By: John Carter
#TechTuesday with E-Services
Whatever you have, Fitbit, iPhone, Kindle, or more, there is one thing you are going to need, an email address. Whether you have more email addresses than you know what to do with or you're creating one for the first time, this blog is for you.
So what is an Email Address?
Email addresses are in many ways just like our normal, real-world, addresses. They give you a place to receive mail and others a place to send it. Now if you have never had an email address before there are a lot of options out there. The number of choices can be rather overwhelming but that is why you’re here.
Before we talk about those options though, let’s take a look at a generic email address USERNAME@DOMAIN.COM. While your email address will look different than this, they don’t need to be in all caps for starters, this is the basic structure of all email addresses. As you can see, there are several parts to any email address, each one is important just like the town, state, and zip code is important in your own real-world address.
Usernames are the part of any email address people end up stressing over. At its most basic, the username is you. Or, more exactly, the username represents your unique location within a domain. Think of it as the first part of your regular address. There can only be one building at 1234 Park Place, the same way there can be only one username per domain. If you have ever seen someone whose email address was something similar to CUDDLYMONKEY23@DOMAIN.COM it's because there were probably 23 other people who wanted to be CUDDLYMONKEY and they got to the domain first. Usernames can be even harder if you want a more professional one that includes your real name. Think how hard it must be for me to get one with a name like John Carter!
Now the @ sign might not seem all that important in the grand scheme of things but it is vital. @, or at, tells people where your username can be found. This is important since you can use the same username for multiple different accounts. That new Kindle you just got, well it is going to need an Amazon account on top of your email address and you can use the same username for both. By having the @ sign though people and computers know your username is attached to an email and not an Amazon account.
The domain is, to borrow from our real-world mail metaphor, the ‘city’ where your email is located. There are many domains out there, perhaps you’ve heard of some: Yahoo.com, Gmail.com, Hotmail.com, Outlook.com, Aol.com, Bellsouth.net. I could go on for hours naming more and more, but if you have heard of any of those you have heard of a domain. Some of us get domains from their cable/phone companies and if you do then that’s great. A word of warning for you though, if you were to ever end your cable account, perhaps because you are moving to somewhere Comcast does not exist,
then you would lose the email associated with it. Therefore, even if you have an account already, it is wise to get an account you in no way pay for. Gmail.com and Outlook.com are both good choices for an email account, be it a secondary or your first as they both have added cloud benefits. (Look for that in a later post)
As a side note about domains, do not use one domain to make another. What I mean is this. Let’s say you have your bellsouth.net address and you want a new gmail.com address. One question you are asked is, “What do you want your email address to be,” and some people just put their bellsouth.net address. This is a big, BIG, no no. What you have done is essentially made two different houses in two different cities and gave them both the EXACT same address, even down to the city, state, and zip code. If you think the people at UPS would get confused imagine how bad it can get for computers. If you want to keep the same username then by all means do so but don’t, DO NOT, use the same domain when making a new email address. Keep bellsouth.net with bellsouth.net and gmail.com with gmail.com. I know it makes it a little harder to keep track of what is where but trust me; it will save you and those who help you a ton of time.
What about Passwords?
Passwords are the bane of most people, be they newcomers to the digital world or long-time digital citizens. Now most experts will tell you to create a password complicated enough so no one will ever be able to crack it, something like: 7zK45jKbbY812!h&5L. As far as passwords go, at least from a security standpoint, that one is pretty good with a decent mix of numbers, letters, capitalization, and special characters (meaning the ! or the &). But from an ease of remembering standpoint it is TERRIBLE. Going into the creation of a password by saying, “I am going to make one no one will ever guess,” is you guaranteeing that you will never be able to remember it.
So, what can we do? How can we make a password that will be hard to crack but easy to remember? Well let's try something. Look at this sentence:
Mary had a little lamb.
Pretty easy right? Most of us know this little nursery rhyme and if you don’t then I am sure there is something from your own childhood that is burned into your memory. But with this one sentence we can do a lot: M4ry_h4d_@_little_l4mb, or MaryHad@L1ttleLamb, or M@ryL@mbPo3m. With each of these I took the line and then established a code in my head. In one I replaced every a with a 4 because an A looks a lot like 4, at least depending on the font. In another I capitalized the first letter of each word and replaced the I in little with a 1. There are a lot of ways you can scramble it while still retaining the core thing you need for your memory. The key is consistency. Notice in all three I replaced the a between had and little with a @, or just replaced all the instances of a with @. Instead of trying to remember where you put a character just have it in the same place every time.
And please, do not feel bad about writing down your passwords in a book. A lot of people do it and there is nothing wrong with it. Just remember to keep it consistent in a way that makes sense to you.
Wait, why is it asking for my phone number?
When you make an email account these days often you will be asked to provide a cell phone number. They do this as an additional safety barrier for you on top of your password. With your phone number if someone, including yourself, is trying to get into your account you will receive a text message with a
code. This is code is single-use, so do not hang onto it, and it will let you in. Because of this, bad guys would need your phone number and your username and your password to steal your information.
However, if you do this please remember your email and your phone are now linked. When it comes time to upgrade to a new phone make sure you move your phone number to the new phone, otherwise you will lose access to your email account. Because if you cannot get to your old phone number for the code you CANNOT get in.
Okay, that was scary. Now what?
Well the good news is, you have an email address! Having an email address means you are now a digital citizen. You can communicate with other people, sign up for goods and services, and have access to everything the internet has to offer. Most importantly though, depending on which domain you went with you also have your own personal slice of The Cloud. But for more on that, tune in next time.
Until then, have fun, find adventure, and stay safe.