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Over quota? What's that all about?

Uh-oh someone just called you to say they sent you an email and got some message back about being over quota. What does this mean and how does one resolve such an issue?

In the simplest terms, if your mailbox says it is over quota, it means it is full. If you think of your own postal mailbox, it has a certain size and only so much mail can be put in there before it is stuffed full. The same principle applies to your email.

"But I’ve only got 25 messages in there. How can that fill up my mailbox??"
Going back to the postal example again; if you are only getting postcards which take up very little space, you can fit a lot into a mailbox. However, if you are getting packages with items you’ve bought, these physically take up more space. With your email, a regular text email takes up little space and you can get a lot of emails like this. When you start getting attachments, especially ones of 5 or 10 megabytes in size, they take up a lot more space and so your mailbox fills up quicker.

"I’ve deleted a lot of email from my Outlook but it’s not helping. What’s up with that??"
Well your email quota actually applies to what is being stored on the mail server. Think of the email server as your postal mailbox. When you get your mail out of there and put it on your kitchen table, you still have the mail but it’s no longer taking up the space in your mailbox. An email client like Outlook works in a similar way. It takes all your email off of the server and puts it onto your computer, which is like the kitchen table. So getting all of your bills off of the kitchen table and throwing them into the trash (oops!) does not clear up any additional space for your mailman to put tomorrow’s mail in.

There is an additional setting in Outlook (and other mail clients) that allows you to keep a copy of email on the server. This is mostly used when an email account is accessed on more than one computer. What happens when this setting is enabled is that instead of just taking everything out of your mailbox and putting it on the kitchen table (or in Outlook), it copies all the mail and takes the copies to the table, or the inbox in Outlook. This leaves the originals still taking up space in the mailbox. When your email is setup like this, you can log into your webmail and delete the email from there which will then clear out your mailbox.
 

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