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Talking Caricature Video

Add something different to your about page.

Having your photo on the meet the team page can go along way to personalise your relationship with customers and prospects. Having a caricature on your page increases your approachability ten fold, at least.

Then again, having your caricature actually talk, well that will bowl them over completely.

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Gmail for Business – Reviewed

Gmail for business, is it good enough?

Since the launch in April 2004 Gmail has risen to be the market leader as a consumer email provider. The days when everything was Hotmail have well and truly gone, and with Yahoo struggling to reboot their business, Google have email well and truly bagged. As of Feb 2016 Gmail had a staggering billion active consumer users worldwide.

gmail by googleBack in August 2006 Google launched Google Apps for your domain, this paved the way to introducing businesses to the world of Google. After a few rebrands Google now offer their business class services under the G Suite brand.

The main services are Gmail, Sheets, Docs, Slides, Forms and Google Drive, but for this article I am going to concentrate on Gmail for business rather than the full G Suite.

Interesting facts

Well I think so!

Would you believe that the first version of Gmail, which was developed by Paul Buchheit, Factswas built in a single day? yep you heard me right. Reusing the source code from Google Groups gave Paul a head start, but still, what an achievement.

When Google first announced Gmail to the public, they didn’t have an infrastructure in place to offer users a reliable service. Gmail started by running on three hundred old Pentium III computers that nobody else in Google wanted. How things have changed.

Is Gmail Suitable for Business Class Email

Absolutely, 100% yes. Even though Gmail was born into a consumer market, G Suite ticks all the boxes when it comes to offering a reliable, robust, secure, world class email service.gmail for business

Too many businesses go for the default option of Microsoft 365 or Microsoft Exchange, without even exploring other possibilities. In my opinion Gmail isn’t a lesser option, I have been using Gmail since the Google Apps days (as it was named then). Even though I have explored other email solutions, I have never been able to find anything that can match that of Gmail.

Administrative Control

On an administrative level, setting up and managing G Suite for most companies will be a simple process. Like most of Google’s services, G Suite is intuitive and a pleasure to use. Don’t be fooled by the glossy finish, the admin module is very powerful, take a peek under the hood and you will find a whole bunch of admin controls.g suite admin

I am the administrator for a number of UK companies and it’s very rare that I need to ask for help from Google. But when I do run into difficulty, help is only a phone call away, thanks to the 24/7 phone support.

Being cloud based means you don’t need to install anything on your local network. Unless of course you want to use Google Cloud Directory Sync (GCDS) to sync Microsoft® Active Directory® or LDAP server with your G Suite account or

Multiple Domain Names

One of my favourite things about Gmail for business is being able to add multiple domain names to your account. Like many people and companies alike, I own more than one domain name and receive and send emails from multiple alias names.

Gmail took this on board and permit you to add 600 domains in total, that’s one primary domain, 20 domain aliases and 599 non primary domains. A full explanation on the domainsdifference is explained here https://support.google.com/a/answer/175747?hl=en – this is great news for large organisations that may own domain names for different brands within their organisation and also for smaller companies just wishing to add a couple of domain variants like @yourcompany.com and @yourcompany.co.uk.

One handy little trick is setting Gmail to always reply to an email from the email address it was originally sent. Meaning you don’t have to worry about replying from the wrong address.

Huge Amounts of Storage

With the basic G Suite plan coming with a whopping 30GB of space per user, and the business plan with unlimited storage, you’ll never have to worry about running out astorage space again. The storage is shared across Gmail, Drive etc but 30GB (which is upgradable) is more than enough for most.

Privacy

There has been a lot of negative reports in the press recently about email privacy concerns. But fear not my good friend, Gmail doesn’t snoop on your business emails to display advertisements nor do they display any annoying advertisements in front of you. Furthermore, G Suite administrators can fine tune additional security and privacy settings.

The Concept of Archiving and not Deleting

Gmail introduced a new concept to email, and that was not deleting emails but archiving them instead. The idea is that no email communication is ever lost. Gmail take away the concerns with storage limits, so deleting is something of the past.

Search

When it comes to search, Google owns the word and they don’t let the side down when it comes to searching your emails. The search facility is just perfect, it just seems to know searchwhat you’re looking for and displays the results. You can also use search operators to further filter what you are looking for.

Training & Support

Unlike the consumer version of Gmail which relies on public forums for support, G Suite for Business customers receive 24/7 email, chat and telephone support. 99.9% uptime SLA and zero scheduled downtime. There is also a ton of information available to end users and administrators alike. Google’s learning centre offers some really useful training guides.

Spam Filtering, Virus and Phishing Protection

Google acquired Postini in 2007 –  Postini offered some of the best e-mail, Web security, and archiving services on the planet, once purchased Google started integrating their experience into their own services. Gmail now has one of the most accurate spam filters there is, plus powerful antivirus and phishing detection software.

