E-mail and other forms of digital communication have revolutionized the way humans interact. Anybody old enough to remember life before e-mail (B.E.), can tell some great stories that include kooky characters like Mr. Stamp and Mrs. Envelope. E-mail has changed things; all of us use it every day, but how does it work?

Legend has it that there is an Internet Lady whose job it is to sit in front of a massive Internet switchboard and direct the e-mails traffic. Many conspiracy theorists believe this e-mail switchboard is located at a top secret Air Force base underneath Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. Due to the sensitive nature of communications, this e-mail switchboard is believed to be located 28 levels underground in what is called a Gate Room–because it is the gateway to the Internet.

In the early days of the Internet, the Internet Lady used a 1950’s style telephone switchboard and would plug cables in and out to direct the e-mails messages where they needed to go. Times have certainly changed since the Internet’s early days, and with e-mail traffic being so massive, the Internet Lady now uses a terminal hooked up to a supercomputer. Even though technology has changed, the Internet Lady’s job has not; she is still the one responsible to deliver e-mails to the correct inboxes and filter out the spam.

This of course is a complete fabrication. It is impossible for one lady to handle all the e-mail traffic of the Internet. To handle the more than 300 billion e-mails that are sent worldwide every day, it actually takes a team of people. Google released a 2 minute video explaining this e-mail process, and as you can see, many hands make light work.

For example: http://youtu.be/qKAInP_tmHk

Okay, this e-mail process is also a bit of stretch. Although, it might explain what happened to some those important e-mails that your contact “never received.”

The actual process of sending an e-mail is a lot more technical. An e-mail message can travel around the world almost instantaneously thanks to a complex communications infrastructure that connects every PC and mobile device in the world.

As soon as you hit send, your e-mail leaves your PC, goes through your router, and then makes its way to your Internet Service Provider (ISP). More times than not, the next destination of your e-mail will be an Internet backbone router, from here your message gets pushed to the nearest data center that host users e-mail accounts. We will use Google as an example to show you how their data centers process messages sent to Gmail accounts.

Once your e-mail has made it to the data center, it will find its way to a networking room where it will be funneled through a series of networks, ending up at the server that handles Gmail. A large data center like the ones that Google run are full of thousands of servers that handle all of Google’s enterprises. An e-mail making its way to the one server that your Gmail account is hosted on requires a bit of networking magic. If there was an Internet Lady, this would be where she would come in.

Before your e-mail lands in the intended inbox, it is scanned to see if it is spam or contains any harmful viruses. Many e-mail hosting companies like Google will also create a duplicate copy so that it will be backed up before you even open it.

Once your message is safely stored on the server, it is in the intended inbox and has “arrived at its destination.” The receiver will be able to access it from anywhere on the Internet. If the e-mail is being accessed from a mobile device, then the message will continue its journey to infinity and beyond by being transferred to a satellite orbiting Earth which will then beam it down to your smartphone.

This is the journey of an e-mail. Hundreds of billions of these messages are being exchanged every day, and the growth of e-mail is showing no signs of slowing down. If you would like to know more about how e-mail works and want to take advantage of e-mail solutions that will improve your company’s e-mail security and efficiency, then call Think Tank NTG at 800-501-DATA.

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