Workspace as a replacement for email
Kerio® Workspace is no longer sold or available as a free edition. However, everything mentioned here can be done with Kerio Samepage, which is available through me at a reduced price..
I was talking to a potential new Kerio Connect customer yesterday and he mentioned something along the lines of "Kerio seems to be doing very well. They get a lot of good reviews for Connect."
I agreed, but added "Though I think that in the years to come, their other products will be much more important. Email isn't dead, but you might say that it is dying.
I think he was taken somewhat by surprise. After all, I sell email servers; why would I think email is a dying product?
Not dead yet
For a "dying" technology, there certainly is a tremendous amount of activity, isn't there? Most of us get dozens, if not hundreds, of emails every single day. A lot of that is spam, sure, but the sheer volume of email traffic on the internet is gigantic. So email certainly isn't dead.
It is, however, a lousy form of communication. Oh, it does have its charms, to be sure. But it also has its faults, and those faults are serious.
How do I hate thee, let me list the ways
Let's start that list with the afore-mentioned spam. Despite tremendous efforts, spam email remains a constant annoyance. There is no absolute solution and never will be. Yes, I know some enthusiastic fool is going to leave a comment saying that their anti-spam solution is indeed perfect, but it isn't and they should save themselves the trouble: I'll just delete nonsense like that.
There's also a small matter of never being sure someone has actually paid attention to email you sent. It may have gone directly to their spam folder or they may have accidentally deleted it without reading it. You can ask to be notified when the email is opened, but not all email clients will honor such requests, so if you get no response, you don't really know what happened. Your email may have been read or it might not. It might be in Spam, it might be somewhere else, but you can't tell.
Attachments are another problem. An attachment might be too big or certain extensions might be blocked. Attachment problems may cause your email to be treated as spam or rejected. Sometimes you'll get notified of a problem like that, but some servers don't tell you anything.
Another issue with attachments is when something changes. I've sent you a little Perl script to solve some problem and I realize that I've left something out or made a mistake. I can send another, but you may very well act on what I sent previously before reading the second message - even if it was only seconds later that I sent it!
It's also unfortunately easy for you to come back to that email months later and only notice the very first version. Obviously this same issue applies to spreadsheets, documents and anything else you might attach.
I would guess that 95% or more of my new business first comes to my attention through email. When I respond, I never know if my response will be seen, so I often have to follow up with a phone call. As I'm often dealing with tech people, that can present a problem: many tech people screen or even outright block outside phone calls because they get too much pestering from people they don't want to talk to. Assuming that I can leave voice mail (maybe not; tech voice mail is often full), I'm still left not knowing if my response has been received.
All of this is why some companies don't let you contact them by email. Whether you want to buy something or need support, you may be required to telephone or fill out a web form.
There are advantages to that. A web form can force categorization so that the inquiry or request can be routed to the right person. A web form can do things like fire back a reply, send a fax, send an SMS message or even call you and connect you with the right person instantly. Doing that in email is much, much harder.
Unfortunately, after that initial contact, most companies fall right back to email. They shouldn't, but until recently there have not been any good alternatives.
I've said before that Kerio Workspace can be valuable in some situations. If your initial contact was through a web form, you might direct customers to a Workspace hierarchy to obtain more information. In cases where the customer represents substantial and on-going value (support contracts and the like), assigning them their own Workspace account might be quite sensible.
With such an account, they and you can upload documents for discussion and never have the "which version" confusion of email. There's no question of a reply you made getting lost or going to a spam folder - it's right there to see. Errors in communication can be corrected so that everyone involved is on the same page (literally on the same Workspace Page).
There are no attachment restrictions. Kerio's File Library component allows you complete freedom and many common document types can be previewed without downloading. As Workspace can include Sophos virus scanning, both you and your customer have less concern about viruses in those files.
If you are a small business with only a few customers, you might even be able to do all this for free: the only limitation to Kerio's Workspace Starter Edition is data storage. If you can keep it under 10 GB, it's totally free.
If not, Kerio Workspace is not expensive. Is $30 per customer and $10 per year after that too much money? It might be if you are selling low profit items, but in the case of support and service contracts, it probably is not. The advantage to you is that everything is in one place: you can find any conversation, any document, any revision (yes, Workspace keeps revisions) at any time. If you've been dealing with good old Joe and Susan is taking his place, she can review everything you and Joe have done in the past easily and without confusion. If Joe will remain involved, that's fine also: both of them can have accounts.
Are we there yet?
No, probably not. This idea won't work for everyone and even if it does work for you, your customers may reject it and insist upon using email. These are new paradigms and many people resist anything new. Although the learning curve for Workspace isn't high, they would need to understand it to at least some degree and that might be a hurdle you don't want them to have to face.
However, ideas like this probably are the future. Email has too many problems. It's possible that tools like Connect and Workspace may someday merge together and thereby eliminate the "don't make me learn something new" objection, but that's down the road if it will happen at all.
Got something to add? Send me email.
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