Electronic mail (e-mail) is simply information that is sent electronically from one computer user to another. E-mail is a fast, convenient way to handle correspondence.
How Does It Work?
ITS provides a server that holds your e-mail in much the same way that a post office holds your paper mail. You need e-mail software on your computer to get your mail from the electronic "post office." You can use software such as Thunderbird, or you can use e-mail through Web browsers, i.e. WebMail. (Note that some colleges and departments may have their own mail servers and a different preferred mail program.)
Thunderbird functions by connecting to a server program that runs on a machine maintained by ITS. During the connection, the server "authenticates" who you are by checking your userid and password. It then transfers to your machine any mail that it is holding for you and allows you to send mail to others. This style of handling mail is sometimes referred to as client/server and sometimes as POP mail, since the communication between the client and server machines uses what is known as the Post Office Protocol. Behind the scene WebMail operates nearly the same way Thunderbird does. WebMail connects to the mail server and authenticates just like Thunderbird. Rather than transfer your e-mail to your machine, WebMail transfers all of your e-mail to a fast dedicated e-mail filesystem — one that is separate from your PASS. Each WebMail user receives 500MB of default, e-mail storage without reducing one's PASS. This allows you to access all of your messages from any machine that has access to the Internet.
Your E-mail Address
Just as you need an address for your paper mail, you need an address for your e-mail. Your e-mail address is simply a combination of your userid followed by the @ symbol and the location, psu.edu. It is formatted as follows:
email@example.com (where xyz123 is your user ID)
To send someone e-mail, you enter their e-mail address in the To: field.
Requirements for Secure E-Mail Transactions
Users of ITS e-mail services are required to check mail using a secure-only connection via SSL, a type of software that encrypts (or scrambles) individual userids and passwords when users check e-mail via mail.psu.edu or email.psu.edu. The SSL changes are part of Penn State's on-going security effort to make e-mail correspondence at the University safer.
Check Mail Before Sending Mail ("POP Before SMTP")
The ITS outgoing e-mail server smtp.psu.edu accepts an enormous amount of e-mail each day. To ensure that only valid Penn State e-mail is sent, individuals who use a third-party ISP to check their Penn State POP mail must first check mail before attempting to send mail through smtp.psu.edu. E-mail that is sent without first successfully checking for new e-mail on the server will be rejected. Those who use Penn State exclusively as an ISP through the campus backbone, computer labs, residence hall Ethernet connection, ITS dial-up connection, via authsmtp or via the VPN are not affected by this.
Other alternatives/options include:
Third-party ISP users should check with their ISP to obtain the correct settings for the ISP’s SMTP server. Some ISPs may not permit their users to send Penn State addressed e-mail via their SMTP server.
SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) is the protocol computers use to send and receive e-mail. At Penn State, the SMTP or outgoing mail server is smtp.psu.edu. Your computer's e-mail client uses it to send mail to smtp.psu.edu. The SMTP server then routes the mail to its destination.
Authenticated SMTP allows users who connect via a third-party dial-up, DSL, or cable modem connection to use Penn State's outgoing e-mail server. The authenticated version of smtp.psu.edu, which is authsmtp.psu.edu, requires a user to enter his/her password before being permitted to send messages. The server authenticates senders of outbound mail to protect the mail server from abuse from e-mail-related viruses and spammers. Instructions for configuring the various e-mail clients are found at: http://kb.its.psu.edu/article/656.
Electronic Mailing Lists
Thousands of public and private electronic mailing lists are managed through mailing list software. ITS uses a computer program called LISTSERV® to manage electronic mailing lists. LISTSERV lists are used for group discussion and distribution of information. People often use them to keep up with developments in a certain area. Members of a list can be as active as they wish; often a few members are very "vocal" while others never say a word, but simply "observe on the sidelines." For more information on LISTSERV, see the Penn State Listserv homepage: http://listserv.psu.edu/.
Your Mailbox Has Space Limits
The e-mail server holds your electronic mail until you receive it. However, you should be aware that your space on the e-mail server is limited. Once it fills up, no more mail can be added, and additional mail is returned to the sender. To provide for efficient use of University resources and maintain an acceptable level of performance, we reserve the right to place limits on POP3 mailboxes. At this time, we may discard any mail that is older than fifteen days if you check your e-mail and thirty days if you do not. This affects those who use email.psu.edu and mail.psu.edu. Please note that space limitations are also associated with WebMail's mailboxes. For details, please refer to the Penn State WebMail information page of this guide.
