Determining your Email Strategy
Email software. It may seem like Microsoft has taken over the world
in this arena, but there are many different uses and ways of managing email
that make it difficult for any one email product to be a clear winner in
all categories. That is especially true for businesses who rely on
email for communicating with customers, contacts, vendors, and even their
own staff. Whether you manage your email system yourself or let an ISP
do it, you still want to pick the email client (the software that lets
you send and receive email messages) that works best for your company's
needs. Products range from the multi-tasking Microsoft Outlook (so advanced
it borders on the frightening), to simple web-based programs that do little
more than send and receive basic text messages.
Consider Your Email Management Strategy. Depending
on how sophisticated your needs are and the size of your company, you must
decide on how you plan to manage your email system. You have two choices:
- Manage email in-house
with your own mail server
- Outsource email to
Typically, an SME business will fall into the second option more often
than not. This is mostly because of the large expense and administration
involved in managing your own mail server.
In layman terms, setting up your own mail server is like creating your
very own internal Post Office facility. You create and maintain your
own addresses and are responsible for how mail is sent or received from
a recipient. While outsourced email relies on someone else to do
all the work of sorting and distributing the mail (like a mailman) to each
individual in your workplace.
Let us look further into these 2 common email options.
Mail Server Software - Is it for Me?
Mail Server Software (like MS Exchange Server) is a sophisticated software
application intended to be installed on a dedicated computer (referred
to as a "Mail Server") that is connected to your ISP (or directly
to the internet backbone) and to your local area network. These type
of applications are used by all ISP's who host email services for their
subscribed customers and also by large organizations that want to administer
email in-house. In fact, each time you use any email client software to
retrieve electronic mail, you are communicating to a Mail Server.
The main goal of most mail server software is to
provide a unified architecture
for creating and managing email accounts, Web access, bulletin boards and
newsgroups. All mail server applications are very sophisticated and
offer hundreds of configuration settings for how you want to handle incoming/outgoing
email (e.g. max. email messages to store per account, max. email size,
how often to delete old emails, alias emails, forwarded emails, etc.).
Some companies use these applications for intranet purposes only (within
the company's network only), while other businesses (like ISP's) use it
for commercial purposes by offering to host your email account on their
One simply has to register a domain name
on the internet and setup a Mail Server with email accounts, and you are
ready to retrieve those messages from any computer using a standard email
client program (e.g., Outlook, FireFox, etc.) that
uses Internet SMTP and POP protocols.
Are There Disadvantages to Setting Up Your Own Mail
Well, there are more than a few problems that cause many companies to
opt-out of implementing their own Mail Server:
- It is extremely expensive software. It can cost a few thousand
dollars in software licensing alone, just to be able to create a maximum
of 10 email accounts. You will have to pay additional license fees
for any extra email accounts you need to create using the mail server
software. Consider yourself warned... these programs are costly!
- Although not required, it is recommended that you purchase a computer
server for the purposes of it managing your incoming/outgoing mail only.
- A high speed data connection will most likely be needed for a mail
server and special router equipment will need to be purchased as well.
- An IT staff or administrator is required to install, maintain and
operate these mail servers all year round. They are just too complex
for the average "Joe" who thinks he can read a manual and do it himself.
- When connected to the internet, one must take extreme measures in
protecting their computers from outside hacker intrusion. This
means that you have to constantly be on top of firewall security measures,
and monitoring of network activity to ensure a secured environment.
- The purchase, implementation and maintenance of additional software
for controlling unsolicited mail will need to be considered to ensure
that your internet connection speed is not consumed by SPAM.
When you add up all the expenses and IT staff needed for running your
own mail server, it is quite obvious why only larger companies (usually
at least 50 employees or more) consider the implementation of their own
Outsourcing Email to an ISP - Is it for Me?
Probably the most common form of obtaining an email account today is
through special web hosting packages offered by ISP's. These packages
range from an individual dial-up account, whereby you are given access
to the internet and allowed the creation of one email account for yourself,
to more elaborate business packages that give a company the ability to
create multiple email accounts (e.g., one for each employee or department)
and dozens of alias email accounts for a moderate monthly fee. The
ISP basically deals with all expenses related to running a mail server,
as mentioned earlier in this article. Your only additional expense
is the phone line or data circuit needed to connect to your ISP's mail
server and the email client software that will communicate to the mail
server and retrieve your mail.
Are There Disadvantages to Outsourcing Email to an
The main considerations and issues with outsourcing Email are:>
- You have no control over the way your email account is setup.
You are restricted to the ISP's rules set on their mail server.
Some restrictions could be the maximum amount of email messages your
account can hold at any given time, the size of an email file attachment,
the amount of email traffic you are allowed, etc. Usually, this
is not a problem, as most ISP's give their customers ample room and options
to increase any limits you may be reaching with your email account.
