The Your I.T. Department “Good Housekeeping Guide”

February 07, 2018

The systems that we, and other Managed Service Providers, use to maintain and monitor your systems are increasingly sophisticated.

It’s not just antivirus and firewalls that sit in the background and help keep your system running smoothly. Whilst your away from the office we are installing software patches, rebooting servers and deleting redundant files – without you even being aware!

However, despite the use of some of the most sophisticated systems available, there are some things that still fall under the remit of the user.

Prevention is better than cure

In IT as in many other areas of life it’s far better to stop something happening than fix it when it does.

Businesses are massively reliant on their IT systems; how well would you cope if you’re systems grind to a halt. If your website is down this closes your shop window to the world.

If you lose email it means that customers can’t purchase from you. Even if they can get through to place an order can you fulfil that order? Issue invoices? Take payments? Etc. etc.

It’s clear that in order to keep your business running you need your IT systems in good working order. So, what do you need to do to ensure your IT systems are operating at the optimum level?

Over the next few weeks we’ll look at a number of simple tasks that performed regularly will help keep things running smoothly.

Clean up that Mailbox

When it comes to email many of us are hoarders. You never know when that mail from Janet in accounts about the works night out might be useful! Even those that routinely delete often don’t empty the deleted items folder rendering their good intentions largely pointless!

A recent example of the problems this can cause saw one of our customers entire email system grind to a halt due to the server being clogged with old, redundant emails. Some individuals had over 10GB of emails!

The first point to make about good mailbox housekeeping is that requires discipline. We would suggest that the company adopts an email policy which sets some basic rules and that these are communicated to all members of staff by senior management.

Getting the basics right can make a huge difference; emptying the deleted items folder, clearing sent items and removing attachments are the first things you should tackle.

Emptying deleted items

Once you delete an item from your inbox it goes into the ‘Deleted Items’ folder. This folder contributes to your overall email folder size, so effectively nothing has been deleted! This can be extremely useful if you make a mistake and delete something you still wanted, however it’s another folder that needs individual attention.

In order to get rid of the emails and free up space you need to delete your deleted items, and there are a number of ways you can do this:

Use the Mailbox Clean-Up feature in Outlook

Step 1: Click the File tab at the top-left corner of the window.

Step 2: Click the Cleanup Tools button to the left of Mailbox Cleanup.

Step 3: Click the Empty Deleted Items Folder option.

Step 4: Click the Yes button to confirm that you understand that everything in the Deleted Items folder is about to be permanently deleted.

This is a simple and quick way to free up some space; however, the emails are permanently deleted so you need to be REALLY sure you’re not going to need to recover anything.

Delete Mail Directly From The Folder

Step 1: Locate the Deleted Items option in the folder list at the left side of the Outlook 2013 window. If you do not see these folders, you can press Ctrl + 6 on your keyboard to view the folder list.

Step 2: Right-click the Deleted Items folder, then click the Empty Folder option Or click into the folder to see your deleted items. From within the folder you can choose which emails you want to permanently delete, so you could, for example, retain the last months deleted items in case you wanted to recover any of them.

Step 3: Click the Yes button on the pop-up window to confirm that you wish to permanently delete these items.

One neat little trick is to have Outlook empty your deleted items folder every time you exit the mail client. How you do this depends on the mail client you are using e.g. the version of Outlook.

Here’s the instructions for Outlook 2010, 2013 and 2016:

Click the File tab.

Click Options.

On the Advanced tab, under Outlook Start and Exit, select the Empty the Deleted Items folder upon exiting check box.

To be notified before the Deleted Items folder is emptied automatically, on the Advanced tab, under Other, select the Prompt for confirmation before permanently deleting items check box.

Empty your junk mail

Emptying the Junk Email folder follows the same process as deleting mail directly from your deleted items folder.

Make sure you have a final look through to make sure there isn’t anything in the folder that you actually need and then empty the folder by right clicking on the folder and choose “Empty Folder”.

Inbox, Sent Items and Subfolders

Manually going through your Inbox and Sub folders will take time on the first occasion that you do it, but if you get into a regular housekeeping pattern you’ll soon find you fly through it and you’re well on your way to taming your Inbox.

Look at each message you are holding onto and take one of the following 4 options:

  1. If you don’t  need the message or the attachment then use SHIFT+DELETE to delete the message. Using SHIFT+DELETE means the mail is permanently deleted NOT moved to your deleted items folder (you don’t want to start filling that back up!)
  2. If you still need the message but don’t need the attachment anymore; Double click on the e-mail to open it-> right click the attachment and choose “Remove”. Then save and close the message
  3. If you don’t need the message but you still need the attachment; Right click the attachment-> choose Save As and save the attachment. Then use SHIFT+DELETE to get rid of the message
  4. If you still need the message and the attachment; Leave it where it is.

Another trick is to sort your inbox by the ‘From’ field. This helps identify all of those newsletters and subscriptions that you can delete. Newsletters contain news and news goes out of date so only keep the latest versions and dump the rest.

To sort a folder by who it is from in Outlook 2010, 2013 and 2016 click on the ‘View’ tab and you’ll be able to see the option to sort by.

Clean-up conversations

When you have a discussion via email you’ll often see the original message quoted in the response. Whilst there is no issue with this, it can actually be pretty useful, it does mean that the latest message that was sent or received contains the entire discussion and that you can get rid of all the other messages from that discussion.

To easily identify those messages, sort the folder or search results by the Subject field. All the messages that share the same subject will now be grouped together and can be identified and deleted easily.

Outlook 2010, Outlook 2013 and Outlook 2016 have a special Conversation Clean Up feature for this which you can find on the Home tab.

You can set your cleanup preferences by going to; File-> Options-> section: Mail-> option group: Conversation Cleanup

Sent Items

Another folder that’s ripe for a clean-up. You can probably remove the vast majority of attachments in your ‘Sent Items’ folder as these documents, pictures etc. will all have originated from your machine – meaning you have them stored elsewhere.

If you go through this process (and then repeat it monthly/quarterly) you’ll keep your mailbox neat and tidy and help your systems run smoothly.

To make the task even easier moving forward follow these general tips for keeping on top of Mailbox Size:

Don’t store attachments in Outlook. When you receive an attachment save it to a folder on your hard drive or in a cloud storage system such as DropBox or OneDrive.

Send as few attachments as possible, especially if you’re sending to others with your organisation. Look for alternatives; larger files can be hosted on file transfer sites such as WeTransfer whilst again OneDrive and DropBox can be utilised.

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