The Risk of File Attachments in Email

by : Sandra Prior

Email is fine for getting a message across and sorting out meetings, but it can be a bit dull, which is where file attachments come in. For instance, if you see a funny cartoon on the Net that you'd like to share with your mate, by all means send it, but check that it's fine by them first. Their email account may have a limit on such things - they may only be able to accept straight text, or files up to a certain size.

Also be aware that there are limits to the amount of data people are willing to download. As a rule of thumb, keep your attachments under 256k - a one minute download with a 56k modem. If you need to send something bigger, contact the other person first and check that they really want it and know how long it will take them to download. You may want to break it up into several smaller files and attach them to separate messages, so they don't lose everything if they have a connection problem while they're downloading.

If someone has sent you a massive file, you may have to download it before you can get to your other messages. This can be a nightmare if you're on-line at peak-rate time and you need some of the other emails. Remember that many people are justifiably dubious about opening unsolicited program, zip, or word files, because they can carry viruses.

The abundance of viruses has resulted in the birth of a whole new industry - antivirus software. Antivirus software abounds on the Net.

Which Antivirus Software is the Best?

Which software package is the best is a common question. The answer is: use a reputable, licensed copy and update it regularly. There are some differences between various programs, like file size, ability to scan zipped files and email, the update process, cost, and so on. On the whole, they all do a great job if installed correctly and updated often.

Prevention is Better than Cure

To adequately protect your computer against viruses it's essential that you follow these guidelines.

Load a reputable, licensed antivirus package onto your PC. These programs run silently in the background and are activated only when there's a virus alert.

Download virus definitions and updates on a weekly basis. New viruses come out daily. Disinfection patches are created to disable the viruses. If you do not update your definitions regularly your program will not be able to recognize new strands and new viruses.

Scan your files and drives for viruses at least once a week. If a virus somehow crept in without you knowing about it, scanning will find it. The software will then give you options to quarantine, inoculate or delete the culprit.
Backup important work often. Be sure to backup to floppy or CD so you have backups of any disk and/or file on the computer that may be corrupted by a virus if it strikes on your computer.

Stay informed. Sign up for free newsletters and visit your antivirus software site on a regular basis to keep up-to-date on the latest viruses and how to prevent loading them onto your machine.