Is my email slowing down? and what to do about it

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A few readers have asked if email services are slowing down.  Maybe, but not significantly and not to worry about. There are some things to prepare your email for the worst.

We’ve noticed that emails aren’t arriving as quickly as they usually do.  An order confirmation email that would normally pop-up in seconds now takes a minute or two. That’s not a big deal but noticeable.

If you’re used to, say, an Amazon order email showing just moments after clicking ‘Buy Now’. It can be a little strange to wait a whole 60 or even 120 seconds!

What’s happening?

There’s no single cause and the reasons for delays will vary according to the mail host.

We did some informal tests on our own order confirmation emails and those from other major companies.  There appear to be three major delay points.

Sending – in some cases the company’s servers aren’t sending the email as quickly as usual.  Perhaps their systems are working harder than usual and there’s a little backlog.

Some computer tasks like sending confirmation emails are queued and done when possible. The system does high-priority tasks first, like delivering web pages, checking stock/order status etc.  Other tasks get put in a queue to be done when there are computer resources available.  Normally that happens within seconds but allows for delay if the system is being taxed.

Spam-filtering – spam/virus checks are done on separate servers.  For many smaller mail hosts, email checking is done by a third-party service in another location.

Getting to your Inbox other delays are internal to the mailhost.  It takes a little time for a message to be received, checked for spam, put into your Inbox and a ‘push’ notification sent to your device.  At the moment that sometimes seems to be a little slower than usual.

Why?

All email systems run on a ‘first in, first out’ queueing basis.  It’s been part of the basic architecture of email since the very beginning.  Nothing to worry about, in fact it’s a good thing and a sign of how robust the core email technology is.  It’s designed to be reliable first, speedy second.

Minutes not hours

The delays we’ve seen and hearing about are a matter of minutes at most.  If an email hasn’t arrived within, say, an hour there’s possibly some other problem.

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