It’s the end of webmail as we know it

With apologies to R.E.M., it’s the end of webmail as we know it. Big, corporate webmail, that is. As a consulting IT manager, I  feel fine (about it), and so should you. To add your two cents to the discussion, please take a minute to participate in ToolkitCafe’s Summer Email Survey below.

Why your webmail policy should be no policy at all

Recently, I wrote about my feeling that IT managers should  have a clear email security in place so  users who bring their own devices or accept the devices issued by the company know what they’re supposed to do to protect private business information. In that piece, I reported that a large company was taking Outlook Web Access (OWA) away from their users.

In that environment, the IT Department also took away the ability to synchronize Outlook with plain Web mail. Smart phone users must install and use the approved application (GOOD) if they want to continue getting work emails on their phones. And users still have the option to use the company’s Virtual Private Network (VPN), but gone are the days when employees can log into work email via OWA from any hotel-lobby PC or wifi hot.

Take our survey and watch for the results

To share your opinion about the end of webmail, please post a comment below or, to comment privately, send a note to [email protected].



Take ToolKit Café’s Summer Email Poll

If you take away webmail, will your business operations implode?

Here at ToolKit Café, our virtual team members connect via Gmail accounts. However, we’ve heard from a number of readers who say their companies are changing the way they provide email access to their users. Please help us identify trends in email access by taking our Summer Email Poll. Bookmark and check back for the results.

If you don’t have an email security policy, wake up! (and use our free sample policy)

Does your organization have a formal email security policy in place? If  that question makes you snicker and mutter to yourself, “Well, duh! Of course, we do,” congratulations. You’re a good and smart IT Manager.  Of all the IT policies in all the gin joints in all the world, a strong email security policy is one you can’t afford to be without.

Download our email security policy, please

email security policy live

If you’ve been too busy to implement an IT policy program — you know, because you’re putting out fires, hiring and managing good technicians, analysts, DBAs, programmers, and call center professionals, and configuring your Storage Area Network to keep up with an ever-growing mountain of user data and email messages — start today.  The folks at Toolkit Café will make it easy for you to get started. Just download our Email Security Policy.  It’s part of the Ultimate IT Policies Toolkit, and it’s easy to customize for your shop.


Click here to download the Email Policy Template

How to use the email security policy

The sample email security policy consists of five rules. The first four rules put all employees on notice that corporate email isn’t private and will be monitored and scanned for viruses.  (If you’re not currently monitoring email activity or scanning incoming messages for viruses, I’ll talk about what you should be doing in another rant.)  If you’re also scanning incoming or outgoing messages for sensitive information, you can customize this template to include a rule that informs users that outgoing messages will be scanned for content. If you want users to encrypt messages before they send sensitive information, you can add that rule, too.

The fifth rule prohibits using the company email system for “illegal, offensive, or harassing communications.” If your company doesn’t currently have a Code of Conduct or human resources policy that defines what constitutes illegal, offensive, or harassing communications, you can delete that rule.

After you customize the email security policy template, get it approved by your senior management team. Then publish that policy where your users can see it.

Whither email retention?

You might notice that the sample email policy is silent on how long copies of corporate email messages should be stored. That’s intentional, because most shops answer the question of “How long do we keep email messages?” in their Data Retention and Destruction policy.  If you don’t have a data retention and destruction policy, by all means, add a rule to your Email Security policy that establishes how long your company is going to retain email messages.  Depending on your industry, you may have to keep everything forever, or you may be able to delete all emails when they reach two years and one day old.

On another note: Whither Web mail?

I consult for a company whose management  recently asked the question, “Do we need to offer Web mail?” An audit of the Information Technology function included a finding that offering Outlook Web Access (OWA) posed a security risk, because employees can download and print company-owned documents from any computer with Internet access, using the Web mail portal.

After listening to a lot of whining from the lines of business, the IT manager determined that the risks of Web mail outweighed the benefits, and his company’s senior managers agreed.  They turned off the OWA site and implemented a program that allows employees to request smart phone access or a company-issued laptop when they  absolutely, positively MUST check their work email accounts when out of the office.

Does your company offer Web-based access to the company email system?  Post your thoughts in a comment below or drop me a line, and I’ll share the most interesting comments in another blog post.

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4 between-the-sheets tips for Excel users

Do you manage, support, or train users who use Microsoft Excel?  If so, in this edition of Jeff’s Quick Tips, here are four quick tips you can share that are life-changing time-savers for spreadsheet users of all skill levels who need Excel help.

Tip #1: The syntax is Sheet, Exclamation Point, Cell Reference (e.g., Sheet2!A1)

Here’s how you remember how to reference a cell that’s in a different worksheet: It’s sheet (worksheet name), exclamation point (!), cell reference (column letter/row number combination).  To illustrate this syntax, open a new workbook in Excel and click on Sheet2. Type 10 and press [Enter] to put the value 10 in cell A1. Click on Sheet3, type 20 and press [Enter] to put the value 20 in cell A1.

