Email is almost an absolute necessity for any business today. I say "almost" because there are companies that only allow one-way email: if you want to talk to them, you have to do it through a web form. They still usually respond to you by email, though, and they almost certainly use email for other business reasons, so it is unlikely that any modern business exists without it.
How you handle email is important. For example, if your email address is JoeThePlumber@aol.com, that may be fine: I don't expect that Joe The Plumber is Internet savvy and I don't need him to be - I need him to fix my faucets, not my computer.
However, that address does make me think (perhaps incorrectly) that Joe is a small company, which might even consist of only Joe himself. If my plumbing requirement is to refurbish all the bathrooms in my high-rise apartment building, I might not bother to contact Joe. I might be wrong - Joe could have sixty employees and simply be unaware of the impression that aol address gives, but
that is the impression I will get.
On the other hand, SallyTheWebDesigner@aol.com is definitely sending me the wrong message. So is BobTheInternetGuy@msn.com. I would rightfully expect that people like that should have their own domain name. After all, their business requires some amount of Internet savviness and I'd expect them to have their own email domain. It is surprising how many do not.
Getting your own domain and own email address is a trivial task today. If you are not a little bit techy in your heart, you may need a little help setting this up initially, but many Web hosting providers and email providers (Gmail, Microsoft and many more) make this very, very easy.
For example, I have my "aplawrence.com" site and I run a Kerio mail server there. I can get and send mail with Outlook or Webmail. There are many articles here about using Kerio, but I do more than that.
I also forward all that email to another address. I can forward "firstname.lastname@example.org" to my personal gmail account and also give my wife an email address that forwards to her personal gmail account.
Why do I do that? Because there are things I like about Outlook, things I like about the Kerio Webmail and things I like about Gmail. With this setup, I can slice and dice my email however I want.
There are also things I can do with Kerio that I would not be able to do with Gmail. Read Hosted vs. On Premise Email for more on that.
I also have a "catchall" account. Any email account that I haven't defined can be automatically forwarded wherever I like. So "sales", "info", "webmaster", "support" and anything else a customer might use still gets forwarded to me. I wouldn't want to miss an important inquiry just because someone didn't spell something correctly, would I?
But that's me. Many small businesses might do fine with hosted email.
Gmail or Office 365 is good for a single person business. Those can also be an excellent choice for a slightly larger company. You don't even need to pass the email through a hosting site as I do: you can use Google Apps or office 365 directly with your own domain name. That is, even though Google or Miscrosoft is really handling your email, to the outside world, you are "sales@TheBigGiantRelieableCompany.com"!
A few caveats. I think it is generally a better idea to pass through a hosting site. If Google or Microsoft ever decides to discontinue this or raises their prices outrageously, the hosting site email will still work and you will have lost nothing.
That also leaves you with the flexibility to switch to something else (such as your own mail server as I do ) easily and quickly.
Run your own mail server? Why would you want to do that?
Running your own mail server
I have to do a quick disclaimer here: I sell and support Kerio Connect Mail Server (and their other products). I have a lot of small business customers and the income from selling these products is far from insignificant. It might therefore be reasonable for you to conclude that I have some bias.
I do. It's not what you might think though. I have recommended, provided and installed many different mail servers over many years. I recommend and sell the Kerio product because I think it provides excellent value - far superior to Microsoft Exchange, for example, while providing similar function. So I do have bias, but it is not caused by the income I make.
If your business is U.S. based, I'd be happy to chat without you about the specific advantages of Kerio Connect.
So, why would you want to run your own mail server? What's the advantage for you? Like so many things, it is about power and control. When you run your own mail server, you have direct control over all functions. There are also aspects of privacy: if you run an internal mail server, internal mail (mail between you and other people in your business) is not stored somewhere out there on somebody else's servers.
Internal mail is also faster. If you use external services, even mail to someone else in your company has to go out on the internet before it is brought down again by the recipient.
It is easier for you to prove or check that your employees responded correctly or at all to email inquiries if you are recording all that internally.
When you store mail locally, it is also easier to write (or have someone else write) automated programs to act on certain types of email. Some subjects or addresses might automatically get a boilerplate response, be sent to a printer, cause a fax to be generated and so on. Your imagination and the needs of your business are the only limits.
Running an internal mail server allows you to maintain internal mailing lists and keep them absolutely private. You can also maintain perfect privacy for opt-in newsletters and other similar mailings (Kerio Connect does a stellar job with that, for example).
If all that sounds like something you need, contact me today.
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© 2013-07-24 Anthony Lawrence