What Email To Use For Your Business? - Updated

By Dan Ballard, in , posted: 25-Jun-2009 08:36

The last 10-15 years have seen major advances in technology and how we use it.  Imaging trying explain to a teenager that you grew up without a cellphone and the internet, it is inconceivable to those who haven’t lived without these things.  Even for those of us who lived without these technologies struggle to remember how we did without them.  Email has gone from a new fangled technology 15 years ago to being the preferred form of communication worldwide for consumers and businesses.

4 Different Types of Email, That Most Businesses Use
If you said to someone “what type of email do you use”, well most people would reply “What? Email is email, isn’t it?”.  Well the answer is yes email is email however, how the email works is what sets the different types apart.  Here is a breakdown of the common different types of email available, there are more types of email, however I am sticking to the more common ones.

Free Email Accounts
Email is provided by massive email providers generally out of the US, some examples you would be quite familiar with Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail.  There are thousands of providers around the world that are willing to give you an email address for free, which is nice of them however you have to have their name in your email for example dan.ballard1234321@hotmail.com (this is a fake email by the way). Generally this type of email is a combination of webmail (you access your email via a webpage) and you also have a choice of using POP email, (by far the best choice of free email to use would be Gmail).  POP email was one of the first types of email, designed when most people used dial up. One of the benefits of POP email was that once you downloaded your emails you didn’t have to stay connected.  Once you download your emails they only reside on your PC and if your computer crashes or you have a disaster type situation i.e. fire, flood, earthquake or theft all your emails, contacts and calendar appointments will also be lost.

ISP Provided Email Accounts

Essentially ISP provided accounts are similar to free email accounts however they are generally setup as POP accounts, so the risk of losing data if you have a problem with your PC is much higher.  Generally ISP’s (Internet service providers) provide anywhere up to 10 pop email addresses free, when you have a broadband account with them.  The most common ones are @xtra.co.nz @paradise.net.nz @ihug.co.nz etc.

Because business is online more and more, it is very important to backup this email data.  However all too often it is not backed up and when a data loss occurs it is the first time business owners realize the importance of ensuring this data is protected.  Contacts and emails are at risk when using Pop email.

Exchange Email

Exchange email is certainly the business email of choice for the following reasons:
- All email data is kept on the server
- You can have multiple devices accessing your emails at the same time and synchronizing
- You can access your emails via webmail if you want to, with near full functionality
- You can share your contacts, calendar and emails with others in your organisation
- You can access your emails from Smartphone devices iPhone, Nokia N95 etc
- Exchange email has Out of Office notifications built in

The reason exchange email has not been adopted by more businesses and organisations, lies in the fact that in the past you had to purchase your own exchange server to get all of the above functionality is a very costly exercise costing tens of thousands of dollars.  Even with that cost many businesses and organisations generally with 25 users or more have purchased exchange servers to get that functionality.

Now businesses have a choice and can go for a hosted exchange setup putting exchange email into the financial reach of even small businesses. In the past where you had to purchase an exchange server, software, licensing and pay technicians an excessive amount of money to setup and maintain this server.

When you compare the costs over a 3 year period for 25 users there really is no choice.  To have a local server can vary wildly from $35,000-$75,000 whereby the cost of having a hosted exchange solutions for the same period will be fixed at approximately $23,812.   Hosted exchange has become so cost effective that some businesses that have an onsite exchange server are opting to migrate to hosted exchange solution because it is more cost effective for them. 

For a more detailed break down of the figures please visits my article  Local vs Hosted Exchange Server - Cost Comparison
Gmail/Google Apps
Finally the last type of email which is becoming more and more popular is Gmail/Google Docs.  The beauty of this setup is that you get very similar functionality to exchange email:
  • Your email uses your domain name ie yourname@yourdomainname.co.nz
  • All email data is kept on Google servers
  • You can have multiple devices accessing your emails at the same time and synchronizing
  • You can access your emails via webmail if you want to, with near full functionality
  • You can share your calendar others in your organisation
  • You can access your emails from Smartphone devices iPhone, Nokia N95 etc
  • Has Out of Office notifications built in
  • Included is Google Docs which is essentially suite of applications online that allows you to save your documents online and collaborate with others
  • Google Docs is by far much cheaper than Exchange local or hosted
  • You get all these services and more with Google Docs plus more.
There is really only one negative to Gmail and that is your data is hosted somewhere in the world on Google’s server so there may be security issues.  That being said New Zealand Post recently migrated to Google Docs because the cost savings and productivity boost and they obviously came to the conclusion that the productivity boosts and cost savings far outweighed any security concerns.  You can read about it here at the NZ Post Media Release Page.
So if you have between 5 to 50 email addresses in your organisation and are still using Pop email or ISP provided email you should seriously be looking at Google Docs or Hosted Exchange email for your business.  If you choose to keep on using pop email you should make sure that all your data, including your email information is backed up offsite on a daily basis.
Dan Ballard

More information

Other related posts:
Easy Google Docs
How to Outsource Your Exchange Server
Can VoIP Save Your Business Money?

Comment by tr3v, on 25-Jun-2009 11:50

I find this a little confusing, if not misleading. For example, "Free Email Accounts" such as Hotmail allow you to use your own domains, use both webmail, and POP (you don't have to delete the mail from the server using POP3, and why would you?).
My "Free Email" is the same as what you call "Exchange Email". My email, contacts, calendar is kept in a secure environment, I sync with my phone over the web, and sync my Outlook client at home, and I can share anything with who I choose. Furthermore, my "Free Email" integrates with messaging, online storage, blogs and albums. 
The thing I can't fathom is why businesses in this day in age have a website www.acme.com and an email address like acme@xtra.co.nz

Comment by nate, on 25-Jun-2009 20:26

Good post, you may want to mention Google Hosted Apps which is a good alternative if you don't need all the functionality of Exchange.

Comment by nzsouthernman, on 26-Jun-2009 12:58

You forgot one big email player, Lotus Notes, where you get the same benefits of Exchange email + the ability to use databases/programs in the same client that you use to access your mail.

Also, Linux based IMAP mail servers where you get the benefits of offline accessible mail with the ability to have it all inhouse & safely backed up. (All for nearly free, too).

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Dan Ballard
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