Now click on Sheet1 and type =Sheet2!A1+Sheet3!A1 and press [Enter]. Did the value 30 appear in cell A1? Congratulations! You’ve figured out the syntax that you can use in all kinds of calculations “across the sheets” when you’re building a Dashboard Sheet or an Executive Summary Sheet.

This formula calculates the sum of  the values in cell A1 in two worksheets, Sheet2 and Sheet3.

Tip #2: If the Sheet name contains a space, you must delimit that name with apostrophes (e.g., ‘July 2013’!A1)

To demonstrate this rule, use the same demonstration workbook you created for Tip #1.  Double-click on the worksheet tab Sheet2, then type July 2013 and press [Enter] to rename the worksheet from Sheet2 to July 2013.  Now click on Sheet1, cell A1, and you’ll notice that the result calculated in cell A1 is still the same, but the formula has been changed to =’July 2013′!A1+Sheet3!A1, as shown below.


This change made by Excel automatically tells us that when our worksheet names contain spaces, we must — when we reference cells in those sheets from some other sheet — delimit that space-infested worksheet name with apostrophes.  It’s not a big deal. It’s just required punctuation, like dots in IP and email addresses.

Tip #3: Don’t use apostrophes in your worksheet names.

Say you keep a workbook with 12 different worksheets, one for each month of the year. Don’t name them January ’13, February13, and so on. Based on Tip #2, the fact that Excel itself uses apostrophes to delimit sheet names internally, spell out the year! Make them January 2013, February 2013, and so on.

Tip #4: Hard-code (type) your multi-sheet references instead of clicking

I love mouse shortcuts, but when it comes to building formulas and adding cell references using the mouse in Microsoft Excel, I recommend that you hard-code your references to cells in different sheets by typing them out rather than trying to click on the same cell in 12 different worksheets.  Maybe it’s me, but the formula bar seems to get a little whacky when I try to build a simple =SUM function by clicking on different sheets. I find it’s much easier to just key the worksheet names, even if they contain spaces.

To illustrate this tip, suppose you have a workbook with 13 worksheets. The first worksheet is named “Summary” and the other 12 are named January 2013 through December 2013. Each of the monthly sheets are identical except for the user-provided input.

There’s a critical number in cell B14 of each monthly sheet.  How do you write a formula in the Summary worksheet that sums the values in cell B14 of each of the monthly sheets? Type

=SUM(‘January 2013′!B14+’February 2013′!B14+’March 2013′!B14+’April 2013′!B14+’May 2013′!B14+’June 2013′!B14+’July 2013′!B14+’August 2013′!B14+’September 2013′!B14+’October 2013′!B14+’November 2013′!B14+’December 2013’!B14)

It looks like a lot of typing, and it is. But once you get a full set of 12 sheet references entered, you can copy and paste and edit the formula in other cells in your Summary sheet.

Tell us what you think

Did you like these tips? Share your feedback by posting a comment below or send an email to [email protected]

If you liked these tips, check this one out.

Jeff’s Quick Tips: 5 things techies should NEVER do or say (in sales presentations)

 Do you manage techies who participate in sales presentations for your company?  If so, this rant is for you.

 Slice and dice THIS!

I recently spent six hours listening to three different companies trying to sell “enterprise” software to a   high-profile, highly-successful company. All three companies blew it, and it wasn’t because the software sucked.  They failed because the techies who did the talking and clicking during the demos were terrible speakers. Here are the top five (5) things they did wrong.  The “techies” who represented their companies included a software support engineer, a project manager, and a programmer.

1. The techies couldn’t stop using jargon.  By “jargon,” I mean definition #2 from “unintelligible or meaningless talk or writing; gibberish.”   Out of boredom, I started writing down the number of times the vendors used tech jargon or sales buzz words.  In one session, the sales person used the phrase “level set” five times and the phrase “go to market strategy” four times in the three minutes it took to introduce the techie who would run the demo and explain the system.

One speaker had an annoying habit of using “literally” and “actually” every time he talked about a feature. “You can literally just type that right there and the dashboard will actually resonate in real time!  Really? The dashboard will resonate? I think he meant “be refreshed in real time,” but who knows.

Other crazy jargon used in the sales pitches included “modular maturity curve,” “differentiator between us and other vendors,” “et cetera, et cetera, et cetera,” “blah blah blah,” “under the hood,” “drill down,” “bubbled up,” “time suck,” and “deeper dive.”

In all three sessions, the phrase “slice and dice” was used so many times I stopped counting. To everyone in the IT world, I beg you: Stop saying “slice and dice your data.”  It’s meaningless gibberish. Speak English, people. The only place we should be hearing “slice and dice” is on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.

2. The techies admitted they weren’t prepared.  This sin is possibly the worst of the lot. One presenter apologized for a typo in the demonstration by saying, “Sorry but I literally just put this together last night!” Do you know what the potential client heard?  “I’m so pathetic I waited until the night before this big presentation to start working on it!” People snickered. And they tuned out on the presenter after that.

If you’re going to show up at a place of business and help your company land a 5- or 6- or 7-digit sale for software and professional services, start getting your act together before the night before.

