Email Service Providers and Your Business

Considerations When Selecting An Email Service Provider For Your Business

It’s not all that uncommon for a local small business to be using Yahoo or Gmail for business communication via email.

However, there are quite a few reasons why this won’t scale.

First, an @gmail.com email address really doesn’t look professional. If you’d like to scale business beyond your current neighborhood, then it’s much better to establish your very own domain. Once your establishment starts having different departments, then an email system set up on your own business domain becomes rather inevitable. Even if there’s only a small team of a few sales executives, they might all need their own business email accounts in order to facilitate communications with all of their prospects.

When it comes time for you to choose an email service provider for your business, there are basically three crucial factors you need to take into consideration.

Security, Features, and Cost

1) Cost

It used to cost a lot to set up your own email server. However, that was before so many email service providers turned into cloud-based options. Given that, you don’t have to do any setup on your end, so you essentially have no capital cost to deal with either.

Cloud-based services typically get priced just on how many users (or unique email accounts) that you need. This way makes it very scalable, and you only wind up paying for however many email addresses your business needs.

It’s worth noting that it’s still possible to set your very own email server up. There are several open-source scripts you can use to do this, but you’d still deal with the high price tag involved in renting or owning a server. It also means your company would need someone with extensive technical expertise to handle maintenance, and that’s not really a good suggestion.

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2) Features

This might just be the most crucial consideration in terms of an operational perspective. Email services offer far more than just communication addresses to your employees. There are certainly standard requirements and features that you need, including an intuitive UI, lots of storage space, and file attachment sizes and types. However, there are also other crucial features that you should look at.

Catch-All: This feature is overlooked quite often, and it’s not a default option on many email providers. The catch-all feature is one that gets every incoming email which isn’t addressed to any existing named users and forwards them to a primary ID. This is particularly useful if you get any inbound inquiries that are addressed to former employees no longer with you. These emails can get routed towards an actually active email address where they are promptly dealt with appropriately.

Spam Filters: On the other end of things is volumes of unsolicited spam mail that wastes resources and employee time. It can even drain your available storage space. Your chosen email service provider should have a robust spam filter that blocks out any and all junk messages. Likewise, the filter shouldn’t be so sensitive to block out legitimate messages that you might have interest in.

If you’re interested in a service provider that doesn’t have the best reputation for doing spam filtering, then you might want to consider third-party tools which specialize in doing spam filtering. As with spam, your chosen email service should also be able to scan for and then filter possible malware scripts. On the other hand, many organizations arrange for their own dedicated anti-virus resources to scan emails and many other things. As such, you might not need your email provider to handle this.

Integration: This is one area were many mainstream service providers such as Microsoft and Google excel at. If you pay for an email address from Google, you also get other things like Google Hangouts, Calendar, and Drive. Such tools can be useful for business users, giving larger establishments some competitive edge over their smaller rivals. It’s worth knowing that many business users commonly use Drive and Calendar from private Gmail accounts, but this isn’t a good idea in terms of security.

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3) Security

Email these days serves as the foundation for nearly all business communications. Even when an organization makes use of third-party tools such as Salesforce, Trello, and Dropbox to manage a variety of business projects, every one of these accounts gets tied to an email address. If an unauthorized third party hacks your email address, then it can wind up getting access to all these other tools too.

On top of losing your confidential business data, any employees that handle financial transactions are going to vulnerable to things like spoofing-based attacks when hackers pose as a tax authority or even the user’s bank. Adherence to security standards like DMARC (short for domain-based message authentication, reporting, and conformance) or SPF (short for sender policy framework) might prevent spoofing attacks from happening.

Encryption is certainly a crucial aspect to email security. It’s worth knowing that not all encrypted text is equally secure, and how easy it is to decipher encrypted text relies a lot on what keys are used. Generally speaking, AES 256-bit encryption keys are a number of times more secure than their AES 128-bit counterparts.

It’s also essential to keep in mind that E2E, or end-to-end encryption, isn’t yet a standard feature on many popular email options, such as Gmail. E2E encryption makes it possible to keep hackers from even stealing the very key they would need to use to decipher your communications. It’s still technically possible to suffer from man-in-the-middle attacks, but such standards mean that business communication can be much more secure than they currently are without them.

In a lot of ways, given how your email address gets tied to so many devices and various online applications, it’s really important that you secure it.

Likewise, email is still a necessary tool for productivity, so corporate users need products that are highly scalable and can be integrated well.

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If you’re a CIO, then it’s crucial to consider both the operational and technological perspectives before picking the appropriate provider for your firm.