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hen you move house, you can get the Post Office to redirect your mail from your old address to your new one. In a similar way, we can get the computers to forward mail from one email address to another. There is also a related choice called an email alias, where people can use more than one mailbox name to send stuff to you.
The big advantage is that you can tell the purpose of mail (and do other clever things like filtering them into separate locations) based on the address it was sent to. You can create addresses based on functions rather than people’s names, and change how they are handled very easily.
What is the difference between a mail forward and an alias? It depends on the context, as different companies offer slightly different services, but simply put, an alias is an alternative name for a mailbox, whilst forwarding refers to mail being sent on to another entirely separate mailbox, often at a different company. Sometimes forwarding includes sending to more than one mailbox, or keeping it in the current mailbox whilst sending a copy on to someone else (think of people being automatically copied in on messages). It’s down to the company and the computer systems they are using.
Why would we set up an email alias? Let’s say we want Fred to handle all our sales emails. We might put the address firstname.lastname@example.org on our website, but rather than creating a separate mailbox for Fred to check, we’ll send it directly to Fred’s mailbox. We create an alias, so Fred’s mailbox will receive mail for email@example.com, but it will also receive mail sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. We can add as many aliases as we like, such as:
Messages to any of these addresses could go into Fred’s mailbox for him to deal with.
Why would I use email forwarding? This is easiest understood with an example. Fred is out of the office a fair bit and reads his mail on his phone. Rather than running down his battery by having it check two mailboxes (his personal gmail one and his work one) let’s send all of Fred’s work mail to gmail. With some companies you create the forward rather than a mailbox, so we would forward all mail received at email@example.com on to firstname.lastname@example.org It’s very similar to an alias, but allows mail to be forwarded to other destinations. You might find that your email company’s system isn’t this flexible.
Let’s think of another scenario. Fred only works part-time, so let’s make sure any support enquiries can be dealt with either by Fred or by Jane. So we’d forward all the emails received at email@example.com on to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
How do I send out emails from these addresses? This is the other side of the forwards and aliases. We’ve told the email computers how to handle messages coming in, now we need to make sure our messages going out have the correct return address. Most email programs will allow you to create what are commonly called identities. This is where we tell the program to us alternative addresses when it is sending email. Take Fred’s case. He wants to send personal email as firstname.lastname@example.org, but when he’s doing work it needs to be email@example.com. So he sets up an extra identity with his work email address. He might also create one for the support alias that goes to him. So Fred now has these identities on his phone email program:
- “Super Fred” firstname.lastname@example.org (his mailbox address)
- “Fred Bloggs” email@example.com (his work email address)
- “Support” firstname.lastname@example.org (for replying to support messages)
Now, when he creates a new email he can choose which identity it is sent from, and when he replies to messages, the program will automatically pick the right one.
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