It’s very rare for me to get any junk in my inbox.spam

Admins can whitelist/blacklist domains and IP addresses, add keyword rules to further enhance the spam filtering. You can also adjust global settings to be more aggressive for more stringent filtering of bulk email.

Part 2 of this article will be posted very soon

My past posts have been a little too long so I wanted to write this one over a couple of parts. I am already working in part 2 where I will be exploring deeper into the realms of Gmail for business.

In the 2nd part to this post I will be exploring, Compliance, Microsoft Compatibility, Threaded Conversations, Migration, Labels not Folders, Groups for Shared Email, Custom Branding, Filters and Mobile & Apps

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Email Delivery Problems Solved

Don’t get caught in the SPAM trap.
gmail

When you send an email from your Gmail or G Suite account you expect it to simply arrive in the recipient’s inbox, ready for them to read, right? It’s taken for granted that pressing send is all that’s needed to guarantee your email will arrive at the other end. It should be that easy shouldn’t it?

It should, but unfortunately it isn’t always the case…..

Getting emails into inboxes is becoming a constant uphill battle. I speak to people nearly every day of the week who are in a blind panic because their emails are being dumped in junk folders. With some even having their emails not being delivered at all.

The information below was written with G Suite and Gmail users in mind. But email delivery problems are in no way unique to Gmail. Delivery issues can occur with any email provider and can affect people who send only a few emails to their Aunt Mary, right up to large corporations sending the tens of thousands.

So no matter who you use to handle your outbound email, this blog post will help shed some light on the rather complex issues surrounding sending a simple email.

Common causes for emails being classified as spam & how to avoid them.

Companies and ISPs are adopting more aggressive spam filtering technology.

Spam filtering has come on leaps and bounds over the years, with self learning softwareJunk mail that works 24/7 to stop unwanted spam emails hitting your inbox.

Google recently reported

Gmail Now Blocks 99.9% of Spam and Phishing Emails, and that spam messages account between 50% and 70% percent of emails Gmail users receive on a daily basis.”

This gives you some idea to the scale of the spam and phishing epidemic around the world.

False Negatives

With over 205 Billion emails sent everyday, a percentage of emails are always going to be incorrectly processed. With some emails receiving a false negative and being marked as SPAM and others given a false positive and moved to the inbox. Due to technical advancements this isn’t as common as it used to be, but once in awhile an email will be classed incorrectly. (Normally marking the email as not spam or this is spam will help teach the self learning software)

Spammy Content

Try not to use spammy words in your emails, if you send an email to someone with a ton of marketing content then your spam score will be increased. If you forward an email you have received, this will also be read and the content given a score.

Email Marketing Sending Domain.email marketing

Don’t send your everyday emails (transactional emails) from the same domain name used for your email marketing emails. This is a common mistake and one that can cause your emails to be incorrectly marked as SPAM. Always use separate domain names for different types of emails.

Accidently Being Marked as SPAM

If recipients mark you email as SPAM, this will have a direct influence on the future delivery of your emails to them, others on the same domain and ISP and those mark as spamusing the same email provider. To prevent this from happening always be clear in the from name and subject line who the email is from. This will help prevent someone incorrectly clicking the dreaded THIS IS SPAM

Unscrupulous users

Unscrupulous users using Gmail to send SPAM and harmful emails and as Gmail’s IP addresses are shared, one user can effect another user’s reputation.

IP and Domain Name Block Lists

There are many self appointed anti spam organisations on the web that publish real time block lists. Which mail servers can subscribe to in an attempt to block unwanted email traffic. If your IP address or domain name are listed on one of these lists, the chances are you emails will be marked as SPAM or even rejected.

The Google abuse team monitor their own IP address ranges and would normally be aware of any potential problem long before you do, but it’s still worth you taking a look yourself to make sure everything is clear.

mx toolbox

You can check the main block lists via mxtoolbox.com. If you find yourself listed on one, visit the website(s) and look for the link to request a delisting and work through the process. Some companies like spamhaus.org will only accept delisting requests from the sending IP owner. If this is the case, contact Gmail or G Suite for guidance.

IP & Domain Sending Reputation

Every IP address that is associated with email traffic is monitored and given a sending score.

Receiving mail servers can check these scores to see the type and quality of emails associated with the IP, and based on the score decide how to class your email and if to deliver it or not. It works a bit like a credit score and is now used by most email providers. Some of which will block emails who exceed a certain score threshold.

senderscore.org

Companies like SenderScore and BrightCloud are good sites to see what’s happening with your IP address and domain name. Take into account that if you are sending through Gmail or G Suite the email messages are being routed via their mail servers and IP addresses. So even though you may be able to view the score and any associated issues, you may not be able to request a problem to be fixed. In this instance you would need to contact Gmail or G Suite directly asking them to help.

