One of the sessions I attended last week at ABA Techshow was one that was aimed at helping attorneys and legal staff handle their email better. Since this is something we are going to be trying to help people do, in an effort to cut down on the ridiculous amount of email we store, I went looking for ways to help explain handling email better.
As the session went along, one of the speakers recommended using a second, web-based, email account for non-essential stuff. That way you don’t have mailing lists, newsletter subscriptions, Google News alerts, or other non-essential email keeping you from finding what you need in your Outlook, or interrupting you with a new mail alert. (Although they suggested killing that too, in all fairness.)
Anyhow, that got me thinking. Lots of places block access to web based email as a matter of policy. I began to wonder if unblocking that would put a small dent in the amount of email that our users are storing, and handling? After all, I know there are mailing lists I would rather subscribe to in Gmail, but don’t because I can’t access it at work. That means, at least in my case, there’s a significant amount of email being handled by our Exchange server, and having to be dealt with somehow, in my Outlook, as opposed to just being over in Gmail, and me looking at it occasionally.
Now, I know the common refrain is that web based email account are a security risk, but is the risk that large, and does blocking access to web mail really mitigate that risk in a significant way? For example, years ago people decided to block it because of the virus risks, but just about all major web mail services do anti-virus scans on any attachments, and even then, your desktop AV product should scan any attachments when you try to open them. So, to my mind, blocking might decrease the chance of getting a virus attachment slightly compared to depending on these other tools, but doesn’t make that much of a difference.
Now I know that’s hardly the only concern, but it’s just an example. Anyway, what do you think? I know some of you guys block web mail, and I’m sure some of you don’t. I also know almost all of us are struggling with what to do with all that email coming into, and being stored on, our networks and mail servers, so I’m curious about what you all think? Would allowing access put a dent in that, or is it not worth the increased risk?