3. The techies were late, without a good reason. There is no excuse for being late. “Oh sorry I’m late,” one presenter said.  “I couldn’t find the building!” 

Really? If you’re going to show up at a place of business and help your company land a 5- or 6- or 7-digit sale for software and professional services, get up early and get to the location early. Looking around at the people in the room, I figured that the 15 minutes of sitting and doing nothing the potential client several thousand dollars in nonproductive time.

Another vendor arrived on site five minutes early to connect his laptop to the host’s overhead projector, but then had to get on the phone and call someone back in the office to get the demo environment set up. Really? The back office support team didn’t know there was an important sales call scheduled for 2:00 – 4:00 PM?


4. The techies didn’t thank their guests.  I hope you don’t accuse me of being too picky on this one, but not ONE of the techies and not ONE of the sales people who accompanied the techies said “Thank you for having us here today.” To be fair, everyone thanked the guests for their attention at the end of the presentations. But no one said “Thanks for having me” or “Thanks for giving us the chance to show you our cool software.” It’s just common courtesy, folks.

5. The techies didn’t use industry-appropriate examples.  The subtitle for this mistake is, “The vendors didn’t know the audience.” 

As the project manager helping coordinate these demonstrations, I had conversations with all three presenters in advance. I said, “Please make sure you use examples of how the software can help people in this client’s industry.”  What happened?  While talking to a group of hospital administrators and risk managers and medical records supervisors, one of the presenters came up with this gem:  “For example, one of our clients using the system is a bank, and they’re concerned with blah-blah-blah and et cetera, et cetera, and…”  Really? You couldn’t think of one, single, solitary example that pertains to hospitals or the healthcare industry?  Do you know what the potential client heard?  “We’re so pathetic we don’t have any hospital experience, so we’re going to tell you how our software helps some industry totally unrelated to yours!” 

Takeaway – Give a listen

As IT managers, you may be more concerned with keeping the network up and secure than you are about sales presentations. But if your people are going to work with the sales people to demonstrate software, in person or via the dreaded “call-in” teleconference, you owe it to your people and to your company to pay attention to what they’re saying and how they’re saying it. 

How can you help? Make your techie give you a preview or dress rehearsal of the product demonstration BEFORE the techie leaves on the trip or joins the meeting by teleconference.  Tape-record the dress rehearsal or the presentation itself so that you and the presenters can listen to it later and critique the content.  It’s hard to listen to yourself, I know. I spent many years as a stand-up comedian and one of the hardest things in the world is to listen to yourself on tape and be objective about assessing how you did.

If you fail to manage what your company’s techies say in sales presentations, don’t be surprised when the team comes home without the sale.

Join the discussion
Have you attended a software demonstration where the presenter was just awful? Add your suggestions to the list of “things techies should never say or do” by posting a comment below.

Jeff’s Quick Tips: Comparing two Excel lists

In this edition of Jeff’s Quick Tips, I’ll tell you how Excel’s COUNTIF function made me the hero for a client who needed to analyze a lot of data in a hurry.

The Dilemma
I got an email with a workbook attached and one sentence:  “I need to know any duplicates and keep those.”

Translation:  The client had a list of tens of thousands of marketing account codes in one column, and another list of only a few thousand similar-looking marketing codes in another column. What the client really wanted to know was:  “How many of the codes in the second column appear in (are duplicated in) the first column?”

The Solution
This solution I used was a formula that looks at each value in column B and says, “How many times does that value appear in column A?” Ladies and gentlemen, I give you that formula:  =COUNTIF(A:A,B2). The following screen shots show how it works on some dummy data.

Which records in the first list are also in the second list?

The user wanted to know which records in Control List appeared in the Big List.


The solution used was the formula =COUNTIF(A:A,B2), which says “Count how many times what’s in B2 appears anywhere in Column A.”


The COUNTIF funtion tells how many times each entry in column B appears in column A.


Use Data | Filter to un-check the records in the second list that weren’t found (the ones where COUNTIF returned 0).

The Final Report

I’m not sure why the client needed to compare these lists or what he would do with the “duplicates,” but I was 100% sure he had the right result.


Here’s what the final output looked like: The COUNTIF function told us not only which records were “duplicated” in the big list, it told us how many times the value appeared.


ToolTalk BackDid you find this tip useful? We’d love to hear your feedback in the Comments section below.

Welcome to Readers of ToolTalk Weekly

Greetings, and welcome to the home of ToolTalk Weekly! This e-newsletter each week brings you IT management advice and free IT productivity tools from ToolkitCafe’s contributing writers and IT pros from around the world.

As your host and emcee for the ToolTalk Weekly online show, I’ll make sure that ToolTalk Weekly subscribers are the first to know when new toolkits and productivity tools are ready for downloading.

While you’re here, take a look at our newest product- the Bring Your Own Device Policies and Procedures Kit.

We at ToolTalk Weekly invite you to let us know what you think about the e-newsletter by emailing or us posting on


Jeff Davis
Editor-in-Chief, ToolTalk Weekly