SPF, DKIM and DMARC Records

Your domain’s DNS plays an important part in ensuring your emails are correctly delivered. In the age of domain spoofing, phishing attacks and unsolicited email, SPF, DKIM and DMARC records are all essential. If someone spoofs your domain name to send SPAM, the effects can be devastating. An hours work now can save you a lot of time and trouble in the future.

I haven’t gone into too much detail as to what each one does but I have included links for further reading. I will cover these in further blog posts as each one needs it’s own detailed explaining.

SPF – Sender Policy Framework

http://www.openspf.org/

spf-logo-large

“The Sender Policy Framework (SPF) is an open standard specifying a technical method to prevent sender address forgery. More precisely, the current version of SPF — called SPFv1 or SPF Classic — protects the envelope sender address, which is used for the delivery of messages. See the box on the right for a quick explanation of the different types of sender addresses in e-mails.”

If you use Gmail or G Suite exclusively to route your email, then you would add a TXT record to your domain names DNS,  the SPF record would look like this:

v=spf1 include:_spf.google.com ~all

Further reading can be done on the SPF website at http://www.openspf.org/Introduction and detailed setup instructions for Gmail and G Suite can be found at https://support.google.com/a/answer/178723?hl=en

DKIM – DomainKeys Identified Mail

http://www.dkim.org/

dkim

“DKIM works by “signing” the email with a digital signature, a field that is added to the message’s header. A “signature” is generated by the sending mail transfer agent (MTA) using an algorithm, applied to the content of the signed fields, which creates a unique string of characters, a “hash value.” When the signature is generated, the public key used to generate it is stored at the listed domain.”

DKIM may sound a little complex, but Google make the setup very easy by generating the DKIM keys that need to be added to your domain for you. Note that you need a separate DKIM key for each domain you use for sending emails from G Suite.

Detailed setup instructions can be found at https://support.google.com/a/answer/174126?hl=en

DMARC – Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance.

https://dmarc.org/

dmarc logo

“DKIM is an email authentication, policy, and reporting protocol. It builds on the widely deployed SPF and DKIM protocols, adding linkage to the author (“From:”) domain name, published policies for recipient handling of authentication failures, and reporting from receivers to senders, to improve and monitor protection of the domain from fraudulent email.”

A detailed guide can be found https://support.google.com/a/answer/2466563?hl=en

You can also read my earlier article, what is DMARC

Further Advice

Setting up DKIM, DMARC and SPF will help solve most email delivery problems, or at least point you in the right direction. Google do their utmost to monitor their IP reputation and remove any unscrupulous users who cause harm to their network. But the onus really does fall on you or your G Suite administrator, to keep a watchful eye on your domains reputation and compliancy.

Abuse@ and Postmaster@

Email best practice stipulates that all email sending domains need both as abuse@ and postmaster@ email address attached to them. You need to make sure you have abuse@ and postmaster@ alias names setup on all of your sending domains, Google doesn’t allow you to add these as standard alias names, but lucky for you, I don’t get out much so have already written an article that covers setting up postmaster and abuse email alias names on G Suite using Google Groups.

Was this article helpful?

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Questions, suggestions for future posts or general feedback is always welcome

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My New Caricature Design and Video

A thank you to Mike Bryson

talking caricatures.com

Mike Bryson is one of the foremost and most experienced caricaturists in the UK.

paul-o-brian-copy
Previous Design

Not being the most photogenic of people I decided on a caricature for my online profiles rather than a real photo. So about 10 years ago I asked Mike to design me something I could use for Blogging, social media and in my email signature.

To the left is what he come up with, and back then was a very good likeness of me. But over time people change and with way too many glasses of Rioja, horse size portions of home made Spaghetti Bolognese, working from home with 4 adorable children in the background and not enough sleep, life took it’s toll. I had put on a little weight, gone a little grey and gained a couple extra worry lines.

A recent meeting with a new client brought home that I needed to update my caricature, the guy was gobsmacked that it was actually me. I felt like a fraud, one of those guys who uses old photo’s on dating sites to gain interest of potential dates, but in real life looks nothing like his profile picture. I decided I need a change.

The New Design

paul o'brien
2017 Design

Personally I love it, I think it really resembles me and looks more than professional enough to use on all my online profiles. Mike did a fantastic job and turned this around in less than 24 hours.

My wife and kids found it all quite funny, Dad worrying about how he looks and how he is perceived online. But for me it was important, I don’t normally get to meet my clients face to face so having something visual that showed I was a real person was a must.

How I have changed over the last decade.

The Video

Mike has a last minute surprise for me, he emailed me a link to a video he had made using my latest caricature . It’s a new idea he had been playing with and wanted my feedback on it.

I loved it, thought it was brilliant, so much so that I am hoping to work with Mike to bring these to the UK market. There are plenty of companies who offer cheap landing page video’s that are of poor quality but none as good as the one below. It’s not my voice that’s used and pardon the comedy factor but I hope you see the potential.

Have a watch and let me know what you think in the comments below.

If you’re interested in getting your own video made then complete the form below and I’ll email you some more information.