- As your business starts requiring dozens or even hundreds of email
accounts, your ISP will charge you accordingly. Depending on how
your ISP bills you, there will be a breaking point where it becomes cheaper
in the long run to maintain your own mail server than to pay monthly
fees to another business. (Our best guess might be around 50 email accounts
- You could get interruptions in service that are out of your control.
You are basically at the mercy of another company's computer system and
their management procedures. However, choosing a reputable ISP
with redundant servers and a good uptime track record can alleviate this
- Internal email is not possible with standard email client software.
There are some workarounds to internally emailing another individual
within your organization. However, It usually requires a clunky sending/receiving
technique whereby email is forwarded out to your ISP's mail server
and then re-fetched back by your co-worker from the same ISP (not a graceful
solution... but it works). Another alternate solution that is much
more viable can be found exclusively within ManageMore's Email Pro product.
As you can see, outsourcing email has some disadvantages, but most have
acceptable trade-offs or workarounds to the problem.
The Role of Email Client Software
The email client software is the program that communicates to your ISP's
mail server or your own in-house mail server. It handles all of the
receiving and sending of email, and depending on its sophistication, also
provides some additional management features. Although most mail
server programs recommend their own version of the email client, most email
client programs will communicate with any mail server.
What Features Do You Need? There are three
types of email client programs, and they fall into the same basic categories
as cars (including relative expense):
Luxury Model: Groupware. Groupware email is
the most sophisticated of the bunch, with advanced options on how to
handle email, as well as added capabilities like extensive contact management,
scheduling, and tight integration with databases. You can even communicate
with co-workers through efficient internal email as long as an in-house
mail server is present. This is the way to go if you're a company
that relies heavily on email and wants the highest level of contact management
and security control.
Reliable Sedan: Standard email. Standard email clients
(a.k.a. ISP-Hosted email clients) are essentially watered-down versions
of the luxury groupware model. You can get them for almost no cost, and
they have most of the basic features needed for simple sending/receiving
email. The downside is that users aren't connected to each other, you
can't create policies and rules for how email is handled within a business
model, and there is no integration with databases. Typically, these
simple email clients work well for an individual's personal need.
Four Doors and Some Tires: Introducing Web email. Web-based
email is popular because you can access it from anywhere, but the text
editing options can be very limited, thus making your messages less professional-looking
than more traditional clients. Don't expect too many options with this
form of email either. This no-frills manner of receiving email
is quick, easy-to-use and often free or dirt cheap. Common suppliers
of web-based email are
Using Web Email Client and AOL Client
Web-based email are much more basic versions of the typical email client.
They are limited in size, and prevent you from choosing your own domain
name (i.e., if you use Yahoo!, and your company name is Widget, your email
would be Widget@yahoo.com). They sometimes also bring the penalty
of heavy banner advertisement and unsolicited email by the hosting ISP.
But they're usually free or close to it, and you can check them from any
computer anywhere with a connection to the Internet.
Today, Web email is quite often used by individuals seeking an alternate
email for privacy from their main ISP Hosted email account. It is
strongly recommended you avoid web email for business purposes. It
is very unprofessional and will give your company a bad image in the ebusiness
The most common web-based email, Hotmail's message
size capacity is more limited than Yahoo! and loaded with ads and email
advertisements, but popular for its easy interface.
Slightly larger size capacity than Hotmail, but
still limited. You can get additional space for a nominal annual fee,
and Yahoo! will upgrade long-standing customers for free.
While not technically a web-based client, AOL is
one of the more common email clients for those not using groupware or
without their own domain through an ISP. AOL has its own proprietary
email client, so if you choose AOL you must use their program. AOL charges
a monthly service fee, and their mail client isn't as sophisticated
as Microsoft Outlook Express or Communicator. But it has more features
than most web-based clients, and is known for its extensive content,
user-friendly interface and large member community.
Using Standard Email Client
Standard email client software is a big step up from web email and is
the most common program used for receiving email. It still has little
to offer for business use, but can address all of the basic features like
sending, receiving, forwarding, carbon copy, file attachment, advanced
text editing, address book, etc.
MS Outlook Express
Free with MS Internet Explorer
Free (Or you can purchase the full
Eudora Pro for about $40-60 single user)
Windows 95, 98, 2000, NT and Mac
Windows 95, 98, 2000, NT and Mac
Advanced Contact Management
Using Groupware Email Client
Groupware email client software is the highest level of
email capability available currently. These types of email client provide
all features that a standard email client offer with additional management
tools that often go well beyond anything having to do with email.
There are three well-known products in this arena. However, in order to
take advantage of the complete range of features offered by these email
clients (including internal email), you will have to purchase the software
vendor's respective mail server program.
Microsoft Outlook 2000
Lotus Notes/Domino Server
$75 - $100 for the client, plus cost of server
package (typically in the thousands, depending on the number of users).
$700 - $3,500 for 5-25 users; prices go up for
$35 for Lotus Notes client, plus cost of Domino
Server package. Ranges from $700 - $5,000 depending on number of