Emails are part of business life so choosing the best email software for your company is important.
Do you need a popular and proven package like Microsoft Outlook or is the free functionality of cloud-based alternatives a better starting point? What kind of technical support do you need and want?
1. Assess the way your business communicates. Are you and your employees mainly office-based or do you need regular off-site email access? Depending on the answer, you may wish to choose a web-based service, such as Google Apps, or one run on your own servers — Microsoft Outlook for example.
2. Consider the content you want to send and receive. If you’re planning email marketing campaigns, you’ll want functionality for distribution lists, graphics, sound, possibly even video content. If you’re more correspondence based, you may only need basic tools such as shared folders, diary management, reminders and so on.
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3. Research the functionality of cheap or free web-based services. Free webmail services like Yahoo Mail or Gmail may be adequate for sole traders and very small businesses. However, for most companies of up to ten people, a small monthly outlay will get you access to web-based email that apes many of the functions of server-based systems. The most popular choices are Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365. Your IT support company or web hosting company may offer a service too.
4. Assess the merits, risks and costs of any business email software. Open-source software is free and is being road tested and de-bugged by thousands of other users. The Zimbra Collaboration Server is a good example — it’s compatible with operating systems including Mac OS X and Linux, email software like Microsoft Outlook and Apple Mail, and allows synchronisation with mobile devices. What you don’t get is real-time support from experts. Out-of-the-box or customised versions offer this as part of a paid package but that package could cost hundreds or thousands of pounds.
5. Make sure the software works with your hardware. Any software you choose should list compatible operating systems. If you’re in any doubt, contact the manufacturer or your IT support.
6. Have a plan B should your software fail. Even if you run server-based software like Microsoft Exchange, ensure contingency is built in should office systems fail. Cloud-based software, such as Google Message Continuity, keeps a copy of your emails online which you can access at any time. It means you can continue to send and receive emails and schedule meetings even while your office systems are offline.
7. Make sure your software keeps up with the growth of your business. Any licence for server-based email should include upgrades and allow for increased data storage over time. Avoid being tied to long-term service agreements that prevent you changing providers. With cloud-based services you have the advantage of near unlimited capacity and no such contract commitments.
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