In today's business, e-mail is the most important communication tool you have. Today's employees literally work out of their inbox. The key to success is finding the right e-mail solution for your business needs. All businesses are different, so there isn't just one packaged solution that everyone can deploy.
In order to get the most from your e-mail solution (and save money at the same time), you basically have three options: do it yourself, use a free Web-based service or pay for a hosted solution. There are a few businesses that can run on free e-mail, but most others need a more personalized, reliable and secure solution that costs money but saves a lot of time, headaches and problems. In the end, the right solution can be well worth the money.
The overall goal for your company should be getting the most from your e-mail solution while saving money at the same time. But beware of the following pitfalls:
Pitfall #1: The cost of managing your e-mail in-house can surprise you
In my opinion, unless you're a Fortune 500 company with a large IT budget and headcount, you should never consider hosting your own e-mail. Many companies make the mistake of thinking they can save money by running their own e-mail servers, but it is more than just purchasing a server and loading the software. You need data center space for the hardware with power and networking, licenses for the software, employees to monitor and administer the systems 24/7 and training. In the end, depending on your number of users, you could easily spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Pitfall #2: Managing spam and anti-virus software is hard
A major problem we often hear about from customers giving up on their in-house solutions is that IT administrators underestimate the difficulty of spam filtering. They think that their company won't have much trouble when, in actuality, fighting spam and viruses can consume hours and hours every week. We often find that companies have moved some of their top IT folks to manage the e-mail systems. They are struggling with spam appliances or software, trying to scale their systems to manage the huge workload. To give a sense of perspective, one type of spammer technique is called a Directory Harvest Attack (DHA) and you could face thousands of these attacks per day, every day.
I'm sometimes asked if outsourcing e-mail is a way to eliminate IT positions and reduce staff. The short answer is no. In my nearly four years in the e-mail hosting business, I haven't heard of a single customer letting someone go. Instead, our customers are able to take a talented IT person and have them work on things that more directly support their business.
Pitfall #3: Free doesn't always mean free
Free providers can sometimes be an option for businesses who don't need their own domain names in their e-mail address and who don't need much support. Free mailboxes generally come with Web-based e-mail access from a Web browser and sometimes with POP access. "Free" does come with its own costs though, namely: reduced privacy, ads in the Web mail interface and often added to the bottom of outgoing messages, and somewhat less reliability than the average paid e-mail hosting provider. Again, for an early-stage startup business, these may be reasonable trade-offs for the usefulness of a decent working e-mail address.