The Internet moves at the speed of light and e-mails and text messages should be instant.  But every once in a while that important text shows up a day or two later…. or Never.

Are e-mails and text messages the same thing?

In short, no.

E-Mails are generally sent via a computer to a recipient.  E-Mails are usually longer than texts and can include attachments like pictures and files.

Text messages are short messages limited to 160 characters sent from your phone.  Modern phones are designed to put several messages together allowing for up to 1600 characters.  These messages are sent by cell phone network and may not ever travel on the Internet.

What happens to delay an e-mail?

When you send an e-mail it should arrive at its destination very quickly.  This is usually the case and e-mails are generally considered a reliable method of communication.

The Internet uses a vast array of servers to route traffic, including e-mails, to their destination.  Sometimes these systems may not work correctly, and cause delays or sometimes even loose an e-mail message.

Another issue that can come up is SPAM.  This term refers to “junk” e-mails that may contain everything from advertising to a virus.   Most modern e-mail systems use what’s called a “blacklist” that blocks e-mails from known spammers.  If an e-mail system is misconfigured, it can sometimes block legitimate messages.

How can a text message be delayed?

Since text messages don’t involve the Internet, delays can be caused by problems on the cell phone network.  Most of the time it’s due to network traffic which is given priority above texts. Examples of network traffic would be phone calls, internet access, and streaming videos.

Text messages are a good option when networks are busy and will usually get through such as during an emergency.  Phones lines will be unavailable while a text message may get through eventually.   Many emergency services will ask that you use text during times of a national crisis instead of a phone call as it keeps the lines clear for emergency responders.

While a text messages may occasionally get lost, it is considered a reliable form of communication.

Are E-Mails and Text Messages secure?

Let’s start with E-Mails.  E-Mail in most cases are sent open with no encryption across the Internet.  This makes it not very secure.  There are systems that will encrypt e-mails, but these tend to be the exception and not the norm.   It is good to be cautious of what you send in an e-mail.  You should avoid financial information or other private details.

Text Messages are not generally encrypted but have less travel to get from end to end.   There are many apps that allow for encrypted text messages.  The only downfall to these is generally both the sender and receiver must have the same app setup and configured in order for it to work.

Like any technology, e-mails and text messages are subject to the equipment they run on.  While generally very reliable, there can be problems that will cause a message to be delayed or lost.  Since you don’t necessarily know if the e-mail or text was received, due to the lack of an expected response, perhaps go with an old-fashioned method and give the person a call.

William (Bill) Sikkens has been a technology expert for KXL on the Morning Show with Steve and Rebecca since 2014. With an expertise in I.T., cyber security and software design he has had more than 20 years’ experience with advanced technology. Sikkens conceptualizes and designs custom applications for many professional industries from health care to banking and has the ability to explain the details in a way all can understand.  Article edited by Gretchen Winkler.

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