other devices too.

Switching from POP to IMAP is usually just a matter of switching the protocol used by each device in the 'account' options.

Why can't you do something about it?

That looks a bit complicated, can't you do something at your end?

Well we do what we can by following some good practice rules but:

  • Although technology exists to ensure emails can be trusted, ISPs and Email providers seem reluctant to implement it (probably because most already provide their email service for free or a very low cost).
  • People that write spam filters keep their rules to themselves - understandable because they don't want spammers to know how to by-pass them.  But it means we have little guidance for stopping emails from being treated as spam.

Sorry.

Step-by-step instructions

Here's some step-by-step instructions.  We'll build on the initial list over time.  You can help.  Send details from your system to me and I'll incorporate them here.

Alternatively, if you don't see your system listed here, let me know your Email provider and the name and version of your email program (if you use one) and I'll try to help.

Unless you have installed a spam-checking app - you're looking in the wrong place.  These devices don't do any spam checking.  Instead they rely on your email provider to do spam checking for you.  If you are seeing our emails in a junk folder on a standard Android or Apple iPad or Phone, they are being put there by your email provider.

If you have installed a spam-checking app, you'll need to use its documentation/help pages to find out how to trust our emails.

This is the email program provided with Microsoft Office - not Outlook Express (which is now replaced by Windows Live Mail that works in a similar way - see below).

All the versions of Outlook are very similar so these instructions will probably work if you use an earlier or later version.

Right click any email you have received from Portsmouth CTC and:

  • Click 'Junk'
  • Click 'Never block sender's domain'
  • That's it

Windows Live Mail replaced Outlook Express and works in a very similar way.

Right click any email you have received from Portsmouth CTC and:

  • Click 'Junk e-mail'
  • Click 'Add sender's domain to safe senders list'
  • Click OK
  • That's it

There's some information about creating new filter rules here.

There's some information about creating new filter rules here.