This is especially important to remember when you have subscribed to high-volume mailing lists (such as Listservs) and leave for a break or the summer. When you return you may have hundreds or even thousands of mail files waiting for you. Because of software limitations, your POP mail software may not work correctly and you will be unable to get your e-mail. The solution? Check your mail often, and don't leave messages on the server. Cancel your mailing list subscriptions or place them on hold before you leave for any extended period.
How it Works
If you need to set your e-mail client to leave mail on the server temporarily, please be aware that your mail will be stored there for only 30 days. This should allow the flexibility you need while also helping us continue to provide a high level of service. At some point during the 30 day period, you will need to load mail to a local machine if you want to store it.
Penn State WebMail
Penn State WebMail has undergone significant changes throughout the last year. In response to WebMail2's issues with performance and speed, a "bare bones" WebMail client called WebMail Lite was developed to better suit and support users who have slower network connections. The client was beta tested for several months before going into production during the spring 2007 semester. Popular features from WebMail2, as well as features received from user feedback, have been integrated into WebMail Lite. Anyone who uses WebMail can choose between either client, as the two are fully compatible. Though WebMail2 is still available as an option, users are strongly encouraged to choose the "Login to WebMail" option on the Penn State WebMail splash screen at https://webmail.psu.edu/ (as of August 27), as this version will become the final version of Penn State WebMail. WebMail2 will be completely phased out and discontinued sometime during the spring 2008 semester. Announcements will be sent out prior to its full decommission.
Fall 2007 Enhancements:
Fall 2007 Opt-in Ehancements:
It should be noted that tabs and a refined search feature will not be available in the fall 2007 release; however, they are slated to be added sometime during the spring 2008 semester.
Spring 2007 Enhancements:
To start using the new and improved Penn State WebMail, visit https://webmail.psu.edu/ and click on the larger <Login to WebMail> button. Inquiries and requests for assistance may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP)
Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP), which also requires an SSL connection, provides a method for accessing electronic mail that is stored on a mail server. It permits an e-mail client, such as Thunderbird, to access remote messages (both new and saved) and stores them as if they were local. For example, e-mail stored on an IMAP server may be manipulated from your computer at home, your computer at the office, or from a laptop while traveling without the need to transfer messages back and forth between computers. An IMAP account, which is an ITS for-fee service, may be obtained via the ITS Accounts Services Office Web site by following the instructions referenced at: http://aset.its.psu.edu/accounts/imap.html.
Forwarding Your E-mail
When Penn State students, faculty, and staff are automatically entered into the University’s electronic directory, they receive e-mail privileges which enable them to send and receive e-mail using their Access Account userid and an e-mail address of the form email@example.com. For example, if your userid is xyz123, your public e-mail address would be firstname.lastname@example.org. The e-mail is actually delivered to one of the ITS mail servers where you can retrieve it by connecting to the server with a POP mail client like Thunderbird. If you have an account on another machine, or temporarily leave the University (go on sabbatical, for example), you may wish to have your e-mail forwarded from the ITS mail server to another mail server. Your e-mail correspondents could continue using email@example.com (in the example above) and would not have to learn a different e-mail address.
To change your mail forwarding address, please go to https://www.work.psu.edu/ on the Web, select “Change your e-mail forwarding address,” enter your Penn State Access Account userid and password, and enter the e-mail address you want to have your mail forwarded to when prompted to do so.
Auto-Reply "Vacation" Message Service (for Penn State Faculty/Staff Only)
The ITS Automatic E-mail Reply Message Utility lets faculty and staff create an automatic e-mail reply message to e-mail messages that are received while on vacation, on sabbatical or on leave from the University. E-mail received during this time period may be downloaded and viewed as normal. The automatic reply message, which users can set to stop automatically or manually, will still be sent to all received messages unless the current automatic response is manually ceased. For more information and to use this service, visit https://www.work.psu.edu/vacation/.
In an ongoing effort to reduce the amount of unwanted, unsolicited e-mail, ITS has activated spam scoring on incoming e-mail going through psu.edu. On the server-side, a "mail filter" runs on Penn State's incoming e-mail servers to scan for and identify spam. The mail is analyzed, scored, and flagged as spam per the rules used for Penn State's e-mail servers. The filter also inserts mail headers in order to explain the results of the spam filtering. Users may add/create filters based on these rules to client-side e-mail programs in order to filter/handle messages flagged as spam.
Similarly, Penn State WebMail runs an incoming server-side mail filter, inserting a mail header, in order to explain the spam filtering results.
For additional information and details, please refer to: http://helpdesk.psu.edu/.
This page is part of Your Guide to Information Technology @ Penn State.