What Happens To Your Emails?

Posted By: Hayley Friday 4th March 2016

Do you know what really happens when you click that magic “SEND” button? If you don’t then hopefully I can shed some light. You can think of emails in the same way we think about conventional mail and heres why..

Most businesses today use a combination of Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Exchange as their organization’s method of receiving and sending mail. Microsoft Outlook being the “Front-End”…as in the part that the end user sees (you!), and Microsoft Exchange being the “Back-End”…the bit that does all the work that your IT support provider will see and manage. If this was translated into the same format as conventional postal mail, then Outlook would be the desk on which you write your letter, put it in an envelope and write out an address. Your Exchange server would be the equivalent of the post office. When you click that send button, you are essentially taking that addressed message to the post office. At this point you would normally think no more about it and let the post office (or your email server) get on with it. But what actually happens…?

First things first, your email server will look at the address you have specified and attempt to work out where it needs to go. To do this, it uses a service called DNS which looks at a well-known server out on the internet (such as google) and says “which server should I pass this email over to”. The DNS server will reply with something like “you need to send that to server1.anothercompany.com”. So your server does just that, it passes the message over to the mail server it was advised to send it to. At this point, your email is gone…handed off to the next server in a potentially long line of servers. Your own email server no longer cares about, or knows the whereabouts of your email, it has done its job.

The reason the google servers know where your email should go is quite simple. When you buy a web domain (such as lanesystems.co.uk), you have the ability to control what happens when people want to use your domain. Be it browsing your website, or sending you an email…the owner of the domain has full control over these signposts. You put up signpost to say “whenever people send an email to @lanesystems.co.uk, send it to my email server which is mx1.lanesystems.co.uk”. That way when anybody tries to email you, it checks the signpost that you put up and knows exactly where your letterbox is.

BE AWARE THOUGH…ALL MAY NOT BE AS IT SEEMS!

The “FROM” aspect of emails also work in the same way that it does in conventional mail. Its main purpose is to serve as a “RETURN ADDRESS” if something goes wrong trying to deliver the message or if the recipient wants to reply. Anybody can write your return address onto a letter, even if it isn’t actually from you…the same goes for emails. Just because an email says it came from somebody, doesn’t actually mean it did.