Businesses cannot conduct business today without email. That’s understood.
There are several solutions to gaining email access for your company. The traditional solution has been to purchase a server and load Microsoft Exchange on it. This works wonderfully and is a fantastic solution. It provides a plethora of tools, and you have complete control of calendars, emails, address books, tasks, and more. There is a reason this solution is the industry standard. Microsoft Exchange (or any email server), however, does come at a price. You have to purchase server-grade hardware that can run it. You also have to purchase a software license for Microsoft Exchange. Each user has to have access to Microsoft Outlook, which is an additional cost. After that, you have to worry about spam and all sorts of malicious attacks such as viruses that can come through email. All of those costs and worries—not to mention time and personnel to set up and maintain this essential tool—can be costly.
But there may be an alternative solution that takes advantage of cloud-based services that could cost you less money in the long run.
One cost-free solution is to use services like Gmail or Yahoo. However, you have little control of the data, sharing contacts is difficult, and, let’s face it, having an address that ends in @gmail.com or @yahoo.com is extremely unprofessional. If you are a one-person business, freelancer, or very small office, it would be very tempting to use one of these free services. I suggest considering another option that is much more professional looking and very cost effective: using an “Exchange” or Cloud-based email service.
These types of email server services require no hardware on your part. In fact, there is typically no software required, except for perhaps an Internet browser or email client. Google has an inexpensive service that can do that, and so does Microsoft. And you’ll get email addresses @yourdomain.com. Many website hosting services such as GoDaddy also provide professional email-hosting services that allow you to use @yourdomain.com.
For these services, you pay a flat rate on a monthly basis (other payment plans are available that include yearly plans and other increments) and have access to an online, cloud-based server of your own. You do not purchase hardware or software; you purchase only subscription on a regular basis. These rates vary but can be anywhere from $5 to $50 a month per user. That cost may seem to add up if you have several users that need these tools, so you have to evaluate the cost of the traditional in-house server solution as well.
These services are Internet-based, meaning that if you can connect to the Internet, you can access these tools. If your Internet connection goes out at the office, you lose access to your email. If you have your own server and lose access to the Internet, you still lose the ability to email.
When you consider the cost of a cloud-based email service, make sure to consider all of the costs involved in maintaining your own server in-house. There is the obvious cost of the hardware and Exchange Server. This could be anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000. Don’t forget the cost of an antivirus protector and a spam filter. That could be about $1,000 per year. Many of the email services will provide these protections for you. Some may come standard, while others may require an additional fee.
There is a hidden cost that is often overlooked when you purchase your own email server—the IT personnel required to maintain it. If there is a problem, you have to fix it. That means you have to pay somebody to fix it. Downtime costs you money—not just in hardware, software, and IT costs, but also in production time lost. Cloud services must have a great track record of uptime. If you are considering using an email service, check on its reputation and promised uptime. These services could save you money, uptime, upkeep, and hidden costs, as well as provide additional tools that you didn’t have access to before.
For further reading, check out Cloud Email Poised to Surpass On-Premises Installations Among SMBs from ZDNet.