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goes your e-mail?

If your ISP goes DOA, where
goes your e-mail?

“What can we do?” The angry and frustrated caller’s Internet service provider was down–and, he feared, out.
“You don’t know how much you rely on something until it is gone,” the caller lamented.
The businessman cared not about surfing or shopping on the Web, but about his e-mail address.
A well-connected businessperson– technologically speaking–can get dozens of e-mail messages a day from clients, potential clients, employees, bosses and others.
What happens when your e-mail, located at mybusiness@whatever.com, stops working? Your e-mail gets sent back as undeliverable or lost in cyberspace.
The information–vital to your business or your client’s business–never gets to you. It makes your small or home business look amateurish and sloppy.
It also might require reprinting all your business cards, brochures and collateral material. One frustrated reader saw her e-mail stop working the day her new business cards arrived–with her defunct e-mail address on them.
America Online customers know the problem well. Businesses that relied on that service hit an e-mail wall when AOL collided with the unlimited service juggernaut.
ISP officials and Internet experts paint a dismal outlook on the dead e- mail account situation. They describe it as a pay-now-or-pay-dearly-later scenario.
One option is to use a “permanent” e- mail address. For example, I often use mikedickinson@journalist.com that forwards messages to me. I can change it for when I’m vacationing or if a system stops working.
This works, of course, only as long as the “permanent” e-mail company stays in business.
These services are inexpensive and sometimes free. One such service is iName, available through Yahoo! Inc. (www.yahoo.iname.com). The iName service offers several dozen or so free e- mail domains such as cyberdude.com or earthling.com, and others for a fee.
Whether you want your business mail addressed to something called cyberdude.com is another issue.
Some colleges across the country are offering their students lifetime e-mail addresses, and others offer a similar service to alumni. That may provide a better bet as a long-term solution.
A more expensive, but more secure, solution is to register a domain name for your company or yourself. It costs $100 for two years, plus whatever the ISP charges for an e-mail domain account. Prices vary, but for less than $50 a year you usually can get an e-mail domain account with a local service.
Businesses and individuals can register a domain name–for instance, www.mybusiness.com–and get an e- mail account at your own domain. That way, if your ISP liquidates, you can move your domain name to another company and not miss a beat or a message.
Many individuals and small businesses have shied away from this, local ISP officials say, but some consider registration an insurance policy.
Small and home businesses still may not want to pay for a domain account for their Web site. Such an account can easily double the cost if you currently use “free space” provided by your ISP. In addition to the setup cost, a domain Web site costs some $50 or more a month.
With concern and some grumbling over InterNIC or Network Solutions Inc.’s monopoly on the registration business, registration itself could face some turmoil.
Barry Orlando, an Internet consultant, says a customer who relies on e-mail and a Web page through an ISP takes a risk if their ISP goes DOA. Unless their provider makes some forwarding arrangement, the customer is out of luck if the ISP goes belly-up.
If you choose that route, look for a stable ISP with years of experience, satisfied customers and adequate financial backing.
As e-mail continues to pervade our culture, more business and personal correspondance occurs electronically. A big player may yet burst onto the e-mail scene. The U.S. Postal Service continues to look at e-mail services.
The great mail deliverer is experimenting with various e-mail offerings, including e-mail postmarking and e-mail-to-letter service.
While this has generated shock, horror and revulsion among many in the Internet community, the idea of time-stamped e-mail delivery, guaranteed service and fairly certain survival is attractive to people burned by e-mail troubles.
Someday e-mail addresses and forwarding might be as simple as filling out an online change-of-address card.
The government should stay away from things done better by private business, but as e-mail becomes more and more a staple of communication, postal e-mail delivery makes sense to examine and perhaps is inevitable.
One local e-mail user burned by her ISP’s disappearance bemoaned that the high-tech Internet hadn’t yet learned the standard of mail-forwarding developed years ago by the often-criticized Postal Service.
The WWW boom is still in its infancy, and churn should be expected, but perhaps the snail-mail service will have the last laugh.
One option is to use a “permanent” e-mail address.


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